Robert Glenn Smith, FIDSA*
IDSA President: 1981–82
IDSA New York Chapter Chair: 1980–81
Robert Smith, FIDSA, passed away on Dec. 24, 2017 in Wakefield, RI, after a design career that spanned almost four decades. His education began at Pratt Institute in 1941, but was interrupted by the tragic events of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, as he answered a call to duty. Smith joined the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, graduated and and served on various ships and maritime posts until 1947. He returned to complete his studies in industrial design at Pratt, graduating in 1951. He had worked for Jay Doblin and Carl Otto in the summers.
Upon graduation, Smith spent three years at Heritage Henredon Furniture and then became a designer with Harley Earl Associates in Detroit. This led to a position as an account manager at Raymond Loewy Associates. In 1959, Smith joined Lippincott and Margulies for nine years, rising to the role of vice president of product design and development.
In 1968, he was offered the opportunity to start a new product design and development department for JC Penney, designing products from home electronics to power tools and sewing machines. The position of chair of the JC Penney Design System was added to his responsibilities in 1971. The company had spent two years studying its marketing strategies and image objectives to help achieve the desired goals. Based on these objectives, a comprehensive design program was developed, which changed all visual aspects of the company, from its logo to the look of new stores, including its advertising, cataloging and designing of major private label products. In 1974, JC Penney earned the IDSA Award for the Advancement of Design for this program.
Smith served as chair of IDSA's New York City Chapter and as a regional chair, before becoming president of IDSA in 1981. “Dad was very proud of his association with IDSA," recalls his daughter Lindsey Smith-Hill. "He was a great guy, always with a positive attitude. He celebrated his 95th birthday in September 2017 and was still active and planning ahead—right up to the end. He loved being an industrial designer and working with talented, bright people. Solving design issues was fun and fascinating to him.”
He retired from JC Penney in 1983, worked as a design consultant and taught ID history at the Rhode Island School of Design until 1988.
The IDSA Fellow's love of design lives on in his loved ones. Smith-Hill and her sister, Leslie Smith, work in the creative world, One of his granddaughters, Lily Levine, recently became a Pratt Institute alumna; another, Sara Jackson, will graduate from School of Visual Arts (SVA), also in New York City, in spring 2018. "He definitely influenced us to look and see the world around us!" says Smith-Hill of her father, who also is survived by stepchildren John, Anne, Marc and James Levine; six other grandchildren; and three great grandchilden.