This internationally renowned manufacturer of electrical products was founded in Eindhoven in 1891 as a manufacturer of electric bulbs, moving into radio valves in 1918 and diversifying into other radio components in the 1920s. By the late 1920s the firm became involved in the manufacture of consumer products with its first radio receiver of 1927. Working in partnership with the Nederlandsche Seintoestellen Fabriek (NSF), a manufacturer of radio cabinets, Philips became increasingly involved with design. This was particularly evident in terms of publicity, boosted by the appointment of architect Louis Kalff to the Advertising Department in 1925, first as a supervisor and then, in 1928, as the head of a new department of General Advertising. He was responsible for the design of exhibition stands, posters, and publicity as well as the design of showroom interiors. The company also opened its own design office, although the decisions about product appearance involved a number of departments with Kalff playing a key role in guiding policy as well as producing individual designs. However, despite the involvement of designers of the stature of Cassandre for posters advertising the company's radios there was no clear policy for shaping a distinctive brand aesthetic before the Second World War. By this time the company's products included radios, gramophones, televisions (introduced to Holland by Philips in 1938) and electric shavers. After the war the company established a reputation for product innovation, including cassette players (first marketed in 1963), video players (first marketed for professionals in 1964), and compact discs (one of the company's joint research initiatives with Sony that commenced in 1969). Philips established a design group in 1954, followed by the formation in 1960 of its Industrial Design Office under Rein Veersema. In 1969 when Knut Yran took over control of company design policy, instituting a consistent brand identity, the Industrial Design Office modified its name to the Concern Industrial Design Centre (CIDC). In common with other corporate identity schemes of the period a consistent design policy was delivered by means of a company manual containing firm guidelines for all visual matters. A more global outlook was developed with manufacturing plants in more than 60 countries and a worldwide sales policy. In 1980 corporate design policy matters fell under the leadership of Robert Blaich, the new head of the CIDC, who believed that the both the appearance and function of Philips products gave off something of the ethos of the company. Stefano Marzano took over from Blaich in 1991, instituting a more consumer‐centred, multidisciplinary approach to design known as ‘High Design’. The name of the CIDC was changed to Philips Design, a unit that became independent within the Philips group in 1998 but was also able to offer fresh design thinking to external clients.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.