A new book pulls from the more than 750,000 design patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) since 1900, bringing together a fascinating range of products, including cars, buildings, domestic appliances, electronics, and more. Patented: 1,000 Design Patents by Thomas Rinaldi (Phaidon, 2021) is an illustrated journey through more than a century of American trends and technologies, necessities and innovations. The evolving designs across its pages tell the story of an unceasing human creativity that continues to this day.
If you’ve ever wondered about the original design of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, the Porta Potty, the iPhone, or the toasters, tape dispensers, and other products that populate our daily lives, then Rinaldi’s book is for you. Not only do we get to see the original patent drawings behind everyday American objects and oddities, but we also learn about their diverse, often-forgotten designers.
During the Industrial Revolution, as manufacturing processes improved and mass production increased, a product’s appearance became an important way to signal its quality (or to mask its lack thereof), and to differentiate one company’s output from another. To prevent ‘design piracy,’ the Design Patent Act was instituted in 1842. Those seeking a patent for their designs would submit a detailed line drawing accompanied by the object’s name and creator. In recent years, some design patents have included photographs, color images, or 3D renderings, but the original formula — and the one represented in the book — remains the same. The succinct, descriptive drawings make it easy to trace shifting styles and technical improvements through time.
Patented includes big-name 20th-century product designers like Dreyfuss, Eams, Saarinon, Knoll, Loewy, and Starck, along with artists like Isamu Noguchi — who patented futuristic radio casing (1938), spoon (1957), and table (1958) designs — and László Moholy-Nagy, who created a finger-like fountain pen (1947). The book features signature products by brands like Apple, Dyson, General Electric, Honda, and Nintendo, plus fleeting trends like the Thigh Master and fidget spinner. Once-essential items that are now obsolete, like phonograph cabinets, typewriters, and floppy disks, are joined by older products we still use today, like Joseph A Gits’s now-ubiquitous 1944 ice cube tray or Harry E. Lambert’s 1960 egg carton. Another highlight is the book’s focus on overlooked designers’ wide breadth and vision: for example, Greek immigrant and former WWII spy John Vassos designed everything from an accordion to a bicycle.
The Industrial Design profession officially emerged in the 1930s, a time Rinaldi calls the golden age of design patents. But in the past two decades, the USPTO has issued more design patents than in its entire 157-year history. Since the office doesn’t restrict patents by citizenship or residency, designers from all over the world are free to create whatever they can imagine.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.