2011 44¢ Pioneers of American Industrial Design –
Norman Bel Geddes
Issue Date: June 29, 2011
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) envisioned a “world of tomorrow,” shown in one of the most memorable displays at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Bel Geddes created “Futurama,” a display of the future: 1960. In it, 12-lane superhighways carried futuristic vehicles past skyscrapers as pedestrians walked on elevated walkways.
Futurama was part of the General Motors Pavilion and featured many concepts familiar today. Bel Geddes was a main advocate of the use of streamlining in design, a primary theme in Futurama. Teardrop-shaped cars would speed future travelers to their destinations. Yet this vision of the future marked a long departure from his roots.
Bel Geddes studied art in Cleveland and Chicago. He later moved into stage design at the Metropolitan Opera, and in Hollywood for directors like Cecil B. De Mille. In 1927, Bel Geddes opened what many consider the first industrial design studio.
Bel Geddes is also known for his designs for Philco radio cabinets, Toledo scales, and kitchen stoves. He served as mentor to a generation of famous designers, including Henry Dreyfuss and Eliot Noyes. Bel Geddes’ dedication to streamlined, aerodynamic designs helped give America a glimpse into the future.