Joseph Platt, FIDSA

Joseph B. Platt

These articles are by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, author of: DESIGN CHRONICLES—Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd., and THE INDUSTRIALIZATION OF DESIGN—A History from the Steam Age to the Present, published December, 2010 by McFarland & Co., Inc.

A US industrial designer, almost forgotten today, but Joseph B. Platt, FIDSA was one of the 10 leading designers featured in the February 1934 Fortune magazine article that first recognized the new profession and was one of the 15 co-founders of the Society of Industrial Designers (SID) in 1944. He was a major figure in the artistic community of the era.

In 1919, he married June Evans (1898-1977), the daughter of Rudolph Evans (1878-1960), the sculptor who created the 1,000 pound bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial in 1947. In the 1920s, Platt and his new wife relocated to the French commune of Senlis, an expatriate community north of Paris, where Platt worked as a correspondent, editor, and illustrator for Vanity Fair, Vogue, and House & Garden magazines. He illustrated magazine covers from about 1923 to 1925. He and his wife hoped to become community leaders of Senlis, but they were not well liked.

Returning to the US, the Platts lived in New York City and Little Compton, RI. Platt served as style director for Marshall Field department store in Chicago, and in 1932 designed the Parker Vacuumatic fountain pen and its famous arrow-shaped pocket clip, which became a Parker trademark, and probably was the reason Platt was mentioned in the Fortune article of 1934. The Platts collaborated in painting murals, probably WPA projects during the Depression, one of which wrapped the dining room at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI., and which depicted the history of Detroit.

Platt became a film set designer in Los Angeles, designing sets for Gone With the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), Lady of Burlesque (1943), The Paradine Case (1947), and Portrait of Jennie (1948). He also designed stage sets on Broadway for In Bed We Cry (1944) and Suds in Your Eye (1944).

Platt continued to design magazine covers, and they both continued designing products in the 1940s, he glass products, and she, under his name, designed home furnishings. June wrote a number of cookbooks, including The June Platt Cook Book (1959, Alfred A. Knopf), and apparently established quite a reputation. James Beard, the famous American chef and food writer, praised her as “a great authority on food” and Raymond Loewy (a fellow co-founder of SID with Joseph in 1944) complimented her as “an incomparable and creative cook.”

Apparently, like many celebrities, they were not as well-liked by some. An artist who knew them well described them both as “testy,” Platt as “an enthusiastic social climber with an appreciative eye for manly good looks,” and “fragile looking” June as “a snob of the first order.” Nevertheless, Platt deserves to be remembered as one of the founders of the profession of industrial design.