Monday Masterpieces: Streamline+Vinyl=Awesome
The year was 1937, and Art Deco was raging through the developed world. After the natural theme of the Art Nouveau movement, designers and artists were keen to differentiate themselves. So, instead of trees, leaves, fish and water, the hot new design elements became chrome, bold colors and blacks, and streamlining everywhere. Even pencil sharpeners were supposed to look like they could break the sound barrier.
So into this shined up, smoothed out world, John Vassos, an illustrator by trade who came to Britain, and then the United States after political cartoons he drew for a newspaper angered Turkish officials. He gained renown as an illustrator for Harpers, and The New Yorker, before going into industrial design in 1924. His first design, a lotion bottle, became a success when people began using it as a hip flask during The Prohibition (talk about lucky!). Later, he designed the Peevy Turnstile, who's silver form can still be seen at Wrigley Field and other old school locations.
Vassos finally joined up with RCA in the 1930s and designed all kinds of product, from TVs to radios. And, of course, the incredible Model M Special. The first thing about it that hits you is the case, in all its polished aluminum glory. The handle is a perfect match too, in pink plastic, looking like it could be part of a bullet train somewhere. Since the motors of the time weren't constant speed enough to drive a record, a clockwork mechanism was used, and batteries powered the tube amp for sound. While this may sound like a disadvantage, winding the crank became just another cool bit of meditation tied to listening to music - and of course even the crank looks great.
Can you imagine what it must have been like bringing one of these to the park and dancing to that tinny sound of old steel needle-records under the trees? By comparison, the experience with, oh, say the JVC Kaboom Urban Assault boombox is something else all together.
Maybe this is what our grandma meant when she said that romance was dead...
If you need a little more on the life and times of John Vassos, or the Model M, check here. Until next time, remember that guessing at the future isn't nearly as effective as looking to the past.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team