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Home & Building, Volume 12 Number 6 (June-July 1950)

New Materials

New Materials

The use of new materials in industry has been stimulated, in the last decade by developments primarily undertaken for war purposes, and by the scarcities of staple materials which manufacturers in most countries have experienced since World War II. In Britain, the technique of gluing metal sheets and wood veneers together to form "sandwiches"

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that can be bent into various shapes and stand all sorts of treatment, has been used in the design of clock-cases, shopfronts, and (experimentally) chairs. Plywood and light alloy—two relatively new materials—have been successfully used together in a range of school furniture developed by the Educational Supply Association. This range was introduced to overcome short supply of traditional furniture-making materials, but proved so successful that it has been retained and extended. Today the Esa lightweight furniture is to be seen in schools in Britain and in many places abroad, including the United States. The manufacturers consider that results have more than justified the considerable amount of design-research that was necessary.

While there are many other manufacturers who would say the same, it is probably true that the majority have yet to realise the benefits of good industrial design. It is also true that there is a shortage of really good industrial designers. Nor is this surprising. The demand has, until recently, been very limited; and the supply—in the sense of a supply of ready-made industrial designers coming from specialist schools into industry—has been practically nonexistent. The qualities which, in my view, are necessary to make a good designer include creative ability; a good deal of technical knowledge and the power to assimilate more; an orderly mind; breadth of vision; the ability to work as one of a team with engineers or scientists on the one hand and sales managers on the other; and, of course, aesthetic sensibility. This is, I admit, an impressive list of qualifications, and it is evident that some of them derive so directly from a man's personal character that no scheme of training will give them to him if they are not there already—though if they are, training can help to develop them.