Product Design Department photographs

Identity elements

Reference code

31-RG 31.02

Level of description



Product Design Department photographs



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Biographical history

Product design was first taught at Art Center in the 1950s within the Industrial Design curriculum. It became a separate department in 1991.

Product Design Department Chairs are:
C. Martin Smith 1987-2008
Karen Hofmann 2008 - present

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Scope and content

The images in the Product Design Department photographs highlight the curriculum and student work, and also provide insight into American material culture. Although the student designs may not have ever been commercially produced, the designs nevertheless reflect general changes in the types of products being designed and sold in American markets after the end of World War II, and globally by the mid 1980s.

The collection contains many images of faculty giving critiques to classes of students, as well as advising individual students as they work on drawings or models. Students are documented as they work on all phases of their assignments, from drawings, to clay models, to plaster molds, to fabrication of the fully completed models. A fair number of images highlight students working outside, but most take place in model shops and in classrooms at the Third Street and Pasadena campuses. The product designs are wide ranging and include such items as kitchen appliances, clocks, parking meters, boats, and office equipment. John Coleman, Joseph Thompson, and Theodore Youngkin are the most often pictured faculty.

Sponsored projects make up a large number of images that document industry relationships with Art Center. The first sponsored project to be assigned to Art Center students by an outside company was the General Electric Space Capsule project in 1960. This well-documented project includes images of George Beck of GE assigning the project, student drawings, students working on the model, John Coleman advising students, and the final presentation to General Electric representatives.

Another well-documented sponsored project of note is the Catalina Project which the Industrial Designers Society of America assigned in 1961. The project was to create small water craft, and then present the designs to IDSA conference attendees. The images document five different solutions designed by groups of students, and show students working on their models from start to finish, faculty John Coleman and Joe Farrer working with the students, students testing their designs at Paradise Cove, and then the final presentations at Catalina Island.

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Conditions governing reproduction

Digital materials and catalog records are made available for educational and research purposes only and cannot be reproduced, distributed, or published without written permission from Art Center College of Design.

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