In the twentieth century, product and package design became expressions of American consumer culture. Designers styled products to appeal to popular ideas about taste, modernity, sensuality, and sophistication. Packaging was also a selling tool as designers worked closely with advertising agencies and in-house advertising departments.
For many, Raymond Loewy's streamlining defined the modern world of the 1930s and 1940s. Hagley's collection of Raymond Loewy papers includes photographs, scrapbooks, drawings, advertising materials, and client correspondence. The Pennsylvania Railroad archive contains the Loewy firm's sketches of locomotives, passenger cars, dining car menus, and correspondence with company officers and technical personnel. After the Second World War, Loewy and his firm turned their attention to the suburban home, the supermarket, and the shopping mall. Files from the late 1940s through the 1970s describe Loewy's contribution to making mid-century modernism.
Records of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company and papers of independent designers who worked for the DuPont Company document consumer product groups' marketing and packaging, such as paints, car care, and lawn and garden.
Records from RCA describe the design of early radio and television and show how technical, advertising, and design considerations became linked in product development.
The papers of New York-based package designer Irv Koons (b. 1922) document work performed for the following companies: Clairol-Bristol Myers, Consolidated Cigar, Dixie Products, Gillette, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, and Revlon. The Koons papers also contain an extensive collection of market research reports.
The papers of Thomas Lamb (1898-1990) describe the origins of what we now call Universal Design, the idea that design should accommodate those with special needs. Firms like ALCOA applied Lamb's innovative approach to making handles for cutlery, housewares, sports equipment, luggage, and dental devices.
Marc Harrison (1936-1998) was a disciple of Thomas Lamb who taught at the Rhode Island School of Design for many years. Harrison was an early advocate of Universal Design and is best known for designing the Cuisinart food processor.