Under the direction of Eliot Noyes (a designer who studied under Walter Gropius), MoMA's industrial design department was founded in 1934 with the expressed goal of establishing and transmitting the tenants of “good design” to the American people. Through competitions, exhibitions and savvy marketing and manufacturing, MoMA spread the ideology of good design, which was judged by an item's “eye appeal, function, construction, and price.” Works featured in these exhibitions ranged from the wonders of Tupperware and “household objects under $5,” to furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto and Edward Wormley and affordable lighting, textiles and home accessories.
The 1951 competition for low cost lighting was co-sponsored by MoMA and The Heifetz Company, which manufactured ten of the fifteen winning lighting designs, including Gilbert Watrous' floor lamp, which can be seen in the above photograph in the center foreground. Designs from these competitions are coveted, as they were often produced in limited quantities and endure as modest emblems of the century's emerging sensibilities toward design and consumerism that shaped our contemporary design landscape.
1. Fulfills its function.
2. Respects its materials.
3. Is suited to method of production.
4. Combines these in imaginative expression.