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Harold L. Van Doren

(1895—1957)


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(1895–1957)

One of the first generation of American industrial designers Van Doren began working in the field in the 1930s. His early visual outlook was informed by a training in art history, studying at the École de Louvre in Paris, lecturing in the Louvre Museum, and translating important texts by Ambroise Vollard on Cézanne and Renoir. He held the post of assistant director at the Institute of Art in Minneapolis from 1927 until 1930 when he established a design consultancy with John Gordon Rideout in Toledo, Ohio. An early collaborative product was their plastic‐cased Air King radio of 1933, the stepped‐back form of which echoed the lines of contemporary skyscrapers. In the same year Harold Van Doren & Associates replaced their earlier partnership. Van Doren and Rideout worked on a number of designs for children's play equipment for the American National Company in the mid‐1930s, comprising the streamlined Skippy Airflow pedal car, tricycle, and scooter. Other Van Doren clients included the Toledo Scale Co., the Ex‐Cell‐O Aircraft and Machine Tool Co., and Philco. In 1944 Van Doren's company underwent a further name change, becoming Van Doren, Nowland & Schladermundt in 1944. Van Doren was also an interesting writer, publishing Industrial Design: A Practical Guide (1940). In it he argued for teamwork in design, recommending that each consultancy should include a designer, an engineer, a technical specialist, and others with a knowledge of manufacturing, production processes, retailing, and distribution. Furthermore, Van Doren sought to imbue contemporary debates about the newly emerging industrial design profession with a note of caution, pointing out that the majority of American manufacturers neither saw the advantages of industrial design as a business tool nor the need for the implementation of longer‐term design strategies.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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