The status of this leading American car designer at the Ford Motor Corporation after the Second World War was confirmed by his appearance on the cover of Time magazine in 1957, like the famous American industrial designer Raymond Loewy eight years earlier. Responsible for such significant models as the 1949 Ford and the classic 1955 Ford Thunderbird, Walker was made a company vice‐president and director of styling in 1955. His significance at Ford could be compared with Virgil Exner's at Chrysler or even Harley Earl's at General Motors. Walker had attended the Cleveland School of Art and the Otis Art Institute of the Parsons School of Design before embarking on a career as an art director in Cleveland. He then moved to Detroit, establishing an independent design consultancy for which, amongst a wide range of industrial products such as radios and refrigerators, he designed a number of details that were sold to Henry Ford in the early 1930s. However, his relationship with the Ford Motor Corporation did not develop seriously until after the Second World War, when he was invited to comment on the company's proposed designs for the 1949 Ford. He felt that they were uncommercial and put his own proposals forward a few months later. Walker is generally credited as the mainspring behind the styling of the 1949 Ford, a model that is widely acknowledged as one that had a significant positive effect on the Ford profile and profitability. He also headed the team that designed the 1950 Lincoln, the 1951 Mercury, and the 1952 Ford with its characteristic circular rear lights. Inspired by the European sports cars that he had seen at the 1953 Paris Auto Show of 1953 he produced the classic Ford Thunderbird in 1955. His design team at this time included Elwood Engel (later moving to the Chrysler Corporation as head of design from 1961 to 1974), Joseph Oros, and George Bordinat. Walker retired from Ford in 1961 although his contribution to design was far wider than automobiles, his Detroit design consultancy also working on more than 3,000 designs, including watches, washing machines, radios, refrigerator, and alarm clocks.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.