The Streamline Era: A Personal View Budd Steinhilber, FIDSA

Budd Steinhilber, FIDSA

The Streamline Era: A Personal View

Budd Steinhilber, FIDSA


Recently, Auburn University industrial design educator Bret Smith, IDSA asked me, “What did industrial design look like to you, as the profession emerged in the 1930s and 40s?”


Well, first, I should remind you that during the decade from 1930 to 1940, the country was in the stranglehold of a very severe depression, brought on by high-risk speculation by banks and the subsequent collapse of its financial markets.  (We never seem to learn from the past).  Despite the Depression (or perhaps because of it), two World’s Fairs were mounted during this time: The Chicago “Century of Progress” Fair in 1933-34, and the New York “World of Tomorrow” Fair in 1939-40. I attribute much of my youthful interest in industrial design to having the chance to attend both of these venues—the latter one in particular.


The officials of the New York Fair saw it as an opportunity for corporations to promote their consumer products. Many of the early design offices such as Teague, Loewy, Dreyfuss, and Bel Geddes were given a chance to go all out in design, architecture, and exhibits. At the opening of the fair in 1939, the public was first introduced to some significant advances: fluorescent lighting, commercial air-conditioning, nylon stockings, a plan for the federal interstate highway system, and a new-fangled concept called Tele-Vision.


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