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Title: Obituaries

Pages: 71

   

Author: Editorial

Text: 
Obituaries

Henry Dreyfuss

On 9 October The Times reported "Mr Henry Dreyfuss, the American industrial designer, was found dead with his wife at their home . . . the bodies were found inside a car in an exhaust-filled garage. The engine was still running." The suicide of so gentle a man has grieved his friends throughout the world who are sickened at the thought of the secret tragedy to which death appeared to be the only solution.
Henry Dreyfuss was born in 1904. At 17 he was designing settings for stage presentations in the Strand motion-picture theatre on Broadway, but by 1929 he had set up his industrial design office at 580 Fifth Avenue in New York. He was one of the pioneer American industrial designers who built a profession on the ruins of the American economy - in the late 1920s. In retrospect one remembers only their later successes and tends to forget the early days when Dreyfuss ''managed to ferret out small industrial design jobs - a shaving brush handle, some perfume bottles, belt buckles, neck-ties, garters and suspenders''. This quotation is from his book Designing for People which he published in 1955. By then he was rightly world famous, his clients included RCA and a Bell Telephone, he had designed the 20th Century Limited Train, the SS Constitution and SS Independence, clocks, petrol stations, dental equipment, safes and farming equipment. This book justifies re-reading. Its presentation now appears quaint, but the products it illustrates remain classical examples of work of absolute integrity which remain as acceptable today as when they were designed 20 years and more ago.
The secret of the longevity and classical character of Dreyfuss's work is his absolute honesty and integrity and the absence of fashionable gimmickry. He was a willing collaborator with his partners, colleagues and technicians, he believed implicitly in the value of his professional function, and was seemingly un-troubled by the Weltschmerz which afflicts the present generation of designers. His philosophy was pragmatic: "if people are made safer" he wrote ''more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient - or just plain happier - by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded''.
In the midst of a successful practice he found time to be a visiting professor at the University of California and president of the American Society of Industrial Designers. In 1951 he was awarded the Architectural League Gold Medal. He published the ergonomic data which he had accumulated as a compendium entitled ''The Measure of Man" and the two life size charts of Joe and Josephine which it contained have been pinned to walls in design offices and schools throughout the world. He had two offices, one in New York and one in Pasadena, California; he enjoyed claiming that he flew about 100 000 miles each year, mostly in planes whose interiors he had designed. A few years ago he handed over control of his practice to his partners but continued to serve a few personal clients and to concentrate on his attempt to establish an international language of symbols: his findings were published this year as A Sign Systems Manual (DESIGN 281/ 72-5).
Henry Dreyfuss always gave an impression of controlled serenity. He talked well, he was serious, amiable, loved and respected by his colleagues and his clients. When he spoke at international conferences of designers everyone listened as he had the authority which a quarter century, and more, of achievement commands. The profession has lost its most effective advocate, his friends have lost a friend. Misha Black

Sir Charles Connell

Sir Charles Connell, who had been chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Design Council from 1958 to 1960, died in Perth on 29 October.
After serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War he joined the family shipbuilding firm of Charles Connell & Co, one of the smaller Clyde yards but one with a reputation second to none for building 10-15 000 ton fast cargo ships. The fact that an increasing number of these were for the Norwegian market may be some indication of their quality as well as their forward-looking policy in design.
It was, therefore, to shipbuilding that he devoted most of his life, holding at different times between 1950 and 1960 nearly all the key positions on the Clyde as well as in the wider United Kingdom shipbuilding world. But his qualities were also recognised in broader spheres when he became a member of the Anglo-American Productivity Council in 1951, of the Iron and Steel Board in 1953, President of the British Employers Confederation from 1954 to 1956 and, in 1964, a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland. The Scottish Committee were, therefore, fortunate to have a chairman of such distinction at a time when it, and indeed the Council itself, had not yet reached the status they now enjoy.
While his shipbuilding interests kept him near to the Clyde, where he inherited a formidable baronial mansion, his great love was for Colquhalzie, in Perthshire, the house which he and Lady Connell, herself a New Zealander, resuscitated with great taste and skill and round which, over the years, they created an enchanting garden. There he retired, after a life full of service to industry, to lead a countryman's life. Alister Maynard

Corrections

The flooring in the Olympic swimming pool in Munich, attributed in DESIGN 285 to Pirelli, was in fact made by Carl Freudenberg & Co.

The ceramics by Ettore Sottass (DESIGN 286/66-67) are being made and marketed in the UK by Nick Morris, 24 Wimpole Street, London, W1.

In our countryside issue last month, the number of cows milked by one man using an eight-stall rotary milking parlour should have read "160 in three hours", not 60.

(caption)
Dreyfuss designs for hotel bathroom in moulded grp, above, and compact Bell telephone receiver, top

 

 

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