Harold Van Doren



A Chicago native who grew up in New Jersey, Harold Livingston Van Doren studied at the Art Students League in NYC following WWI, then headed to Paris where he worked as an artist for the Chicago Tribune newspaper's Paris office, and lectured at the Louvre.  While there he also worked as a book translator and even acted in a Jean Renoir film.

By the mid 1920s he was back in America writing free lance articles and working as an assistant director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  When he and John Gordon Rideout set up shop in 1931 their first major clients were the Toledo Scale Company (using new plastics, like Plaskon), Air King radios, American National tricycles and scooters, Maytag washing machines and a gasoline pump for the Wayne Pump Company.

Like Henry Dreyfuss, Van Doren was included in a 1934 Fortune magazine article by George Nelson about up and coming American product designers.


A book by Van Doren, Industrial Design: A Practical Guide, was published in 1940.  In it he wrote:

Once the industrial designer had made a dent on industry, it was perhaps natural for him to exaggerate his own importance in the scheme of things.  Indeed, one might almost say that he would not be a good designer unless he had that sort of excited enthusiasm that makes salesmen sell and designers create.  But in sober moments he must have realized that, important as his contribution might seem to him, its relative importance might not be so great.  As a rule, the artist is, and should be, only one of the gears in the train that includes management, sales promotion, advertising, engineering, research -- all those departments making up the complex mechanism of modern commerce.