Alexander Jusserand Kostellow, FIDSA

Alexander Jusserand Kostellow, FIDSA
(1897-1954)

Regarded by many as the "father" of industrial design education, Alexander was born in Persia (Iran) as Alexander Jusserand Kostellow. He studied in Paris and at the University of Berlin, and came to the United States in 1916.

Alecander studied painting at the National Academy, the Art Student's League, and the Kansas City Art Institute, where he met and married Rowena Reed Kostellow, FIDSA. Both came to Pittsburgh in 1929 to teach at Carnegie Institute of Technology, he in painting and she in sculpture. By 1934, Alexander and Rowena helped Donald Dohner co-found the first degreed ID program at CIT.

By 1938, Alexander and Rowena had moved to New York City to join the faculty at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn under Donald Dohner, then "Supervisor of Industrial Design." In 1938, Alexander was listed as an "Instructor in Industrial Design." In 1939 he was invited by Dean Boudreau to initiate a curriculum of "Design and Structure," a now-called "Foundation" program, using abstract elements that he felt emulated the Bauhaus, and which, many say, was the "heart and soul" of the program.

By 1940, Alexander was named "Supervisor of Design and Structure." In the 1940s, he worked with John Vassos to develop educational programs of industrial design recommended by the Industrial Designers Institute. In 1943, he was listed as "Supervisor and Professor of Design," while Donald was listed as "Professor of Industrial Design." After Donald's untimely death on Christmas Eve in 1944, Alexander headed the 3-year program as" Supervisor of Industrial Design and Supervisor of Design and Structure" at Pratt Institute.

In 1952, Alexander created an Experimental Design Laboratory at Pratt, providing company designers office space adjacent to student drafting and shop areas to do experimental work, and to lecture and advise students. Participating companies included General Motors, Shell Oil, and Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation. This innovation led to Pratt being recognized as the program closest to production realities. By this time, Pratt’s program had been expanded to four years.

In 1954, Alexander died in Detroit, MI, where he had been engaged in special summer design consultation work for the Styling Division of General Motors, despite ill health. After his death, Robert A. Kölli succeeded him at the Design Laboratory, and in the role of Supervisor at Pratt.

In 1959, Pratt formally established a Department of Industrial Design. In 1962, Rowena was named Chair of the Department, a position she held until 1966.

Sources: 
100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.