John Vassos, FIDSA
IDSA Board Chairman, 1965
US industrial designer. Born in Romania as the son of a Greek publisher and diplomat, he served with a suicide minesweeper squadron in World War I, was torpedoed, rescued by a US transport and landed in Boston in 1919. There, he studied art and illustration with John Singer Sargent at the Fenway Art School.
In 1924, he came to New York, opened a commercial studio called The New York Display Company, studied at the Art Students League, started as an illustrator for Harper's and New Yorker magazines, and began in the practice of industrial design. He wrote, illustrated and published a number of fiction books: Contempo, in 1929; Ultima in 1930; and Phobia in 1931.
In 1933 he established the first internal design department for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and remained as its consultant until 1964, while continuing to practice independently. In 1938 he was one of the founders and the first president of the American Designers Institute. He urged the breakaway of the group from the Designers Institute of the American Furniture Mart to allow designers to work on many areas, not just furniture design. He served as its president again in 1948.
In 1939 he designed the first consumer television sets for RCA that were introduced at the New York World's Fair, and he designed the theme and concept of the RCA pavilion there.
With Alexander Kostellow, FIDSA among others, he developed early programs of industrial design education in the early 1940s and published Dogs are Like That in 1941. During World War II, he was with the US Army Air Corps developing camouflage techniques, and, with the forerunner of the CIA, twice entered Greece secretly by parachute to organize the underground.
He was president of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in CT and was elected the first Chairman of the Board of the Industrial Designers Society of America when it was formed in 1965.
Vassos is the subject of the book, John Vassos: Industrial Design for Modern Life, by Danielle Shapiro, PhD.