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Engineered to SellEuropean Émigrés and the Making of Consumer Capitalism$
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Jan L. Logemann

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226660011

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226660295.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 04 August 2021

The Commercialization of Social Engineering? Adapting Radical Design Reform to American Mass Marketing

The Commercialization of Social Engineering? Adapting Radical Design Reform to American Mass Marketing

Chapter:
(p.163) Six The Commercialization of Social Engineering? Adapting Radical Design Reform to American Mass Marketing
Source:
Engineered to Sell
Author(s):

Jan L. Logemann

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226660295.003.0009

This chapter traces both the inevitable conflicts between radical design visions and corporate America and the surprising degree to which interwar European reform traditions in design informed American “consumer engineering.” Beginning with Ferdinand Kramer’s career between Frankfurt and New York, I enquire more generally about the transatlantic commercial impact of the Bauhaus school and of European design modernists organized by CIAM. Bauhaus émigrés established themselves in prominent positions in American design education, including Walter Gropius at the Harvard School of Design and Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The most comprehensive of these educational ventures was the “American Bauhaus” established by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. Its history illustrates the conflicts as well as the potential in this meeting of reform visions and economic demands. The reformers’ ideal of providing democratic access to well-designed standardized goods held surprising appeal to “consumer engineers.” In fact, their careers point to the lively connection between mid-century “social engineering” and midcentury marketing.

Keywords:   Social Engineering, American Bauhaus, Ferdinand Kramer, Marketing and Social Reform, CIAM, Walter Gropius, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes

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