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Many viewers (especially those that were around in the fifties & sixties) recognize this web's "Boomerang" background pattern used as a popular Formicaź Brand pattern in kitchen and bathroom laminate countertop decors. I get a lot of viewer comments and questions on this "web wallpaper." As with many timeless, "retro" industrial designs, there's a fascinating history. (Editor's Note: For 2002, I've changed the wallpaper -- we're all waiting to see if "Boomerang" will come flying back.)

The ubiquitous "Skylark" graphic-design pattern (with its distinctive, thin-line "boomerang-inspired" shapes was directly attributed to long-time, Milwaukee-based, industrial design consultant, Brooks Stevens, as early as 1950. Formica became the material of choice in post-war American home construction, typically used for kitchen countertop surfaces.

Brooks Stevens, FIDSA (1911-1995), became a design consultant to Willys-Overland for the first post-war Jeep vehicles including the 1948 Jeepster, a snappy civilian version with convertible top, (and along with Willys staff designers), the 1949 first all-metal Jeep station wagon. Stevens designed all post-war Jeep station wagons through 1995 including the Wagoneer (1962) and Cherokee (1974).

To learn more, view the Brooks Stevens Milwaukee Art Museum online exhibition. 

One of the twentieth-century's most famous industrial designers, Raymond Loewy, (1893 -1986); is often mistakenly credited for the original thin-line "boomerang-shaped" design. In 1954, Loewy was hired by Formica to redefine Steven's Skylark pattern in a range of new colors. The Formicaź Brand patterns became known as the Boomerang patterns.

Loewy industrial designs grace everything from logos to locomotives. You probably are familiar with many products that are Loewy designs, including: The classic Coke bottle, the U.S. Post Office, Shell, and Exxon logos; Lucky Strike package; several post-war Studebaker automobiles, (including the Avanti, the only auto to ever be exhibited in the Louvre); several streamlined buses, trains and ocean liners; as well as the "space-age" interior designs of JFK's Air Force One, Concorde, Apollo, and Skylab. Loewy authored  "Industrial Design" in 1979. A quick eBay search shows his continued popularity among collectors.

French-born and educated, Loewy became a U.S. citizen in 1938. His clients included: Bulova,  Coca-Cola, Dorsett Boats, Formica, Greyhound Bus, Hallicrafters Radio, IBM, International Harvester, NASA, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Seth Thomas, and Studebaker. He was first on the cover of Time magazine in 1949.  By 1960, he had a staff of 180. His US offices filed for bankruptcy in 1977, closing US locations but keeping European offices open. Loewy died in 1986, nearly penniless.

There is no direct evidence that suggests Loewy ever did industrial design work for H.H. Scott. But Loewy's design philosophy is not a deeply intellectual one. He summarized it with the acronym "MAYA" -- "Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable."

The proliferation of clean, functional, and dynamic products that emerged from H.H. Scott's own internal design staff, most certainly were indirectly influenced by Loewy's "MAYA" design philosophy. Hermon Hosmer Scott was fond of calling his approach "Packaged Engineering."  The 1953 introduction of the streamlined, H.H. Scott 99-A Integrated Amplifier (with its low-flat packaging), made Hi-Fi acceptable in living rooms around the world, right next to those stylish new "Boomerang" kitchen and bathroom decors.


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