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A Life's Design: The Life And Work of Industrial Designer Charles Harrison Hardcover – December 30, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Ibis Design Inc; 1 edition (December 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977327108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977327102
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 10.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

From my memoir, A Life's Design:

"I came from a family that taught me to see beyond circumstance, find value and create usefulness out of need. The legacy I inherited required that I make myself useful ' as a son, man, husband, father and artist.

If I were to share one thought with the design community of today and tomorrow it would be to remember that your purpose ' your gift to the world ' is to provide straightforward solutions to real problems for living, breathing human beings. As an industrial designer especially, your audience is neither history nor fame, but a couple who worked hard to buy their first home on a quiet street and would love just one more hour of sleep in the morning, even on trash day. Your muse is the kid who needs something to occupy his mind and hands during that long drive to grandma's house. Your biggest critic will be the struggling mother who can't afford to keep replacing her kitchen appliances every time a little piece of ornate but useless piece of plastic breaks off."

Over the course of my career, I've been involved with the creation of almost all areas of household products. I have now retired from both professional design and teaching, and am currently speaking on my life's work and passion, as captured in my memoir.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing volume. It's hard to beleive that a single industrial designer could apply an aesthetic hand to something as mundane as two styles of trash cans found in both suburban and urban yards to the five in one appliance precursor to the ubiquitous Cuisinart to the standby road trip diversion of the Viewmaster is mind blowing. And to think, when Mr. Harrison began his work at Sears in the early 1960's there was an unwritten policy that the company did not hire persons of African descent.

It is the story of both an artist and and industrial designer. He designed things that were of practical use and things to use that helped. He even designed things that entertained and whether we would flip a switch, turn a knob or push a button.

It's a shame that the retailers like Sears no longer have in house departments that assured that goods for sale were well liked and looked good. Mr. Harrison was at the vanguard of African Americans in corporate retailing like fellow Sears executive Bob Johnson who helped Sears stay on top of its game.

Buy it for yourself and buy it for the children, so you can show them slices of the 1960s and 1970s.
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Format: Hardcover
Before reading A Life's Design: The Life and Work of Industrial Designer Charles Harrison I had never really given much thought to the design of everyday utilitarian items such as clock radios, hair dryers & plastic trashcans. From time to time, I may have thought: "That's so easy to use" or "Oh - that's a clever feature - I wonder who thought of that" without really giving any credence to the fact that someone had really designed it.

And yet - someone did, and a great deal of the consumer product design of the mid-twentieth century was done by Charles Harrison. Indeed, Mr. Harrison spent decades designing for Sears, and reading his book is like taking a trip through the Sears catalogues of my youth - the 50s, 60s & 70s

Mr. Harrison was born in 1931 in Shreveport LA and grew up in Prairie View TX, the son of a professor at Southern University. When Charles was a young teenager, his father moved the family to Phoenix where he had secured a job teaching at an all-black high school. It was in Phoenix that Charles started to endure the racism that would confront him his entire working life.

After having lived in segregated housing & graduating from a segregated high school in Phoenix, he attended The City College of San Francisco. There he encountered two life-altering events: being one of about only 20 black students in an enrollment of approximately 1,000; and a Vocational Guidance course which suggested that his field of endeavor should be art.

Thus, after graduation from college, he sought to enter one of the only five schools in the U.S. that held accredited industrial design programs. He chose the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). How did a poor black kid from 1940s Southern USA afford such a prestigious school?
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By A. Carter on February 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From an incidental discussion on inventors with an associate the work of Charles Harrison came up. When I ordered "A Life's Design," to my wonderous eyes appeared the most beautiful book I had ever seen. I was captivated by the enormous body of work of this African American designer, no less an industrial designer who was employed by Sears, Roebuck and Company. Mr. Harrison demonstrates a rare talent. His gift to perceive the question and the answer, and to make an object's function pleasing to the eye are unparallel. To produce such creativity year after year is phenomenal, especially against a background of strife and trials. This is a picture of unprecedented achievement among American creative thinkers.
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Format: Hardcover
A truly amazing and inspiring book about one product designer who contributed so much to the industry. As a textile and product designer he makes me believe anything is possible, the book highlights the discrimination and challenges he encountered decades ago but still shows the story of over 700 designs completed. Great easy read with personal stories and historical details. I recommend for anyone who wants to create anything.
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