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Peter Müller-Munk

(1904—1967)


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(1904–67)

One of the second generation of American industrial designers, German‐born Müller‐Munk was an important figure in the development of industrial design, design consultancy, and the professionalization of design in the United States in the post‐Second World War period. As he declared in the late 1940s he was committed to the idea of making the design process ‘a management philosophy’ rather than being restricted to the design of products, an outlook consolidated through his involvement with design practice, education, and national and international professional organizations. Having graduated in the humanities in Berlin, Müller‐Munk trained as a silversmith before emigrating to New York in 1926. He worked there as a silver designer for the well‐known firm of Tiffany & Co. before opening his own studio in 1929. His design reputation was steadily enhanced by the inclusion of his work in a number of significant exhibitions including the International Exposition of Art in Industry (1928) at Macy's and Contemporary American Design (1928) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 1930 Müller‐Munk moved into product design, an area of expertise that was to become an increasingly important part of his professional identity. His metalware designs were typified by high aesthetic standards and craftsmanship, as seen in the elegantly streamlined chrome‐plated brass Normandie jug designed in 1935 for Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated, the latter a leading American giftware company that placed a high premium on design. In the same year he collaborated with Donald Dohner and Robert Lepper in the inauguration of the first American degree programme in industrial design at Pittsburgh‐Carnegie Institute of Technology, marking an involvement with pedagogy alongside professional practice. In 1944 he formed Peter Müller‐Munk Associates (PMMA), a design consultancy specializing in industrial design. Important clients included Westinghouse and Texaco. Müller‐Munk was also significantly involved in the promotion of the industrial design profession, both in the United States and internationally, through a committed involvement in important organizations. These included the Society of Industrial Designers (SID, see Industrial Designers Society of America) and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), serving as president of the former in 1954–5 and as a founding member and inaugural president of the latter from 1957 to 1959. By the time of his death in 1967 PMMA had grown significantly in size and disciplinary expertise, employing 40 staff and providing specialist expertise in product, transportation, and exhibition design. The company later went on to work in communication and environmental design.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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