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The Bulletin

A 2-minute history of U.S. industrial design

Posting in Architecture

Strengthening the economy post-Depression in the United States required innovative thinking in order to get consumers excited about products again.

In a time where Americans tightened their belts and business owners were left without many options, the American industrial design movement aimed to refine, redesign and reinvigorate consumer products. In the Open University's series on 20th century design, we can see how small leaps in commercialism have contributed to consumer expectations and perceptions today.

The design of products and the transformation of industrialization into utilitarian art by artists including Norman Bel Geddes and Raymond Loewy -- who romanticized the future through the portrayal of glittering skyscrapers and the concept of colossal architecture -- was a starting point to improve the marketability and production of goods to spur on the U.S. economy.

Once advertisers became involved, it wasn't about desirable products any longer; instead, it was about lifestyles. Products which used to only be viewed as tools were suddenly ways to improve your looks, emotions and quality of life.

The movement's figurehead is Raymond Loewy, who was the first to be featured on the cover of Time in the 1940s. Among his designs were the original Shell and BP logos, but he is most well-known for the Coca-Cola bottle. The industrial designer has been quoted as saying:

"Between two products equal in price, function and quality, the one with the most attractive exterior will win. We know that logic alone does not sell automobiles, so its immediate appeal is emotional; sheer elegance and design finesse, the wish to feel its slender curves, to love that car, to be known as its discriminating owner."

Read More: Fast Co.Design

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— By on June 24, 2013, 7:29 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure