2011 44¢ Pioneers of American Industrial Design –
Issue Date: June 29, 2011
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
A relatively unknown interior designer named Donald Deskey (1894-1989) won the contract to design the interior of Radio City Music Hall, begun in 1931. By the time Deskey was finished and the first visitors entered the Grand Foyer, his place at the forefront of modern design was assured.
The Art Deco approach used by Deskey concentrated on “elegance over excess,” according to Music Hall historians. He used elements like glass, chrome, ceramics, and leather in the ornamentation, and was heavily influenced by the European Modern style. Over 30 rooms and areas were designed by Deskey, each created to reflect a specific mood.
Deskey’s projects ranged from the “cobra head” light poles installed on New York City streets in 1963, to furniture and daily household products. For over 30 years he worked with corporate giant Proctor & Gamble, where he designed packaging for popular products like Crest toothpaste and Tide detergent.
Deskey studied architecture at Berkeley and was also influenced by modern art. He once summed up his practical approach by saying, “There is no such thing as an invention; there’s just the stating of a problem and the engineering of a solution.” Deskey’s “solutions” helped form some of the most recognizable images of 20th century America.