The job of a designer and the design itself are actually American inventions. So it is no surprise, that the most famous design-mission statement "Form follows function“ comes from an American, the architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924).
Trade, production and consumption form the picture of American design. The multiplicity of "anonymous design products", which have a brand name, but don't need the name of a famous designer to be a "good design" is very impressive. Companies like Coca Cola, Apple, IBM, Tupperware, Black & Decker, Harley Davidson, Polaroid, Kodak, Kellog, Rollerblade, General Motors, etc. are known all over the world and embody the "American way of life“. Many gadgets and utensils of daily use (from sewing machines and vacuum cleaners to record players and walkmans and to laptops) have a transatlantic origin. Personalities such as Thomas Edison or Henry Ford stand for inventiveness and innovation.
Until the 1920s, the United States of America used to be a developing country regarding product design, when suddenly becoming the leader in modern design.
The offices which had the description "Industrial Design" written on their business sign opened first in New York at the end of the 20s . In America, where not only the mass production, but also the advertising and marketing has been developed significantly, design also counted to the field of sales.
Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), who is the founder of Streamlines (Streamlines Designs) because of the streamline-covered S1-steam locomotive, is consideredone of the leading representatives of American design, being also responsible for many corporate designs (e.g. the signs for Shell, Spar and Lucky Strike).
Other important contributions to the development of design culture in the USA were made by the former Bauhaus tutors and immigrants Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Josef Albers or Marcel Breuerat in the end of the 1930s, besides the Cranbook Academy founded in 1939, at which architects and designers like Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll or Charles Eames were educated.
Also the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), founded in 1929 contributed to the American design, setting new accents with trend-setting exhibitions. Whether with the exhibition "Modern Architecture. International Exhibition.“ in 1932, defining the term "International Style“; with the competitions in the 1940s "Organic Design in Home Furnishings“ and "Low Cost Furniture Design“ from which products like La Chaise, the Plastic Chairs or the Plywood-Series by Ray & Charles Eames were developed or the epic exhibition "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape“, which presented the triumphal procession of the Italian design, it is still today a big honor for designers, to be admitted to the MoMA collection with their designs.
Besides "Knoll International“ (founded in 1938) the business Herman Miller (founded in 1923), produced trend-setting furniture with the styles of Design Director George Nelson and the co-designers Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Paul Laszlo. The famous products of Hermann Miller are the Marshmallow Sofa (1956), the Coconut Chair (1956), the Atomic Clock (1949, today: Ball Clock), which were all designed by George Nelson, the Plastic Chairs by Charles & Ray Eames (1948) or the Coffee Table (1944) by Isamu Noguchi, who especially became famous with the Akari Lamp Series in the 1950s.
In the 1960s, the American automotive industry experienced a large increase, but businesses like IBM which manufactures office machines ranked among the world's largest producers of mainframe computers. While an objective design style established itself in the taste-controlling class, this was directed towards the emerging rebels of the 60s as target, from which the Flower-Power and Pop-Design of the Woodstock generation resulted.
The United States were affected by the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal and the oil crisis in the 1970s. Wich is why the 80s turned into years of reorientations and created a proper design boom. Products in post-modern design were developed, like the water kettle"Bird“ by the American architect Michael Graves, who worked with Richard Meier for the Alessi Project "Tea & Coffee Piazza“. With his furniture series Easy Edges (1972), Rough Edges (1982), the corrugated paperboard armchair "Little Beaver“ (1987) and the kettle"Pito“ (1992) the American architect Frank O. Gehry drew attention and later became famous as international architect for his amorph and deconstructive architectural style.
Just like Henry Ford initiated a kind of second industrial revolution with the assemly line, the electronic agitation of all affairs also started in the US. PCs, laptops and mobile phones changed the business world and daily life. Besides the design teams and design branches of American businesses like, for instance, Apple, Bose or Tupperware, today there are only a few famous furniture designers in America. The most famous representatives of the youngest designer generation are Jeffrey Bernett, Richard Shemtov, Nick Dine and Karim Rashid.