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Postal Service Honors Americans Who Left A Stamp On Design

In some countries, the government actively supports and practices good design: The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Italy, for example. But, one might argue, the United States is typically not quite as supportive. (I mean, look at American currency design compared to that of almost any country in the European Union, or Canada for that matter.)

Regardless, it's refreshing to see the U.S. Postal Service put forth this new collection of stamps that honors American visionaries in industrial design, to be released this summer.

  • "Peter Muller-Munk is best remembered for the 'Normandie' pitcher featured on the stamp. Introduced ... in 1935, the mass-produced pitcher was made of chromium-plated brass, an alternative to silverware that was affordable and easier to care for."
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    "Peter Muller-Munk is best remembered for the 'Normandie' pitcher featured on the stamp. Introduced ... in 1935, the mass-produced pitcher was made of chromium-plated brass, an alternative to silverware that was affordable and easier to care for."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Eliot Noyes bridged the gap between business and art ... He is best remembered for his long working relationship with IBM, for whom he designed buildings, interiors, and a range of office equipment, like the iconic 1961 'Selectric' typewriter."
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    "Eliot Noyes bridged the gap between business and art ... He is best remembered for his long working relationship with IBM, for whom he designed buildings, interiors, and a range of office equipment, like the iconic 1961 'Selectric' typewriter."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Greta von Nessen specialized solely in lighting, and none of her designs is better known than the 'Anywhere' lamp. Introduced in 1951, the lamp featured a tubular aluminum base and an adjustable shade made of enameled metal."
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    "Greta von Nessen specialized solely in lighting, and none of her designs is better known than the 'Anywhere' lamp. Introduced in 1951, the lamp featured a tubular aluminum base and an adjustable shade made of enameled metal."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Specializing in household products, Russel Wright revolutionized the way we live at home. ... Each stainless steel piece of Highlight/Pinch flatware featured an organically shaped handle and no applied ornament."
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    "Specializing in household products, Russel Wright revolutionized the way we live at home. ... Each stainless steel piece of Highlight/Pinch flatware featured an organically shaped handle and no applied ornament."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Gilbert Rohde was one of the most influential and innovative furniture designers in the U.S. ... [His designs] included modular and sectional furniture made of wood, chrome, Bakelite, Plexiglass, and other new materials, as well as clocks such as the one shown on the stamp."
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    "Gilbert Rohde was one of the most influential and innovative furniture designers in the U.S. ... [His designs] included modular and sectional furniture made of wood, chrome, Bakelite, Plexiglass, and other new materials, as well as clocks such as the one shown on the stamp."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Frederick Hurten Rhead helped pioneer the design of mass-produced ceramic tableware for the home. He is best remembered for the sleek 'Fiesta' line introduced by The Homer Laughlin China Company in 1936."
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    "Frederick Hurten Rhead helped pioneer the design of mass-produced ceramic tableware for the home. He is best remembered for the sleek 'Fiesta' line introduced by The Homer Laughlin China Company in 1936."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Raymond Loewy arguably did more to define the look of modern America than perhaps any other industrial designer. He believed that products should be simple, functional, and appealing, and this vision came to permeate nearly every aspect of American life."
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    "Raymond Loewy arguably did more to define the look of modern America than perhaps any other industrial designer. He believed that products should be simple, functional, and appealing, and this vision came to permeate nearly every aspect of American life."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Donald Deskey is best known for the lavish Art Deco interiors he designed in 1932 for Radio City Music Hall in New York City. However, he was also one of America's most innovative industrial designers."
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    "Donald Deskey is best known for the lavish Art Deco interiors he designed in 1932 for Radio City Music Hall in New York City. However, he was also one of America's most innovative industrial designers."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Known as the 'dean of industrial design,' Walter Dorwin Teague believed that good artistic design fit both form and function into a single aesthetic package. During his career-long collaboration with Eastman Kodak Company, he designed several popular cameras, including the 1934 'Baby Brownie.'"
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    "Known as the 'dean of industrial design,' Walter Dorwin Teague believed that good artistic design fit both form and function into a single aesthetic package. During his career-long collaboration with Eastman Kodak Company, he designed several popular cameras, including the 1934 'Baby Brownie.'"
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Henry Dreyfuss considered the user to be the center and focus of his industrial design work. ... His design for the 1937 Model 302 Bell telephone featured a new handset and base that improved the balance and appearance of the nation's most popular telephone."
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    "Henry Dreyfuss considered the user to be the center and focus of his industrial design work. ... His design for the 1937 Model 302 Bell telephone featured a new handset and base that improved the balance and appearance of the nation's most popular telephone."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "A founding member of the American Society of Industrial Designers, Norman Bel Geddes was a noted champion of streamlining. ... The author of highly influential books on design and urban planning, Bel Geddes created visionary new looks for cars, trains, planes, buildings, even entire cities."
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    "A founding member of the American Society of Industrial Designers, Norman Bel Geddes was a noted champion of streamlining. ... The author of highly influential books on design and urban planning, Bel Geddes created visionary new looks for cars, trains, planes, buildings, even entire cities."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service
  • "Dave Chapman is probably most known for his innovative and award-winning designs for classroom furniture. He also designed household appliances like refrigerators, hairdryers, radios, and electric heaters."
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    "Dave Chapman is probably most known for his innovative and award-winning designs for classroom furniture. He also designed household appliances like refrigerators, hairdryers, radios, and electric heaters."
    Images and captions courtesy of U.S. Postal Service

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Industrial designers create everyday, mass-produced products that serve to meet a variety of human (and non-human) needs. Most people don't stop to think about it, but almost every three-dimensional product we buy has been formed by an industrial designer: Your toothbrush, your car, the exercise equipment you work out on, etc. Industrial designers need to be well-versed in both art and science, taking into account aesthetic considerations like form, color, texture, and scale — and scientific skills like engineering methods, materials science, and cognitive psychology. They also have to take complex business and budgetary constraints into consideration when designing.

This collection introduces the American populace to 12 industrial design visionaries who put their lasting, shall we say, stamp on the discipline. Revered by design students and seasoned designers alike, these luminaries helped form life as we know it in the modern world.

My personal favorites are Henry Dreyfuss – I have always loved his empathetic, human-centered approach to design — and the princess phone. Remember the princess phone? The one in pale pink? How could one not love the designer of that?

I'm also a fan of Walter Dorwin Teague. I spent a couple of months right out of design school working at his legendary firm in Seattle, Wash. Teague has done design work for Boeing for decades: If you've flown in a Boeing aircraft, chances are you've experienced a plane interior designed by Teague.

As in most design fields, industrial design tends to be dominated by guys. But at least one female designer, Greta von Nessen, was included in this set. Seeing her name made me wonder why they didn't include the work of Ray Eames, possibly the most influential female designer that ever lived, of all the design disciplines combined.

Roy Betts, community relations manager for the Postal Service reminded me in an email of the 2008 release of stamps commemorating Ray Eames and her even more renowned partner, Charles Eames. A design duo so influential, they are worthy of their very own stamp commemoration.

Callie Neylan is a former NPR designer and currently teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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