Eliot Noyes is one of the great heroes of corporate design. His work during the 50s and 60s at IBM, Mobil oil and Westinghouse led the way for future designers. Recently a new monograph by Gordon Bruce titled Eliot Noyes: A Pioneer of Design and Architecture in the Age of American Modernism has been launched.

Today most business executives knows that design is making good business. Design simplifies and creates boldness. But when Eliot Noyes some 50 years ago developed new and ground braking design programs the world had not seen anything like it before. IBM’s design chief, Lee Green says: “He also brought in the team of consultants who together were responsible for all of the visual expressions of the brand—everything from visual identity to architecture to publications to advertising and product design.”

But despite of this Eliot Noyes is not broadly recognised in the design community today. For example he hired Paul Rand to create the well known IBM logo, but very few know the person responsible.

Hopefully the new monograph will be able to change this by telling the story of the dawn of design in Corporate America.


Eliot Noyes was the first curator of design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (the picture about is from their first design exhibition ever) where he early came in contact with some of the best modernist designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, and Marcel Breuer. Eliot Noyes actually played a key role in making Knoll and Herman Miller producing furniture by Eames and Saarinen, furniture that have turned into design classics today. Eliot Noyes not only convinced Knoll and Herman Miller to produce the pieces, he was also deeply involved in making them understand that they had to develop both processes and technology to be able to realise the projects.

Later in his career Eliot Noyes continued collaborating with Eames, Saarinen, Alto and Breuer. His network did also include graphic designers like Paul Rand (mention above) and Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, who together created the Mobil Oil identity. A great part of his success can be credited to his capability to connect with the best designers of his time. Only a few people got that special eye. In modern European design two persons stands out; Sheridan Coakley from British SCP got it (he discovered and promoted Jasper Morrison, James Irvine, Matthew Hilton among others) and Giulio Cappellini from the Italian producer Cappellini (Tom Dixon, Marc Newson, Konstantin Grcic, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and many more). To be able to do that you need something else than just an eye for good design, you need do understand the capability of a designer long before he or she shows you his/her full potential. You do also have to be able to read off present time and put your breakdowns in a correct context.


Gordon Bruce, the author of the new monograph, gives us this conclusion of the importance of Eliot Noyes; “he’s one of the giants on whose shoulders we’re standing. Eliot and his team changed the landscape of American design.”

Thanks to Business Week.