Joseph Claude Sinel, FIDSA

Joseph (Jo) Claude Sinel
(1889-1975)

He was self-described as the first "industrial designer" in the US, because he stamped the title on his letterhead in 1920. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, one of a family of ten, he attended the Elam School of Art there and apprenticed as an artist at the New Zealand Herald newspaper from 1904 to 1909.

After working in Australia and London at the prestigious Carlton Studios, gaining commercial art studio experience, he emigrated to San Francisco in 1918 as a merchant seaman. He took a position doing promotional graphics at First National Pictures in New York, the movie company with which Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin were associated. Returning to San Francisco and working for several advertising agencies, he began teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts in the early 1920s. Soon he was off to Montreal and then New York, where he began to freelance.

In 1923 he wrote, A Book of American Trademarks and Devices that laid out basic rules of corporate identity and was illustrated with over 300 trademarks he had designed. Working for the Lennon Mitchell advertising agency in New York as a graphic artist, he was asked to also design products for clients in 1923, many of them in art deco style. Among them were scales for Peerless and the International Ticket Scale Corporation, the Acousticon and Sonotone hearing aids, Remington typewriters and calculators for Marchand. His package designs were featured in a 1934 Fortune magazine and he won a number of design awards.

He worked for fifty-five advertising agencies during his career, and for eleven years, was married to concert pianist Genevieve Blue. He returned to the California College of Arts and Crafts in the 1940s where later in life he was made an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. He also taught at a number of other design schools including Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and Chouinard in LA.

He was one of the 14 founders of the Society of Industrial Designers in 1944, and later, a member of IDSA.