This late eighteenth-century sewing ruler
was designed to fold into the small, green Things to Consider
shagreen case. The design of the ruler, its abil- How does an object’s portability affect its
ity to fold, and its small size would allow for usefulness? Can you think of objects that
portability and convenience. The grommets, were originally designed to be stable, but were
which allowed for easy and frequent folding, redesigned to be more effective and made por-
were the technology of the time. table? What non-mobile object today would
The folding sewing ruler counts both you like to be mobile?
inches and centimeters. The ruler’s portability,
small size, and measurement devices would
make it perfect for an architect, a seamstress, Submitted by Barbara Pierce Bush, education programs assistant, and Kim Robledo-Diga, school
or anyone who used measurements on a daily programs manager, Cooper-Hewitt, National
basis in the eighteenth century or today. Design Museum.
The use of foldable objects for mobility has
been popular for centuries. How does one
make a large object smaller, yet still have it
work just as well?
Folding Ruler and Case, France, late eighteenth Foldability of an object is just one way
century. Ivory (ruler), shagreen on wood core (case). of making it mobile. Camping tents can be
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithso- thrown in the air like a Frisbee and instantly
nian Institution. Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, transformed into housing; children’s pools or
1931-86-112-a,b. Photo: Matt Flynn. mattresses can be inflated into voluminous
forms, and modern technology is allowing
items such as an MP3 player to place thou-
sands of songs in your pocket. A product’s
mobility bridges its engineering to a consum-
er’s ease of use.
GalleryCard SchoolArts October 2008
Raymond Loewy (French, 1893–1986), Photostat tested it to observe the airflow around the
of Plasticine Model of the S- 1 Locomotive for engine. By adjusting the roof smoke deflector,
the Pennsylvania Railroad, Client: Pennsylvania welding metal together, and smoothing and
Railroad, USA, 1936. White crayon over photostat encasing any protruding parts, Loewy reduced
on white paper. 17 13/16 x 24 15/16” ( 45 x 63 cm). the air resistance by 35%. The train’s body,
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smith- along with the front “bullet nose” allowed the
sonian Institution, Gift of the Pennsylvania Railroad train to travel at speeds up to 120 mph. Loewy
through Samuel M. Vauclain, 1937-58-6. Photo: also paid close attention to interior details
Matt Flynn. such as the color scheme, flatware, and even
the ticket stubs. Loewy did not just design a
train; he designed a unique experience.
In 1936, industrial designer Raymond ence? What are today’s transportation design
Loewy of Pennsylvania Railroad brought challenges? How would you redesign the exte-
excitement to rail travel by designing the inno- rior of a school bus or other vehicle in order to
vative S- 1 Locomotive. Built to compete with make it more efficient?
New York Central Railroad, Loewy not only
redesigned the interior of the train, but he cre- Submitted by Barbara Pierce Bush, education programs assistant, and Kim Robledo-Diga, school
ated an exterior design that screamed speed. programs manager, Cooper-Hewitt, National
Loewy sculpted a clay model of the S1 and Design Museum.
The 1930s were a time of strong competition
between railroad companies and the more
modern airplanes. Thus, railroads wanted to Things to Consider
provide more than a mode of transportation, How are today’s trains, planes, and automo-
they wanted to design an experience of luxury. biles designed to make travel a better experi-
Henry Dreyfuss’s 20th Century Limited for the
GalleryCard SchoolArts October 2008
Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Lake St. Louis The Landi chair was one of the staple
Historical Society, 2001-31-5. Photo: Matt Flynn. pieces to come from the exhibition, demon-
strating Coray’s forward-thinking designs for
Consumers might feel that designing a chair is functionality. It continues to be a popular
simple, but its simplicity has resulted in one of chair design today.
the greatest design challenges over time. The
most basic chair will serve its function of pro- Things to Consider
viding a place to sit, but a well-designed chair Do the chairs you sit in at school serve their
will find harmony between form and function. function? If not, what design changes would
In 1939, Hans Coray was asked to design you propose? How do you think the Landi
a chair for the Swiss National Exhibition. chair influenced other outdoor furniture
Because the exhibition was expected to have used today? Coray’s Landi chair concentrated
several million visitors, Coray wanted to pro- on draining rainwater and ease of clean-up.
duce a chair suitable for outdoor use that could What other considerations should Coray have
easily be moved and stacked. Coray succeeded addressed?
by designing a 6½ lb. lightweight chair made of
aluminum, an easily obtainable material with
weather-resistant and corrosion-proof quali- Submitted by Barbara Pierce Bush, education programs assistant, and Kim Robledo-Diga, school
ties. Sixty perforations were placed in the alu- programs manager, Cooper-Hewitt, National
minum body to lessen the chair’s already light Design Museum.
Chair: Landi, designed by Hans Coray (Swiss, weight and allow rain to easily drain from the
1906–1991), manufactured by P. and W. Blattmann seat. The smooth surface made the chair easy
Metallwarenfabrik, introduced 1939. Aluminum, to clean and even more functional for outdoor
rubber. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, use and maintenance.
GalleryCard SchoolArts October 2008
Fitter Brothers’ bedsteads and mattresses to What do you notice about the different
a mass audience. The Fitter Brothers was a designs presented in the Fitter Brothers cata-company either from or connected to Birming- logue? How is it helpful to view all of the
ham, England. At the time, Birmingham was a designs next to each other?
center for brass manufacturing, hence the use
of brass in the bedsteads. The images in the Submitted by Barbara Pierce Bush, education
catalogue were used as a selling tool to adver- programs assistant, and Kim Robledo-Diga, school
tise the Fitter Brothers’ various designs and to programs manager, Cooper-Hewitt, National
spread information about them. Because the Design Museum.
The Fitter Brothers trade catalogue was
made in 1906 and was used to advertise the Things to Consider
In today’s world, elaborate store showrooms
and limitless space on Internet stores have
changed the way consumers shop and how
companies showcase their products. The classic store catalogue made popular by Sears,
Roebuck and Co. might have less significance
today, but it is vital in retail history.
Plates from Bedsteads, Cots, Etc., Iron & Brass cover of the catalogue says “Export catalogue,
in Four-post, Tent, Canopy and Other Kinds. no. 33” it was most likely intended for an
Export Catalogue No. 33. Birmingham, England: American audience to view and buy British
Fitter Brothers, c. 1906. goods. The catalogue images depict the trend
of functionality and mobility—the bedsteads
are all foldable and easy to pack. Catalogues
and other formats that contain examples of
a product or technique are uniquely tangible
tools that link together design, technology,
and marketing. They also provide a detailed
view into design tastes, styles, and color sen-
sibilities of other eras.