I’ve been wanting to do a tribute to Brooks Stevens for sometime. I ran across an article from 1991 and saved it, started doing research and was in awe of his achievements. Many of today’s modern conveniences that we all take for granted? You can thank Brooks Stevens.
June 11-1911 to Jan. 4 1995
1936- The Birth of the Clothes Dryer:
A Wisconsin manufacturer was puzzling over an easier and quicker way to dry clothes. The idea was a crude, heated box with a rotary drum that could spin clothes dry. Brooks Stevens, a rising industrial designer before the world knew it needed one, told the manufacturer there was just one glaring problem.
“You can’t sell this thing,” Mr. Stevens said. “This is a sheet metal box. People won’t even know what it is. Who’s going to pay $375 for what looks like a storage cabinet? Put a glass window on the door, get some boxer shorts flying around in there, put it in the stores and it’ll take off.”
And the list goes on:
- The snowmobile
- The 1950 Harley-Davidson motorcycle whose virtual twin is still being sold today
- The Hiawatha luxury train
- The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
- Cars for automakers from Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen
- The first wide-mouth peanut butter jar that allowed people to get to the bottom of the container
- The Miller Brewing Company logo.
He was one of the first to use color in appliances, first out of boredom with black and white and later out of disgust with what he calls “that rash of avocado green business in the 50’s.” He popularized the turquoise appliances of that age.
A Good Looking Chainsaw:
“What it meant was that product design had to be something more than pure function,” Mr. Stevens said. “The argument from an engineer would be, ‘If it sawed the wood, that’s good enough.’ But we say that if it was a good-looking chain saw it would be much more palatable. ”
He Thinks My Tractors’ Sexy
“What man worries about how a tractor looks?” an engineer asked him regarding a jazzed-up design for a Milwaukee company’s farm tractors. “If it plows the field, that’s enough. ” In the end, Mr. Stevens’ curvaceous tractors with the teardrop fenders became so popular that farmers even took to driving them to church.
Skeptics remain who consider his work trickery and packaging and style over substance.
Bus Plunge says
Style over substance….oh yeah, I know what that means.
I have heard of Mr. Stevens before, mainly in the Jeep department. My Dad drove a jeep station wagon when I was a little boy, and my Mom drove her Uncle Charlie’s Nash.
Maybe that’s where it comes from?
Bus, originally, I was bowing down to Mr. Stevens because of his contributions to lightening the modern woman’s workload. After I started looking into his career highlights, I was blown away. Had no idea he had influenced so many products that revolutionized our lives.
The criticism is somewhat valid (often products look snazzy but work rather less well), but Stevens was right — style sells! Thank goodness for windows on clothes dryers, they are a great way to keep a toddler occupied while you fold/iron clothes. And I love that ad for mowing the lawn with just one hand…