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John Vassos: Industrial Design for Modern Life Paperback – March 30, 2016
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"Danielle Shapiro makes a convincing case for John Vassos's formerly unheralded, but highly significant, early contributions to the field now known as user interface (UI) design. The chapters about Vassos's design of knobs, dials, displays, and casings for RCA radios and studio recording machinery are especially illuminating. Furthermore, the book is beautifully written; the illustrations, almost all 'new', are aptly chosen; and the footnotes are a rich source of information not only about Vassos but also about twentieth-century design in general."—Carma Gorman, The University of Texas at Austin
"John Vassos is a complex portrait of an artist and designer whose early illustration work criticized the tempo and commercialism of modern life but whose later design work took for granted those same qualities and attempted to accommodate people to them."—Jeffrey L. Meikle, University of Texas at Austin
"In the first complete picture of John Vassos, Danielle Shapiro definitively captures an industrial designer of the first rank."—Russell Flinchum, North Carolina State University
"John Vassos energized the flow of products, people, and media with his streamlined designs for everything from kitchen appliances to turnstiles and radios. Danielle Shapiro has created an original portrait of this important designer and this key period in American design and popular culture."—Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"In our current era of watching TV on an iPod or a smartphone, Shapiro stimulates broad discussions of the meaning of technological design for mass media in daily life."—ArtDaily.org
"Replete with rich behind-the-product stories of America’s design culture in the 1930s through the 1950s, this volume also chronicles the emergence of what was to become the nation’s largest media company and provides a fascinating glimpse into its early corporate culture."—Industrial Designers Society of America
"John Vassos, Industrial Design for Modern Life is not only an essential book for designers, but for those who love the history of design."—The Arts Fuse
"Not simply the first biography of a designer who was a major contributor to the design of consumer electronics but also a solid examination of the evolution of consumer and industrial design during Vassos’s lifetime." —CHOICE
About the Author
Danielle Shapiro is an independent scholar who has served as senior program officer in the Division of Public Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities. She earned her PhD in art history and communications studies from McGill University.
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Top Customer Reviews
on modernization in the 1930's
"...streamlined objects reflected the utopian social values of the era, particularly a desire to speed effortlessly into the future and away form the Great Depression."
on changing gender norms
"Following the 1920's, the novel concept of the living room suggested an increasingly unisex home [...] modern design provided a solution to the domesticity-as-feminine problem."
on the acculturation of mass media into the American home
"There was some confusion about what would actually be on television in the 1930s. One RCA publicity brochure for the TRK-12 showed an elegantly dressed woman gently fondling the dial. On the last page of the brochure, the same woman appeared on a television screen. [...] It is clear that marketing people were unsure..."
I came at this as one who has restored RCA radios from the era during which Vassos designed for RCA, but Shapiro reveals so much more about Vassos' life as a painter, writer, designer that I was fascinated throughout the book. Reading it, you get a feel for how Vassos looked at the world (over time) and approached his designs. You have probably used something designed or influenced by him. Of particular surprise was Vassos' invention of the vertically rotating turnstyle now almost ubiquitous in subways and at events. Who knew? Shapiro tells us all about it and more.