History of IDSA

IDSA and Its Predecessors 

by the late Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, president of IDSA from 1979-80. Among his many contributions to the Society, he provided the text for IDSA's online design history section, 100 Years of Design.

The organization of professional designers can be traced to the beginning of the profession itself, which first came to the attention of the general US public in 1927. That year, Macy's in New York held a well-attended Exposition of Art in Trade. This featured "modern products," many of them from the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, which was belatedly recognized by the US government as an important "modern movement."

Immediate public and manufacturer demand for these new "Art Deco" styles was so obvious, and the need so great, that a number of design professionals (often architects, package designers or stage designers) focused their creative efforts for the first time on mass-produced products. They claimed the new title of "industrial designer" which had originated in the US Patent Office in 1913 as a synonym for the then-current term "art in industry."

Immediately, some of these professionals founded the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC) to protect their industrial, decorative and applied arts concepts from piracy, and to exhibit their new work. AUDAC attracted a broad range of artists, designers, architects, commercial organizations, industrial firms and manufacturers. Within a few years, it had more than a hundred members, and held major exhibitions in 1930 and 1931.

In 1933, The National Furniture Designers' Council (NFDC) was founded, bringing together a number of furniture representatives and designers to draw up a code for the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to prevent design piracy. But in 1934, NRA was declared unconstitutional and NFDC disbanded.

In 1936, the American Furniture Mart in Chicago invited leading designers to form a new organization called the Designers' Institute of the American Furniture Mart. Some members felt restricted by the sole patronage and sponsorship of the furniture industry, and in 1938 they founded a broader-based organization called the American Designers Institute (ADI), which allowed specialization in one of many design areas, including crafts, decorative arts, graphics, products, packaging, exhibit or automotive styling, to name a few. ADI's first president was John Vassos (1898-1985).

In February 1944, fifteen prominent East Coast design practitioners established the Society of Industrial Designers (SID). Each of the founding members invited one additional designer to join the following year. Membership requirements were stringent, requiring the design of at least three mass-produced products in different industries. SID was formed in part to reinforce the legality of industrial design as a profession, and to restrict membership to experienced professionals. SID's first president was Walter Dorwin Teague.

IDSA Association Consolidation Timeline 2

In 1951, ADI relocated its administrative center to New York, absorbing the Chicago Society of Industrial Designers (CSID) in the process and changing its name to the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI). That year, IDI initiated annual national design awards, which continued through 1965. By 1962, IDI had about 350 members in 10 city chapters across the country.

Gathering of the original 15 members of ASID

In 1955, The Society of Industrial Designers (SID) changed its name to the American Society of Industrial Design (ASID). By 1962, ASID had about 100 members in four chapters nationally.

In 1957, The Industrial Design Education Association (IDEA) was founded because neither professional society (IDI or ASID) accepted educators as full members. Its first president was Joseph Carriero (1920-1978).

In 1965, after over ten years of careful negotiations, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) was formed by the collaborative merger of IDI, ASID and IDEA. In doing so, the strengths, purposes and varied philosophies of its predecessors combined to become the single voice of industrial design in the US.

Illustration: 1950 gathering of the Board of Directors of ADI with Bob Goldberg as president. Around the table, I to r, are: Paul Wrablica, Belle Kogan,Ben Nash, Ann Frank, John Vassos, Frank Gianninoto, Bob Goldberg, Bob Gruen, Clarence Hornung, Dan Grant

When IDSA was formed, it consisted of about 600 members in 10 chapters across the country. The first Chairman of its Board was John Vassos (1898-1985), the founder of ADI, and its first President was Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972). By 1980, IDSA had re-initiated annual national design awards and revised its bylaws significantly.

Today, IDSA has thousands of members in dozens of Student ChaptersProfessional Chapters and Special Interest Sections in the United States and internationally. The Society sponsors the annual International Design Excellence Awards® (IDEA), the world’s most prestigious and rigorous design competition. IDSA hosts events including an annual International Design Conference and Deep Dive events which bringing together some of the biggest names and brightest minds in industrial design and related fields. INNOVATION, IDSA’s flagship publication, is a highly regarded magazine within the profession. IDSA Ambassadors support and promote industrial design with research, thought leadership and outreach.