The Dreyfuss Affair

Before Blurb and LuLu, some designers who could afford it printed their portfolios as hardcover books. These limited editions are now hard to find (many were simply discarded as ephemera). Yet here are excerpted pages from a very special portfolio, A Record of Industrial Designs, by a uniquely talented industrial designer: Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972), with an introduction by Gilbert Seldes. He writes:

Some of the familiar designs reproduced here were revolutionary in their time; by their success they fixed basic styles. The newer designs proceed logically from the same sound principles, in a natural development. For the satisfactions they give us, we can be grateful to the designer.

Dreyfuss was one of the white knights of design who came riding in on streamline chargers to save the American economy from stagnation and depression. This thin yet jam-packed volume represents Dreyfuss’s innovations from 1929 (the year of the Wall Street Crash, when he founded his firm) to 1947, during the postwar industrial boom. Included are designs for the Hoover vacuum “Model 150,” The Royal Typewriter Co’s “Quiet Deluxe,” John Deere’s Model A and B tractors, Westclock’s “Big Ben” alarm clock, the locomotive for the Twentieth Century Limited, “Democracity” at the 1929 World’s Fair and even a redesign of McCall’s magazine, among others. In 1959 he designed the “Princess” phone and in 1972 the Polariod SX-70 was released.

If all he designed or helped design was represented by this book, that would be good enough for one lifetime.

In 1955 Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People, his autobiography, and in 1960 his The Measure of Man (now and Woman) was one of the earliest ergonomic diagrams. Now as HDA- Henry Dreyfuss Associates, the firm is still going strong. For more detailed history read Russell Flinchum’s Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer; The Man in the Brown Suit and see Flinchum’s SVA Design Criticism / D-Crit talk on Dreyfuss here.

(Dutch moderne lettering on yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller)

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