Postal Service Honors Americans Who Left A Stamp On Design : The Picture Show The U.S. Postal Service is recognizing influential American industrial designers with a new set of stamps.
NPR logo Postal Service Honors Americans Who Left A Stamp On Design

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.

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.