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Walter Dorwin Teague

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Celia Fehon

Walter Teague

Ford Building

Walter Dorwin Teague Walter Dorwin Teague Designs First All Plastic Truck
December 18, 1883 (age 76)

Design this day, The Advertising Designs of Walter Dorwin Teague

December 5, 1960 (aged 76) Flemington, New Jersey

Norman Bel Geddes, Clarence P Hornung, Robert Mallet Stevens

Industrial design in 1940 walter dorwin teague s design firm

Walter Dorwin Teague (December 18, 1883 - December 5, 1960) was an American industrial designer, architect, illustrator, graphic designer, writer, and entrepreneur. Often referred to as the "Dean of Industrial Design", Teague pioneered in the establishment of industrial design as a profession in the US, along with Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Loewy, and Henry Dreyfuss.


Walter Dorwin Teague Great Art Deco Sparton 517B Radio Walter Dorwin Teague

Regarded as a classicist and a traditionalist despite a later shift to modern tastes, Teague is recognized as a critical figure in the spread of mid-century modernism in America. He is widely known for his exhibition designs during the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, such as the Ford Building, and his iconic product and package designs, from Eastman Kodak's Bantam Special to the steel-legged Steinway piano.

Walter Dorwin Teague An Ode to Walter D Teague the Father of US Industrial

A self-described late starter whose professional acclaim began as he approached age 50, Teague sought to create heirlooms out of mass-produced manufactured objects, and frequently cited beauty as "visible rightness". In 1926, Teague assembled an industrial design consultancy (now known as Teague), which carries on his legacy today, in name and vision.

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Life and work

Walter Dorwin Teague wwwindustrialdesignhistorycomsitesdefaultfile

Born in Decateur, Indiana to a family of Colonial roots, Teague was one of six siblings. In 1840, Teague's grandfather had moved from North Carolina to Pendleton, Indiana, home to one of America's largest Quaker communities. Teague's father, of Irish forebears, became a circuit-riding Methodist minister (and later a full-time tailor) who settled in Pendleton with his family. With little money, the Teague household was laden with books.

At age 16, while he was still in school in Pendleton, Teague worked as a handyman at the local paper, where he quickly became a jack-of-all-trades and eventually a reporter.

Career beginnings

Books on architecture in his high school library influenced Teague's desire to become an artist. At 19 years old, Teague left Indiana for New York City. He studied painting from 1903 to 1907 at the Art Students League of New York, where he met his first wife, Celia Fehon, a fellow artist. To earn money upon his arrival in New York, Teague checked hats at the Young Men's Christian Association in Manhattan, where he also began sign painting. His lettering work evolved into illustration projects for mail order catalogues, for which he drew apparel items, like neckties and shoes. Refusing involvement in the fashion industry, Teague focused his creative efforts on elaborate advertising illustrations, which caught the attention of Walter Whitehead, an advertising executive whom Teague had met at the YMCA.

Whitehead hired Teague at the Ben Hampton Advertising Agency. When Whitehead left Ben Hampton for the larger agency of Calkins & Holden in 1908, Teague went with him. During Teague's four years at Calkins & Holden, he developed a distinct artistic style recognized by Earnest Elmo Calkins as a reconciliation of past art and present day production.

By 1911, Teague was an active freelancer in decorative design and typography. He also shared offices with both Bruce Rogers and Frederic Goudy, and was one of Pynson Printers founders. Teague became known for his distinctive frames for advertising art, which blended Baroque and Renaissance influence with a simplicity ideal for high-volume printing presses.

In 1912, Teague officially left Calkins & Holden to expand his freelance work from his own typographic studio. Through his graphic design contributions to magazines, Teague's signature style earned widespread recognition in his field, particularly during the early 1920s when he designed frames for the famous Arrow Collar ads. "Teague borders" became a generic term for ad frames of a certain type, whether Teague created them or not.

By the mid-1920s, as the demand for border designs weakened, Teague had become lightly involved in commercial packaging. Intrigued by the International Paris Exposition and European stylistic movements, Teague left for Europe on June 30, 1926 to investigate European design. While abroad he familiarized himself with Bauhaus work during an exhibition in Italy, and became greatly inspired by the architectural creations and writings of Le Corbusier.

Pioneering an occupation

As the Great Depression loomed in America and mass-produced, machine-made objects intensified, large companies were desperate to find measures of survival. Stirred by European modernism, America's design heritage, and a keen understanding of modern market dynamics, Teague promoted new ideas about the impact and significance of design in American culture, fueled, so, too, by the desire to transform machine-made objects into contextual heirlooms.

Shortly before Teague concluded his 18-year advertising career, he partook in several commissions in product design, for which a growing number of clients sought counseling. At age 43, Teague established a sole proprietorship devoted to product and package design. By 1927, Teague added "Industrial Design" to his letterhead upon landing his first big client, Eastman Kodak.

Richard Bach, a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had recommended Teague to Adolph Stuber, a top manager of Rochester, New York-based Eastman Kodak, when the company was considering the assistance of an artist to design cameras. With no knowledge of cameras, Teague proposed he work on-site in collaboration with Kodak's engineers. Designing according to engineering necessities, insisted Teague, "ultimately leads to greater beauty and heavier sales." In Teague's Forbes article, "Modern Design Needs Modern Merchandising," published February 1, 1928, he advises, "The designer who gets results for the manufacturer plans with all departments of a business before he ever lays pencil to drawing board."

On January 1, 1928, Teague embarked on a design endeavor that culminated in an extensive relationship between him and Kodak—a relationship that would last until Teague's death. He designed a number of well-known Kodak cameras, including an Art Deco gift camera (1928), the Baby Brownie (1934), the Bantam Special (1936) (considered a masterpiece of Art Deco styling and one of the most popular cameras ever produced), and the Brownie Hawkeye (1950). By redesigning the camera case to match the camera, the two items presented a unity difficult to break during purchase; thus, the sales of carrying cases increased four times over in 1934.

Teague's camera designs for Kodak expanded into the design of Kodak's displays, retail spaces, and exhibits. By 1934, the company created an entire styling division, to which Teague's role became advisory.

Design expansion & corporate identity

Within two years of his first endeavor with Eastman Kodak, Teague's scope of industrial design work and number of clients multiplied. While design culture sustained a rather elitist attainability through the 1930s, Teague pursued strategic relationships with large businesses selling products to the masses. In addition to gaining widespread attention for such designs as the Marmon 16, the first automobile to ever be conceived by an industrial designer, designed by Teague and his son, Walter Dorwin Teague, Jr., and the Steinway Peace Piano, Teague's work also included 32 design patterns for Steuben Glass, a division of Corning Glass Works, the Sparton "Bluebird" Radio, and the design of passenger cars and diners for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.

The concept of "Corporate Identity" emerged from the cross-disciplined work of commercial design and the human-designed environment, first shown through Teague's retail-space design for Eastman Kodak. Elevating this concept into a first-of-its-kind corporate identity program for Texaco Company, Teague created an expansive brand image that included the design of full station layouts for Texaco service stations, pumps, signs, cans, and trucks. More than 20,000 of these art-deco style stations had been built worldwide by 1960.

World's Fairs and expositions

In the 1930s and 1940s, corporate identity was prolifically popularized in America through elaborate fairs and expositions, which showcased industry sponsors' contributions to present-day living. Teague—who, prior, had no formal training in architecture or engineering—succeeded in having himself licensed as an architect in New York State.

He commenced his deep involvement in exhibition design with his work on the Ford Building at Chicago's The Century of Progress 1933-34 fair, for which he prepared for three months, commuting between Detroit and New York. His architectural contributions went on to include the Texaco exhibition hall at the 1935 Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas, Texas, and the Ford pavilion for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park in San Diego.

Teague made a substantial impact on the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. He was one of seven members of the Fair's design board, and was also responsible for 9 corporate displays. In addition to his design of the Ford and US Steel pavilions, Teague also introduced the new National Cash Register 100 Model, exemplifying "art moderne", with a seven-story high cash register placed atop the NCR exhibition, also shown at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition in San Francisco.

Teague's additional famous exhibition work includes that for the 1961 Civil War Centennial Dome in Richmond, Virginia, the U.S. Science Center for the World's Fair in Seattle, as well as the "House of the Future" for the Festival of Gas at the 1964 World's Fair.

Post-WWII: confirming a profession

Teague, along with fellow industrial designer pioneers Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss, experienced monumental success following World War II. The post-war economic boom fueled the American consumer's desire for more and better products, intensifying the demand for industrial design among American businesses.

In 1944, Teague successfully defended the assertion that industrial design was a profession, citing its contributions to the public good before the appeals court in New York State, setting a national precedent.

Walter Dorwin Teague Associates

As early as his first Kodak designs, Teague had accumulated a team of expert associates to assist him. By 1938, Teague's office grew to 55 employees, including architects, engineers, 3D artists and industrial designers. Teague had also signed his first highly lucrative design retainer contract with Polaroid, culminating in the later development of the Land Camera, the first camera able to develop its own prints, introduced in 1948. In 1945, when Teague's growing studio of designers, architects and technicians was supplemented with an engineering division, Teague changed his company structure from a sole proprietorship to a partnership, allowing senior staff to be partners in Walter Dorwin Teague Associates. In 1946, Frank Del Giudice (who would later become the company's president) represented WDTA in seeking commissions from The Boeing Company, not only commencing WDTA's lasting relationship with Boeing, but the Company's substantial impact in aerospace.

By 1959, WDTA's client list included Ac'cent, Polaroid, Schaefer Beer, Procter & Gamble, UPS, Steinway, General Foods Corporation, Boeing, Con Edison, Du Pont, US Steel, NASA, and the US Navy. A 1959 Fortune survey reported that WDTA was then second in gross revenue among those industrial design firms also doing architecture and interior design (Raymond Loewy Associates was first).

Accredited with iconic designs such as the UPS truck, Pringles Potato Chips canister, Scope Mouthwash bottle, Regan-era Air Force One, Polaroid Land Camera, and more, Walter Dorwin Teague Associates is now known as Teague. The privately held, Seattle-based company is most commonly recognized today for its work in consumer electronics and aviation, with clients such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Panasonic, and Boeing, and projects such as the Xbox and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Society of Industrial Designers (SID)

Teague, Loewy and Dreyfuss, as well as 15 prominent East Coast designers, established the Society of Industrial Designers (SID) as "tangible evidence of the arriving maturity of the field," according to Teague, who also said, "Its purpose is to define and maintain standards of ethics and performance within the profession, and to guide and improve the still somewhat experimental education of future designers. For his accomplishments in establishing industrial design as a profession, Teague was named the first president of SID in February 1944.

In 1955, the SID changed its name to the American Society of Industrial Design (ASID), and by 1965 the organization had evolved into the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), as it is presently known today.


Teague died in Flemington, New Jersey on December 5, 1960, less than a year after addressing the Royal Society of the Arts, and less than two weeks shy of his 77th birthday. Twice married, Teague was survived by his wife, two sons and his daughter. His son, Walter Dorwin Teague Jr., who began working with his father in 1934, also devoted his career to industrial design until his own death in 2004.

Posthumous recognition

In 1963, the ASID honored Teague by offering the organization's first scholarship program, The Walter Dorwin Teague Scholarship, eligible to select junior students majoring in industrial design. The first scholarship of $1000 was presented in May 1964.

In 2007, Teague posthumously won the Personal Recognition Award from IDSA.

In January 2011, Teague was one of twelve honored by the United States Postal Service as "the nation's most important and influential industrial designers," with a special edition of postal stamps. The Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum was the setting for the dedication.

Quotes on industrial design

The following passages are quoted from Teague's article, "A Quarter Century of Industrial Design in the United States," published in Art & Industry, London, 1951:

  • "In competitive markets success is measured not by quick, erratic profits, no matter how large, but by steady, dependable public support over a long period. Permanent success is achieved only by winning and holding public confidence."
  • "We have not the slightest doubt that we are adding something of positive value to the American way of life. We are even augmenting the sum of total beauty in our world, and extending the appreciation of beauty into those realms where it is most vitally effective—the home, the factory, the shop and the street."
  • Publications

    Teague's best-known book, Design This Day- The Technique of Order in the Machine Age, was first published in 1940, as the first book to be written on the whole subject of industrial design, tracing the development of modern design and outlining necessary techniques to the solution of design problems. Described as a "milestone" in the industry, the book explores the evolution of civilization's reliance on increased industrialization and explains the designer's role. Teague (the Company) reprinted the book in 2006. Teague also wrote Land of Plenty, A Summary of Possibilities (1947), and, with John Storck, Flour for Man's Bread, a History of Milling (1952).

    Teague's writings were also published in Forbes, Art & Industry, New Yorker, the Seventh International Management Congress, Interiors, Business Week, Art and Decoration, Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art archived texts, among many others.


    Teague's product designs, texts, photographs, and archives are featured in major museums around the world. Among those that feature or have featured Teague's works are:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Bluebird Radio (1934), Bantam Special and other 1930s cameras, collection
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City; various Teague-designed objects in Architecture & Design department (as of March 2012)
  • Smithsonian Art Museum; Steinway Peace Piano
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Design & Architecture collections
  • Wolfsonian; pieces of the World's Fairs & Exhibitions collection (March 2012)
  • Brooklyn Museum; "Walter Dorwin Teague" collection (March 2012)
  • North Dakota Museum of Modern Art; Sparton Table Radio (March 2012)
  • Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; Product Design and Decorative Arts Collection (March 2012)
  • Cleveland Museum of Art; Century of Progress Prints (March 2012)
  • Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Chicago Art Institute
  • Columbia Museum of Art
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, West Virginia
  • References

    Walter Dorwin Teague Wikipedia