Georgia Tech was one of the earliest schools to teach courses in the new discipline of Industrial Design.
The Department of Architecture, as it was then known, began offering Industrial Design courses in 1940; however, the advent of World War II led to a severe decline in enrollment and the streamlining of course and degree offerings across campus. Hin Bredendieck’s former assistant at the New Bauhaus Andi Schiltz had been hired to teach these early Industrial Design courses and to lead the division in the early 1940s. His tenure at Georgia Tech was short lived, as ID became a casualty of the war and was no longer an option of study within the architecture curriculum.
It would be the Bauhaus-trained Bredendieck who would become the face of Industrial Design at Georgia Tech from the post-War period until the end of the century.
After the end of World War II, the push for re-starting the ID Program resumed, as was explained in the student magazine The Georgia Tech Engineer:
In the field of design a new profession, Industrial Design, is taking an increasingly important place, and, with the advent of industry to the South, the need for the well-trained industrial designer is going to prove of great importance. Before the war such a course was inaugurated at Georgia Tech as Option Three [in Architecture] under a grant from the General Education Board. With the inception of the war this new venture had to be abandoned, and lack of facilities since then has forced the postponing of this option. In spite of a persistent demand for Industrial Design, this division of the department cannot be reinstituted until the plans for a new Architectural Building materialize.
At the time of the dedication of the East Architecture Building on September 20, 1952, the Industrial Design “lab” and shop were assigned the ground floor of the north wing of the building, and Hin Bredendieck (1904-1995) had been hired to lead this new program. The authorization of the Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design (BSID) in the 1950s further symbolized the importance of Industrial Design to Georgia Tech and the region. The first graduates who received the BSID were: James Bayly, John Dunn, David James, Robert Kirby, and William Watkins in 1958 and 1959.
As a teacher, Professor Bredendieck was demanding. He expected the very best out of his students. Many of his former students attribute their success to him. One common theme in talking to alumni of the program is that they did not realize how valuable the education they were receiving was until they left Georgia Tech and began working. One of his early students Irwin Schuster (BS Architecture, ID Option 1957) remembered: “He was a good guy, under-appreciated by me, as a young student…He wore only shades of gray, to make his wardrobe easier to manage.”
Born in 1904 in Aurich, Germany, Professor Bredendieck studied at the art academies of Stuttgart and Hamburg before entering the Dessau Bauhaus in 1927, where he was exposed to the Bauhaus philosophy. It was at the Bauhaus where he would begin to make a name for himself as an industrial designer. Working with artist and designer Marianne Brandt (1893-1983) in the metal workshop, he designed many lamps and lighting fixtures including the ubiquitous familiar Kandem Bedside Table Lamp. After graduating in 1930, Bredendieck went to work in the Berlin studios of Bauhaus professors László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) and Herbert Bayer (1900-1985). He then worked for B.A.G. Lighting Manufacturing in Turgi, Switzerland, and on lighting for the Corso Theater in Zurich before returning to Germany to work for furniture manufacturer Herman Gautel in Oldenburg. However, the rise of the National Socialist or Nazi Party resulted in the emigration of many artists, including Bredendieck, who left in 1937 at the invitation of László Moholy-Nagy to teach at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, Illinois. Bredendieck led the basic workshop at The New Bauhaus, which later became the Institute of Design and then merged with the Illinois Institute of Design. He would remain in Chicago working as free-lance designer and teaching off and on until he accepted the position at Georgia Tech in 1952.
Thus Professor Bredendieck brought with him a direct link to the Bauhaus and the modern movement. He studied under the Bauhaus masters, practiced with them, and taught by their side. He represented a shifting ideology that belonged to the modern period; and it would be this Weltanschauung or world view that would define his tenure at Georgia Tech. He developed his courses and methods over time or as he put it “making changes as new knowledge becomes available” and viewed the Bauhaus as one phase of development. The Bauhaus definitely provided the foundation to his methods and ideals. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius would later describe in a letter to Professor Bredendieck: “You look out for something which I call the science of design, for which the Bauhaus has laid some foundation stones. Your contribution seems to be in the right direction, and I hope you will be able to finish the book you are working on.” The book Gropius mentions would eventually be published posthumously by the Georgia Tech College of Architecture in 2009 under the title of Beyond Bauhaus: The Evolving Man-Made Environment.
Professor Bredendieck retired from Georgia Tech in 1971, having touched the lives of hundreds of graduates, who would go on to become product designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, inventors, artists, and teachers. He remained engaged in the design profession and an outspoken member of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA). In a 1987 article in the IDSA Newsletter, his influence was recognized: “With Walter Schaer and Eva Pfeil at Auburn, Hin Bredendieck at Georgia Tech, and Walter Baerman at North Carolina State, designers often referred to this educational triangle as the “New South.” These design educators brought to the South a new design approach which considered user-centered research a prerequisite for intelligent and responsible product development.”
In 1994, Bredendieck received the IDSA Education Award for his lifelong commitment to design education. He is still recognized on the IDSA website as one of the discipline’s early influences.
In 1988, the head of the School of Architecture and Fine Arts at Auburn University, Bill Bullock, joined Georgia Tech as the new director of the Industrial Design Program. In his decade-long tenure as director, undergraduate enrollment tripled and Bullock led high impact research initiatives including the Collaborative Product Development Laboratory (CoLab). He would remain on the faculty until 2000, when he became a professor and later the chair of the Industrial Design Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Upon the arrival of Lorraine Justice as Industrial Design Program Director in 2000, the program began to elevate in prestige nationally and internationally. The program continually was selected for BusinessWeek’s ranking of top design schools. Justice also led the effort that resulted Board of Regents authorization of the Master of Industrial Design degree in 2002.
She remained on the faculty until 2005, when she became head of the Design School at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Justice was named one of the top 40 influential designers by ID magazine in 2006.
As program director from 2005 to 2010, Abir Mullick’s expertise in universal design strengthened the program’s leadership in design for health and assistive technologies, an area that had been complemented by Georgia Tech’s Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access.
A strong connection with IDSA continues today with an active student chapter and faculty members holding various leadership positions within the professional organization, including most recently Assistant Professors Kevin Shankwiler and Claudia Rébola serving as Vice-Chair and Outreach Coordinator, respectively, of the Atlanta Chapter.
The School of Industrial Design is fortunate to have a strong alumni base. Many of whom teach part time in Industrial Design, serve on the College’s advisory board, and/or provide support and guidance for the program. In 2009 alumnus Jim Oliver (BSID 1965, BME 1967) made a generous gift to support the creation of the Oliver Professor of Practice in Design and Engineering. In 2010 Wayne Li was appointed as the first Oliver Professor of Practice. Li came to Georgia Tech from Pottery Barn where led the innovation and market expansion their seasonal home products, leading to significant business growth across multiple product categories, including home office, clocks, consumer electronics and lighting.
In 2010 Georgia Tech and the College of Architecture elevated the Industrial Design Program to the School of Industrial Design and appointed its first chair of the school, Professor Jim Budd, who began in August 2010. Budd, an expert in human-centered, interactive product design, brought to Georgia Tech fifteen years of academic and research leadership and over two decades corporate experience in product design.
Since being at Georgia Tech, Professor Budd has begun reinvigorating the Industrial Design curriculum, strengthened the schools ties to engineering and computing, overseen the move of Industrial Design from the ground floor to the more visible and spacious second floor, and taken a strong leadership role in Georgia Tech’s strategic plan initiative the Center for Collaborative Design (also known as the Burdell Center). In addition, Professor Budd imagined and created the Interactive Product Design Laboratory with support from the College and the Institute. The lab opened in the fall of 2011 and is a 900 square-foot workshop to support the exploration and development of “intelligent” products and systems. Students in the lab will leverage the capabilities of a new generation of sensor-based technologies for portable, wearable, and networked applications. Faculty also use the lab for their research and as classroom space for courses in a variety of schools.
The only Industrial Design degrees offered through the University System of Georgia, the Bachelor of Science and Master in Industrial Design degree programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). In 2012 NASAD reaccredited the BSID and MID programs for another full term following an extremely successful accreditation team visit and academic program review.
The School’s enrollment has remained steady over the past couple of years at around 200 students, including 40 graduate students. These students are exceptionally gifted designers who are engaged with the School, the Institute, and the world around them.
In 2011 undergraduate Daniel Cheney won the Institute’s Inventure prize, an Institute-wide competition that includes a significant cash award and patent-writing support. In the 2012 competition another Industrial Design student, Mathew Stoddard won second place.