2011 44¢ Pioneers of American Industrial Design –
Issue Date: June 29, 2011
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
A meeting with French architectural legend Le Corbusier in a Harvard library changed the path that designer Eliot Noyes (1910-77) would take. Noyes had been focusing on Beaux-Arts architecture, but Le Corbusier’s pioneering modernism prompted him to change direction.
Noyes emerged as one of the “Harvard Five,” a group of five Harvard graduate students focusing on modernist architecture. Along with instructor Marcel Breuer, they moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where they designed 80 homes reflecting their vision. Famed architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright also worked in New Canaan.
Yet Noyes’ work went far beyond architecture. After graduation, he first started as the director of industrial design at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939. During World War II, Noyes helped establish the glider program for the U.S. military – with gliders being a longtime hobby of his.
Noyes is best known for his work at IBM, where he designed the Selectric typewriter. The distinctive “golf ball” typing surface enabled the Selectric to win 75% of the market. Noyes went on to help redesign IBM’s image, creating the first “house brand” and making IBM one of the most recognizable names in America.