Sundberg-Ferar Celebrates 80th Anniversary

On October 2, 2014, in a gala celebration at The Henry Ford Museum, Sundberg-Ferar looked back at a remarkable history and toasted to the prospect of an equally remarkable future.

Over 200 clients, friends, recent alums, old-timers and family members attended the event.  Many Michigan dignitaries were in attendance and Governor Rick Snyder supplied a videotaped congratulations message, reminding the audience that there are more industrial designers employed in the state of Michigan than in any other state.  The evening was kicked-off by current SF President, Curt Bailey, who guided the audience through an historic overview of SF’s rich contribution to design in America.  A group of fascinating people shared anecdotes: Jeff DeBoer, VP/Principal of Sundberg-Ferar; Susan Sundberg Riley and Bob Riley, Carl Sundberg’s daughter and son-in-law; Karl Heck, son of Dick Heck (SF’s second President); MaryEllen Dohrs, Sundberg-Ferar alum from 1953-1958; Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator at the International Housewares Association; Jeevak Badve, Director of Strategic Growth at SF; and Dan Martinage, IDSA’s Executive Director.  The Henry Ford museum maintains an archive of Sundberg-Ferar designs and many SF–designed products were on display.  Guests mingled amongst decades of designs ranging from scale models of mass transit cars to the Club Car Precedent golf car, to the soon-to-be-introduced Mahindra GenZe two-wheeled electric vehicle.

Carl Sundberg and Montgomery Ferar founded Sundberg-Ferar in 1934 in Detroit with a handshake in the parking lot of General Motors Headquarters; the same building that now is home to the College of Creative Studies.  Sundberg-Ferar is the second longest standing independent design firm in the United States and Carl and Monte have taken their place amongst the founding fathers of Industrial Design.

In the course of their history, Sundberg-Ferar has designed thousands of products in almost every category imaginable.  In addition to 70+ years designing major appliances with Whirlpool Corporation and Sears, including the iconic 1959 Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen, Sundberg-Ferar is well known for the design of mass transit train cars (BART in San Francisco, MARTA in Atlanta, the Washington DC METRO, many of the MTA trains in New York, and DART in Dallas).  Sundberg-Ferar designed the original interior for the Lockheed L-1011 airliner, and has created concept cars for the automotive industry.  They even worked on the international space station for Lockheed and NASA.

Today, Sundberg-Ferar continues to innovate consumer, medical and transportation products for multi-national corporations and startups alike.  Following their motto of “No More Porridge,” SF de-commoditizes products and creates unique and compelling value propositions for customers.  Design strategy has also become a significant component of their business with their Genesis™ offering.   Sundberg-Ferar’s relationship with the automotive industry has expanded and they now work with many OEMs and tier-one suppliers. 

Detroit has become the gritty epicenter of an American manufacturing resurgence, and Sundberg-Ferar is proud that they’ve survived and thrived here for 80 years.