Brooks Stevens (1911 – 1995) American Industrial Designer

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

Brooks Stevens (1911 – 1995) was an American industrial designer. He was born in Wisconsin and was active in Milwaukee. He studied at Cornell University in Utica, New York.

In 1933, to overhaul machinery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Stevens set up his workshop. In 1936 he designed the first electric clothes drier. He transformed it from the manufacturers’ concept of a simple heated box into an apparatus that had a glass window built into its door.

He designed the first snowmobile, outboard motor and mass-market jeep. He created the housing for the 1941 Petipoint iron. The 1950 Harley-Davidson motorcycle (with the twin-engine that is still in use today). The 1958 Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (a promotional gimmick) in fibreglass. The 1959 Lawn-Boy power lawnmower. Stevens also designed automobile bodies for Volkswagen and Alfa Romeo.

Stevens designs had mass appeal and are also fuelled by the fact that many of his works were functional daily life objects.

Domestic, household items

Stevens work also encompassed a wide range of domestic household appliances, including kitchen mixers, irons and floor waxers. He worked with Formica in the late 1940s to create Luxwood, the wood grain laminate used on much of the furniture at the time. He was the first to use colour in kitchen appliances, being responsible for the ubiquitous avocado green of the 1950s and 1960s. He taught at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and directed the Brooks Stevens Automotive Museum. The Brooks Stevens Design Centre was built at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. 

A selection of his works

The 1962 Studebaker Hawk Gran Turismo designed by Brooks Stevens
The 1962 Studebaker Hawk Gran Turismo designed by Brooks Stevens
The Stevens-designed Skytop Lounge with its distinctive glassed-in observation area.
The Stevens-designed Skytop Lounge with its distinctive glassed-in observation area.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Additional Reading

Adams, S. (2021). How design makes us think: And feel and do things. Princeton Architectural Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3qrQOZf.

Cuffaro, D. F., & Zaksenberg, I. (2013). The Industrial Design Reference + Specification Book: All the details designers need to know but can never find. Rockport. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3n7DUNN.

Eissen, K., & Steur, R. (2020). Sketching: Drawing techniques for product designers. BIS. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3op6nhs.

Jang, S., Thaler, M., & Frederick, M. (2020). 101 Things I learned in product design school. Crown, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3Fcl2Ui.

Lefteri, C. (2016). Making it: Manufacturing techniques for product design. Laurence King Publishing. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3wM3zyY.

Milton, A. (2017). Research methods for product design. Laurence King Publishing. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3kwQGE2.

Morris, R. (2016). The Fundamentals of Product Design. Fairchild Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/2YHC0u2.

Sparke, P. (2018). Industrial Design in the modern age. Rizzoli Electra. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3D8pmmE.

Tornincasa, S. (2021). Technical drawing for product design: Mastering Iso Gps and Asme Gd&T. Springer. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3C8tLEQ.

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