July 1, 2003
He Is Everywhere
Brooks Stevens may not be a household name, but he did give the midcentury American household much of its prototypical look.
Brooks Stevens may not be a household name, but he did give the midcentury American household much of its prototypical look. Starting in the 1930s the late Stevens—one of the country’s first industrial designers—brought streamlined design to plenty of objects that had previously only been engineered, including clothes dryers, tractors, bicycles, and outboard motors. A branding dynamo, he coined the term “planned obsolescence” and used design to create a total product image: for Miller Brewing he designed everything from bottles and labels to employee uniforms, delivery vans, and even the company headquarters. Stevens’s stealthy ubiquity is on display through September 7 in the Milwaukee Art Museum exhibition Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World. Above are seven items so familiar that we hardly think of them as designed. See if you can guess which one is not a Brooks Stevens.
Design Quiz: Which one of these ubiquitous products was not designed by Brooks Stevens?
1. Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide Motorcycle, 1949
2. Bell Laboratories rotary telephone, 1937
3. Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, 1958
4. Jeep Station Wagon, 1946
5. Miller High Life logo, 1942
6. Steam-o-matic iron, 1939
7. Lawn Boy rotary mower, 1954
(click image for answer)
Stevens portrait and images 1, 3, 5, 6: Brooks Stevens Archive, Milwaukee Art Museum; Images 4, 7: courtesy Brooks Stevens Design; 2: Hiro Ihara (Model #302 Telephone; Designer: Henry Dreyfuss [American, 1904-1972]; Manufacturer: Western Electric Co. for Bell Telephone USA, 1937; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution; Metal housing; Decorative Arts Association Acquisition Fund, 1994-73-2)