John Vassos: Industrial Design For Modern Life by Danielle ShapiroJohn Vassos: Industrial Design For Modern Life by Danielle Shapiro

John Vassos: Industrial Design For Modern Life

byDanielle Shapiro

Paperback | March 30, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 228 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


Ships within 3-5 weeks

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


What should a television look like? How should a dial on a radio feel to the touch? These were questions John Vassos asked when the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) asked him to design the first mass-produced television receiver, the TRK-12, which had its spectacular premier at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Vassos emigrated from Greece and arrived in the United States in 1918. His career spans the evolution of central forms of mass media in the twentieth century and offers a template for understanding their success. This is Vassos’s legacy—shaping the way we interact with our media technologies. Other industrial designers may be more celebrated, but none were more focused on making radio and television attractive and accessible to millions of Americans.

In John Vassos: Industrial Design for Modern Life, Danielle Shapiro is the first to examine the life and work of RCA’s key consultant designer through the rise of radio and television and into the computer era. Vassos conceived a vision for the look of new technologies still with us today. A founder of the Industrial Designers Society of America, he was instrumental in the development of a self-conscious industrial design profession during the late 1920s and 1930s and into the postwar period. Drawing on unpublished records and correspondence, Shapiro creates a portrait of a designer whose early artistic work in books like Phobia and Contempo critiqued the commercialization of modern life but whose later design work sought to accommodate it.

Replete with rich behind-the-product stories of America’s design culture in the 1930s through the 1950s, this volume also chronicles the emergence of what was to become the nation’s largest media company and provides a fascinating glimpse into its early corporate culture. In our current era of watching TV on an iPod or a smartphone, Shapiro stimulates broad discussions of the meaning of technological design for mass media in daily life.

Danielle Shapiro is an independent scholar who has served as senior program officer in the Division of Public Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities. She earned her PhD in art history and communications studies from McGill University.
Title:John Vassos: Industrial Design For Modern LifeFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 10 × 7 × 0.7 inPublished:March 30, 2016Publisher:University of Minnesota PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0816693412

ISBN - 13:9780816693412


Table of Contents

Introduction: Creating Design We Can Live With
1. Drawing Modernity: Advertising and Book Illustrations
2. Becoming an Industrial Designer
3. Modernizing the Home through Radio
4. Designed for Electricity: Vassos’s Architectural Interiors
5. Vassos and RCA: Money, Media, and Modernism
6. The TRK-12: RCA’s First Mass-Marketed Television Receiver
7. John Vassos in Postwar America
Conclusion: The Legacy of John Vassos

Editorial Reviews

"A compelling account."—The Art Bulletin"John Vassos, Industrial Design for Modern Life is not only an essential book for designers, but for those who love the history of design."—The Arts Fuse"Not simply the first biography of a designer who was a major contributor to the design of consumer electronics but also a solid examination of the evolution of consumer and industrial design during Vassos’s lifetime."—CHOICE"An expertly researched biography."—Journal of Design History