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Clifford Brooks Stevens (June 7, 1911-January 4, 1995) was an American industrial designer of home furnishings and appliances, automotives and motor cycles, as well as a graphic designer and stylist.



Stevens was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 7, 1911. Stricken with polio as a child, Stevens was encouraged by his father to practice drawing while confined to his bed, perhaps motivating his career in design. He studied architecture at Cornell University from 1929 to 1933, and established his own home furnishings design firm in 1934 in Milwaukee.[1] His son, Kipp Stevens, ran the Brooks Stevens Design Associates until late 2008 when he stepped down.

Brooks Stevens died on January 4, 1995 in Milwaukee.

Planned obsolescence

Though he is often cited with inventing the concept of planned obsolescence (the practice of artificially shortening product lifecycles in order to influence the buying patterns of consumers in favor of manufacturers), he did not invent it but rather coined the term and defined it. Stevens defined it as "instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary". His view was to always make the consumer want something new, rather than create poor products that would need replacing.[2] There is some debate over his role in this controversial business practice.[3]


His designs in home and kitchen appliances were popular, and he is recognized as being the start of the robin's-egg-blue phase of 1950s kitchen appliances. He also practiced architectural design and graphic design. Of note is his design of the Miller Brewing logo.

As an automobile designer, Stevens redesigned the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk on a minuscule budget.[4]:p257 The fast, elegant GT remained until the end of American production. According to Hendry, Stevens also styled "three innovative products for family car use for the 1964-66 period" (which were never manufactured).[4]:p257 He then designed Harley-Davidson motorcycles. All Harleys since, including models in production now, are based on Stevens's body designs.

Stevens designed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, an American pop-culture icon. He designed engines for Briggs and Stratton and Outboard Marine Corporation. He also designed the university logo for the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in 1978 as a part of "The Diamond Jubilee" celebration. The logo remains in use today.[5]

Stevens designed the post-war Skytop Lounge observation cars for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad's Hiawatha passenger trains. He also and designed a series of "Excalibur" racing sports cars in conjunction with Kaiser Motors[6] and which should not be confused with the "kit-car" company of the same name founded in the mid-1960s to "recreate" the 1930s Mercedes SS.

See also


  1. ^ Stevens, Brooks 1911-1995 in online Dictionary of Wisconsin History (Wisconsin Historical Society)
  2. ^ "The Modern Hygiene Vacuum Cleaner".  
  3. ^ "Industrial Strength Design".  
  4. ^ a b Hendry, Maurice M. Studebaker: One can do a lot of remembering in South Bend. New Albany: Automobile Quarterly. pp. 228–275. Vol X, 3rd Q, 1972.  
  5. ^ "Whole Student Life Handbook" (PDF). MSOE. 2006-09. Retrieved 2006-10-05.  
  6. ^ "Excalibur J".  

External links



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