Julie Lasky did a great job with the technical aspects of her presentation using film clips and wonderful images of the design industry to illustrate her program, Men in White. She showed numerous symbols and metaphors that were quite interesting or attractive such as iconic photos of Industrial Design professionals and movie clips from the 1950s and 1960s. She noted the absence of women during this period of time. Unfortunately, the point of her presentation was not entirely clear to me - and I know quite a bit about industrial design. Was she talking about Industrial Design as a male-dominated industry? A review of the lab coats as a symbol? I couldn't figure out where this presentation was headed.
To point out that Industrial Design has been a male-dominated arena is obvious. During most of this time period, women were generally not included in any professional environment. The layering of symbolism about White, as in "Men in White" lab coats seemed unimportant to their significant contributions in industrial design.
Regrettably, this wasn't the right lecture for this audience. Most of the audience probably didn't have an advanced level of knowledge about Industrial Design in the 20th Century. And the presentation didn't provide enough background or tight structure to bring them up to speed. I felt like we were on a ride in a sleek vehicle with lots of gear shifting but with no clear destination.
WHAT QUESTIONS WERE ASKED AND ANSWERED? Skip this, the issues raised are not significant.
WHAT DID I LEARN? Lasky did reawaken my interest in some excellent classic movies. We should all watch the film, "North by Northwest" with Cary Grant and Eva Maria Saint, and "Executive Suite" with William Holden. In both films take note of how the characters and Industrial Design takes on a metaphorical role.
LIFESTYLE OR LIVELIHOOD? In the case of Industrial Designers, they typically aligned and actively promoted lifestyle and livelihood as a public image. In fact, many of them were amazingly effective at self-promotion and creating an identity as "Design Gods." They were regularly featured in major consumer magazines such as LIFE, TIME, and Good Housekeeping.
SUMMARY: Julie Lasky obviously knew her topic very well, but it needed more foundation and substance for an audience that was unfamiliar with the topic. There is much to gain by learning more about the way Industrial Designers shaped our world, invented the concept of "planned obsolescence" and created a whole new industry starting in the 1920s and 1930s that led to fame and financial success. They understood the art of self-promotion and educating the general public about the importance of their role.
Look at this website for Raymond Loewy "the Father of Industrial Design"
Learn about the origin of transportation graphics that we take for granted every day (many designed by Vignelli Associates).
Amazon has tons of great books about Industrial Design. It is worth the time to read at least one or two. These men really knew how to create a "persona", engaging both the executive level and the general public in the value of their work. Craftspeople have a lot to learn about both lifestyle and livelihood from design history.
This post was updated on January 3, 2022, to provide current links.