Design is for public consumption. Its process is collaborative and frequently involves many iterations of an idea before the best solution is found. This is why contests in design come about so naturally. Design competitions date all the way back to 448 BCE when the city of Athens decided to construct a war memorial on the Acropolis. This decision followed the Greco-Persian war and the watershed Battle of Marathon in Athens. Not all design competitions follow landmark events though.
This post first appeared on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog in February 2016.
Emile-Allain Séguy was a popular French designer throughout the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the 1920s. Often confused with the French entomologist Eugene Séguy who was active during the same time period, E.A. Séguy designed primarily patterns and textiles and was heavily influenced by the natural world. He was particularly fond of the intricate patterns and beauty of insects (Eugene would have approved), which he saw as “mechanic wonders” that provided abundant inspiration for interior design (Schiff, 157).
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library recently obtained this renowned example of early 20th century book and graphic design entitled Dlja golosa (For the Voice), published in Berlin in 1923. The sixty-one page softcover work, a collaboration of Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) and designer El Lissitzky (1890-1941), rhythmically interlaces innovative constructivist style layouts and patterns with thirteen futurist poems.
This is a two-part series on the Hewitt sisters. Read part one.
By 1897, Sarah and Eleanor had collected enough to formally open their museum on the fourth floor of the Cooper Union. In the tradition of their grandfather, the Hewitt sisters wanted to actualize a museum and library that were not just a showcase, but also tools—places that students and designers could come to for reference and inspiration, then go out and create their own innovative objects. In the birth of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, the sisters embodied the increasingly democratic attitudes that grew to dominate the 20th century. Their museum was to be open to everyone, with “no tedious restrictions and formalities,” which were often imposed by the exclusive art galleries of the era. Indeed, their museum provided a means for many women to gain economic independence through art and design.
This is a two-part series on the Hewitt sisters.
Deep in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library’s collection of rare books, one might be surprised to come across children’s illustrated books by Walter Crane and Beatrix Potter. Even more fascinating might be the origin of these tomes, for in this collection are the very books read by the founding sisters of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum: Sarah (Sallie) and Eleanor (Nellie) Hewitt. These sisters—born of the Gilded Age, granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—would create the first and only museum dedicated to decorative arts in the United States, originally named the Museum for the Arts of Decoration. They were the first women to establish a museum in America.
This post was originally featured on the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s “Object of the Day” blog, written by digital media technologist Katie Shelly.
Last year, our librarian Stephen Van Dyk picked up this slender blue hardcover at a rare book auction. He didn’t know exactly what a “chakra” was, but still he found the worn old book remarkable, if not a bit weird, for its striking illustrations of big painted circles.