Regina Lee Blaszczyk    Author profile provided by WorldCat
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, English    List of all editions provided by WorldCat
Nonfiction, Fashion Design; Nonfiction, Interior Design; Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
8 x 10 inches, hardcover, 368 pages, 121 color illustrations
ISBN: 9780262017770
Suggested Retail Price: $34.95

From the Publisher. When the fashion industry declares that lime green is the new black, or instructs us to “think pink!,” it is not the result of a backroom deal forged by a secretive cabal of fashion journalists, designers, manufacturers, and the editor of Vogue. It is the latest development of a color revolution that has been unfolding for more than a century. In this book, the award-winning historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk traces the relationship of color and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, describing the often unrecognized role of the color profession in consumer culture.

Blaszczyk examines the evolution of the color profession from 1850 to 1970, telling the stories of innovators who managed the color cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These “color stylists,” “color forecasters,” and “color engineers” helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of color. Blaszczyk describes the strategic burst of color that took place in the 1920s, when General Motors introduced a bright blue sedan to compete with Ford’s all-black Model T and when housewares became available in a range of brilliant hues. She explains the process of color forecasting--not a conspiracy to manipulate hapless consumers but a careful reading of cultural trends and consumer taste. And she shows how color information flowed from the fashion houses of Paris to textile mills in New Jersey.

Today professional colorists are part of design management teams at such global corporations as Hilton, Disney, and Toyota. The Color Revolution tells the history of how colorists help industry capture the hearts and dollars of consumers.

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Phil Patton

Today, the business of color choice is obscured by pop press reports of “the hue of the year” that tend to be dismissed as superficial. But the addition of color to the toolbox of the industrial designer (it had long been a tool of the fashion designer) was a major event. Thanks to the chemical industry, which flourished under the pressure of World War I, the chemistry and technology of color changed radically in the 1920s.

The causes and effects of that change are a key story in design history, told by Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Visiting Scholar in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and an associate editor at the Journal of Design History.

The key shift came in the mid-1920s, when General Motors was able to use fast-drying, colorful DuPont enamels on its cars. Henry Ford had chosen his famous black because it dried quickly, in keeping with the rapid pace of his factories. From “any color you want as long as it’s black,” Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick could offer simply “any color you want.” (The first of the new offerings, incidentally, was a Pontiac blue.)

GM began sending emissaries to the Paris fashion shows to scout palettes for future upholstery. One of them—and one of the many colorful color chosers to whom Blaszczyk introduces us—was H. Ledyard Towle, a former military camouflage expert who after World War I became an adviser to DuPont, then moved to Detroit in 1928 as General Motors’ first “color engineer.”

As in so many areas of marketing and design, Detroit led the way. After red Chevrolets and blue Pontiacs, the road was opened to avocado refrigerators and harvest gold stoves. Kodak was soon advertising its once black Brownies in multiple soft hues, and portable typewriters in mint green and salmon pink were found in showroom window

The change happened just in time for the arrival of the professional industrial designer. And it created the profession of color consultant, which Blaszczyk records. “Blaszczyk examines the evolution of the color profession from 1850 to 1970,” as the publisher summarizes it, “telling the stories of innovators who managed the color cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These “color stylists,” “color forecasters,” and “color engineers” helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of color.”

The effects were wide-ranging: from the arrival of mauve in the fashion world to color in film or television, color again and again wreaks major changes. These effects are more than aesthetic: they are profound and existential, as caricatured in the film Pleasantville.

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