Jean Otis Reinecke, FIDSA

Jean Otis Reinecke, FIDSA
(1909-1987)

Society of Industrial Designers President: 1952
Inducted into the Academy of Fellows: 1952

Jean Reinecke was born in Bourbon County, Kansas and started his own sign painting shop at age 17. He attended Kansas State Teachers College, then moved to St. Louis and attended Washington University’s Art School. He began his career as a display artist at General Display Studios in St. Louis, designer of automated convention and World’s Fair displays, and soon became a partner and art director there. Reinecke opened an office in Chicago in 1930 to work on the Chicago Century of Progress (1933-1934) for General Display. In 1934 he established the industrial design and engineering firm of Barnes & Reinecke in partnership with James Barnes. Reinecke provided the design talent and Barnes was in charge of sales.

By 1938 Barnes & Reinecke had a staff including David Painter (1913-2003), vice-president in charge of design, James Teague, Fred Priess and George Mendenhall. Reinecke also served as a part-time instructor at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, which later evolved into Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

The McGraw Electric Company introduced the Toastmaster model 1B9 in 1939, designed by Reinecke and his staff at Barnes & Reinecke. It was the first to exploit the curvature of chrome-plated shells on toasters, increased sales dramatically, was widely imitated, and served as the typeform for toasters well into the 1960s. One of Reinecke's designers, Fred Priess, designed the linear decoration that became the company's symbol.

In 1939, James F. Barnes and Jean O. Reinecke patented an updated version of Hamilton Beach's classic soda fountain Drinkmaster.

3M in 1940 introduced a heavy cast metal desk-top tape dispenser in gray by Reinecke, which replaced his first design for 3M in 1938, and which he re-designed again in 1953. Reinecke also re-designed a disposable plastic Scotch tape dispenser design that became one of the most successful and enduring examples of 20th century design. It is an ingenious refinement of one he designed in 1939 of stamped sheet metal. Both were still in production in 1998.

In 1940 Reinecke was included in a feature article, Today's Young Men, that interviewed 70 men who achieved notable success while still in their twenties and thirties.

By 1948 Barnes & Reinecke had a staff of 375 and a shop of 50 machinists who produced special purpose equipment for automation. Reinecke sold his interest in the partnership and established his own office, J.O. Reinecke & Associates, specializing in industrial design and product planning, with offices on Ohio Street in Chicago, IL. He took with him designers Jon Hauser, Harold Hart, Don B. Lowe, and CPA Jack Knight, his cousin. Their clients included Caterpillar Tractor Co., Emerson Electric, IT & T, Johnson & Johnson, Maytag, 3M Co., McGraw-Edison, Union Oil, Westinghouse and Zenith.

In about 1957, Reinecke opened a second office in Pasadena, CA. He designed the 3M Decor Dispenser Model C-15 introduced by 3M in 1961. It was a swooping plastic desktop tape dispenser in numerous colors and textures, and was in use until the end of the century.

Reinecke became a Fellow and was president of the Society of Industrial Designers (SID) in 1952. He was also an officer in the Society of Plastics Engineers, consulting director of the Color Research Institute, and lectured at a number of universities, including MIT, Cal Tech, UCLA, Stanford, IIT, Chicago Art Institute and the University of Illinois. He closed his Chicago office in 1974, and continued designing until 1986 in his Pasadena office where he was also on the Council of Advisors of the Art Center College of Design.

Reinecke’s portrait illustrating this article was drawn by the late caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld, and was made available through the courtesy of Reinecke's daughter, Barbra Jean Reinecke Sedory.