The Industrialization of Design

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The Industrialization of Design

Carroll Gantz

A history from the steam age to today.

Carroll Gantz, FIDSA is a giant upon whose shoulders we all stand today. The designer of the original Black & Decker Dustbuster, Gantz has never been afraid to pioneer and change where change was needed. This latest book from Gantz, tells it like it was. It's a great read for anyone interested to know how we got here.

Mark Dziersk, FIDSA reviewed the book in the winter 2011 edition of INNOVATION, the IDSA quarterly journal of industrial design. Here is what he had to say about it:

In an industrial design world struggling with definitions and desperately creating new buzzwords, along comes a new book, free of any pretense, that spells out the profession in a factual and engaging way. The Industrialization of Design is an impressive collection of moments and stories detailing the history and evolution of industrial design over the last 200 or so years. Expertly written by Carroll Gantz, FIDSA, former head of design at Black & Decker, a Carnegie Mellon professor and past president of IDSA, this is a must-have for the shelf of any serious industrial design practitioner. For those deep into the field, this book serves as a reminder of why industrial design matters, and how its ability to solve problems gives form and explores new issues that manifest in a better world.

To be honest, at first I was hesitant about reviewing what appeared to be a textbook. Where was the story? This is a collection of facts; how exciting could that be? What I found instead was a fascinating journey full of surprises. In this book Gantz has assembled an amazing collection of moments in a timeline that explains and defines modern industrial design. Beginning with the 18th century with Paul Revere and early casting and smithing techniques, the book quickly becomes a deeply insightful outline of how modern manufacturing came into its own. It picks up real steam in the section about the 1950s and 1960s, with references to Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss and their like, fedora-coiffed industrial designers who advised captains of industry and set the stage for all the Mad Men personalities to come. Who were Richard Latham, Robert Tyler and George Jensen? David Chapman? Here’s a chance to learn. For me this section was particularly inspiring and fascinating to read. Don Draper has nothing on these folks.

Another strength of the narrative is the judgment-free clarity expressed in many passages, as in this definition of industrial design that IDSA penned in 1978: “Industrial design (ID) is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” I found that kind of declaration to be refreshing and timeless. The book is chock-full of these kinds of references.

In fact, it’s all here, all the key moments—from Time magazine’s 1997 announcement that design was the “hottest profession in terms of job growth and compensation,” and its seminal article of 2000 when design made the cover to museum openings and significant exhibitions, people, places and moments of influence. Gantz also cleverly infuses, at key moments throughout, appropriate political milestones—both geopolitical and more introverted political design insights—that shaped the discipline and the dialogue it engendered.

The only real issue I have with the book is its visual and physical quality. I’m going to go out on a limb here and blame the publisher. I wished for this to be a hardcover tome with magnificent four-color photos, but alas the publisher must have been conservative in its sales estimates.

This book is available for purchase.

To learn more about the author, Carroll Gantz, visit the IDSA Fellows Gallery.