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Leonardo Reviews: The Interface

By Mike Mosher
Leonardo Reviews

harwood_interface coverIn 1956, IBM– International Business Machines– hired industrial designer and architect Eliot F. Noyes (1910–77) to reinvent its corporate image. Noyes found the corporate headquarters fusty, full of old–fashioned furniture and rugs and inspirational messages about trade leading to peace that reflected the generation and aesthetic of the corporation's founder Thomas Watson, not the "information explosion" world of his son and successor Thomas Watson Jr.

Noyes perceived IBM as not merely business machines, but a force "to help man extend his control over his environment," so it was necessary that it project clarity. As a student at Harvard of Bauhaus exiles Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, he promoted International Style buildings, hired Paul Rand (not to be confused with US Senator Rand Paul) to redesign the company's logo, and gave attention to all aspects of the industrial design of the products. Noyes had served as curator of Industrial Design at the Museum of Modern Art, and as the housing of electric typewriters, computers, and other devices simplified, attention was paid to the human interface, the controls and displays the operator encountered.

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