Eliot Fette Noyes, FIDSA

Eliot Fette Noyes, FIDSA, 1910-1977

US architect and industrial designer Eliot Noyes was born in Boston, studied architecture at Harvard (1932-1938) and was employed by Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius after graduation. He also worked as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, which in 1940 established a separate department of industrial design. Noyes was appointed as director based on his recommendation by Walter Gropius.

In 1941 Noyes organized a competition for the Museum to discover imaginative designers for contemporary living. Prizes were awarded to Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen for chairs and storage pieces. Designs of the competition were exhibited by the Museum as Organic Design in Home Furnishings. Noyes defined "Organic" as "an harmonious organization of the parts within the whole, according to structure, material and purpose."

Noyes served as a major in the Air Force from 1942-1945 during the Second World War. After the war he served as design director with Norman Bel Geddes. When Bel Geddes’ office closed in 1947, Noyes opened his own office and completed a Model A typewriter design for IBM started by Bel Geddes. It was introduced in 1948, and Thomas J. Watson, Jr. of IBM, a glider pilot friend of Noyes, retained him for product design. In 1954 Noyes was assigned to design an IBM display facility in New York City to compete with Olivetti’s on Fifth Avenue.

In 1956, Watson retained Noyes to develop a unique IBM corporate style similar to Olivetti’s to improve the visual quality of IBM products, graphics, exhibitions, interiors, packaging and architecture. He did so with help from Paul Rand, Marcel Breuer, and Charles Eames. This became the earliest US "house style" program.

In 1957 IBM introduced the Ramac 305 business computer, designed under the direction of Noyes and R.W. Figgens, U.J. Pepin and H.F. Weber of Sundberg-Ferar. It featured a distinguished architectural quality that integrated with contemporary office decor.

In 1960, Noyes was retained by Westinghouse to dramatize their image, to build their meager share of consumer products markets against giants GE and Whirlpool. Noyes engaged Paul Rand and recommended strengthening of the internal design organizations.

In 1961 IBM introduced a revolutionary Selectric I electric typewriter replacing the standard typebars with a moving interchangeable spherical "golf ball" printing element, while the carriage remains fixed. Noyes designed the sculptured housing starting in 1959. By 1975 it accounted for about 75 percent of the US electric typewriter market.