“American corporate designers were learned in Modernist theory, but nevertheless found bulbous aerodynamic bodyshells an appropriately slick garb for wares of a vigorous, efficient society with an aggressive faith in its future. Flashy exaggeration at the hands of the stylists, ever compelled to ‘improve’ on last year’s model, gave streamlining a bad name.” (Hodges, Coad, Stone, Sparke, Aldersey-Williams, The New Design Source Book, 1992, p.158) When discussing this quote in relation to household designs produced during the 1950s, it is important to understand the effects that Streamlining had on society; how it fuelled mass production and mass consumption and has had lasting affects on designers in the design industry today.
Streamlining is the design language referring to the change that first occurred in the USA, as a search for a style for the age. The style spanned from 1935 through to 1955. During this time, design became an important way in which many countries that were affected by the war “set out to reassert their position within world trade”.1The USA recognised this need and set out to develop a national design style. Streamlining was originally derived from Aerodynamic experiments, and in particular drew from the latest developments in mass transport including cars, aeroplanes, boats and trains, as they became a popular image of technological achievement. The streamlined ‘look’ is characterised by bulbous, organic, seamless, sleek outlines and the style is aimed to symbolise the present and the future. Streamlining was applied to many different kitchen artefacts and household designs, providing integrated products with bulbous and tapering outlines. 2
Hodges, Coad, Stone, Sparke, Aldersey-Williams, The New Design Source Book, 1992, p.136 2 Hodges, Coad, Stone, Sparke, Aldersey-Williams, The New Design Source Book, 1992, p.134
Streamline consultant designers such as Walter Dorwin Teague, Raymonnd Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss were totally untraditional with their use of materials and approach towards design. Henry Dreyfuss, for instance, exploited new materials when he designed the Model 500 Telephone 1949(figure 1) using cellulose acetate that came in a range of bright colours. It provided one of the very first visual models for the telephone that is still familiar in the modern environment today.3 Raymond Loewy’s streamlined Cold spot refrigerator 1934 (figure 2) also demonstrates use of new materials, being the first refrigerator complete with rustproof aluminium shelves. The overall curved form drew on the recent developments in metal stamping which allowed shallow curves, thus giving the form a streamlined edge. He also hid the door hinges and gave it a jewel like nameplate.4 Loewy was one of the first designers who managed to turn the refrigerator into a visually desirable object.
Walter Dorwin Teague, Raymonnd Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss and many more designers saw the US entering a new ‘design conscious’ age; the style promoted was completely modern in inspiration and impact.5 These designers took the European Modern movement as a theoretical starting point, and often quoted Le Corbusier at length in their various manifestos. Teague (1883-1960) referred, like Le Corbusier before him to the importance of ‘classical’ ideals in modern design. However,...