The Man Who Designed the Future

Major Study of Revolutionary Designer to be Published

Feb 10 2017 - 9:23am

The story of industrial designer pioneer Norman Bel Geddes, FIDSA, (1893-1958) is coming to a book store near you. The Man Who Designed the Future: Norman Bel Geddes and the Invention of Twentieth-Century America, written by B. Alexandra Szerlip, willl be published by Melville House in April 2017.

A ninth-grade dropout who found himself at the center of the worlds of industry, advertising, theater and even gaming, Bel Geddes designed everything from the first all-weather stadium, to Manhattan’s most exclusive nightclub, to Futurama—the 1939 World's Fair exhibit that envisioned how America would look in the 1960s. Szerlip reveals how central Bel Geddes was to the history of American innovation.

In 1944, Bel Geddes was one of the 15 founders of the Society of Industrial Designers (SID), a forerunner of IDSA. Among his wide-ranging designs: cars, trains, ships, planes, stoves, typewriters, furniture and film sets. "Called everything from 'the inventor of the jet age' and 'the grand master of Modernism' to 'a little Leonardo,' Bel Geddes was America’s poster boy for global, interdisciplinary thinking for more than two decades," says Szerlip. "Though long overshadowed by Raymond Loewy, FIDSA, who had the wisdom to outlive his rival by 28 years, Bel Geddes was America’s first industrial designer."

Szerlip spoke about her project in a talk entitled “Norman Bel Geddes: ID’s Original Enfant Terrible” at IDSA's International Conference 2013 in Chicago. The author was a two-time National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellow, a Yaddo fellow and runner-up for London's Lothian Prize for a first biography-in-progress. She has contributed to The Paris Review Daily and The Believer, among other publications, and has worked in professional theater; and as a book editor,  sculptor and graphic designer.