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Hardcover | $49.00 Short | £33.95 | ISBN: 9780262012072 | 300 pp. | 9.5 x 11 in | 49 color illus., 218 b&w illus.| June 2003
Paperback | $27.00 Trade | £18.95 | ISBN: 9780262511865 | 300 pp. | 9.5 x 11 in | 49 color illus., 218 b&w illus.| January 2005

Industrial Strength Design

How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World
Introduction by David Gordon


Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World is a long overdue introduction to the work of visionary industrial designer Brooks Stevens (1911-1995). Believing that an industrial designer "should be a businessman, an engineer, and a stylist, in that order," Stevens created thousands of ingenious and beautiful designs for industrial and household products—including a clothes dryer with a window in the front, a wide-mouthed peanut butter jar, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. ("There's nothing more aerodynamic than a wiener," he explained.) He invented a precursor to the SUV by turning a Jeep into a station wagon after World War II, and streamlined steam irons so that they resembled aircraft. It was Brooks Stevens who, in 1954, coined the phrase "planned obsolescence," defining it as "instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary." This concept has since been blamed for everything from toasters that stop working to today's throwaway culture, but Stevens was simply recognizing the intentionally ephemeral nature of a designer's work. Asked once to name his favorite design, he replied, "none, because every one would have to be restudied for the tastes of tomorrow."

This book, which accompanies an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum (the repository for Stevens's papers), includes 250 illustrations of designs by Stevens and his firm, many in color. Glenn Adamson, exhibition curator, contributes detailed studies of individual designs. John Heskett, Kristina Wilson, and Jody Clowes contribute interpretive essays. Also included are a description of the Brooks Stevens Archive and several key writings by Brooks Stevens.

About the Author

Glenn Adamson is curator at the Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee.


"...the story of a man, a time and the emergence of an idea—the 20th-century American concept of innovation.", Craig M. Vogel, American Scientist

"...uncommonly (and fittingly) well designed and visually compelling..." —Publisher's Weekly

"A level of scholarship and editorial skill rare in design books from any source.", Martin Pawley, The Architect's Journal

"Fascinating not only for its display of the products of Stevens's fertile mind but also for its drawing out of the implications his work had for social life.", Nancy Tousley, Calgary Herald

"...the story of a man, a time and the emergence of an idea the 20th-century American concept of innovation." Craig M. Vogel American Scientist