Damsels of Design – 1950s Industrial Designer

Damsels of Design: Harley Earl's Designing Women
Damsels of Design: Harley Earl’s Designing Women

The Damsels of Design were a well-known group of female designers hired by Harley Earl, a famous automotive stylist, for work in GM’s Styling Section. The ‘Damsels of Design,’ as the press dubbed them, garnered a lot of attention and featured Dagmar Arnold, Jane van Alstyne, and Gere Kavanaugh.

Paved the way

They played a significant role in establishing the credibility of women designers in a mainstream industrial context because they were fully trained in industrial design. They worked on the styling and detailing of household appliances and details for the Frigidaire Production Studio, in addition to their styling of GM car interiors and controls, as well as their choice of textiles and colour combinations.

Kitchen of the Future Exhibition

They participated in the 1950s ‘Kitchens of the Future’ exhibitions, a domestic showcase similar to General Motors’ Motoramas in terms of razzmatazz. The GM ‘Damsels’ were highly regarded by Earl for their insights into the requirements and wishes of female drivers and the significant design knowledge they offered to the Styling Section.

After Earl’s retirement, they lost their stature in an industry still dominated by men and traditional power structures.

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