Illustration by George Bartell that appeared in Sports Car Graphic, November, 1963.
The Design Staff Library
Bookstores and public libraries are always a disappointment. We go to these places in search of inspiration, but it’s always in short supply. The transportation books usually consist of one narrow section. Any cool car design books, if there are any, have to share space with airplane books, train books, books about Harleys, and the latest car culture/rat rod/tatoo books. The last gasp of hope is expended walking thorough the bargain section on the way out the door.
Not so the Design Staff Library.
The Design Staff library was stocked with interesting books geared to the level of the car designer. Upstairs there was a locked door that served as a guardian for an impressive collection of old car brochures, photographs, and other research materials. The library also subscribed to car magazines from all over the world. So the library was a popular destination for short breaks. They were necessarily short because the library was located along the hallway that connected the production studios, the escalator from the first floor where the advanced studios were located, and the administration building. The common wall between the hallway and the library was glass from floor to ceiling. So it was like a giant aquarium as seen from the hallway. You couldn’t stay in there too much or too often. Too many hall walkers. It could be a career stopper.
One day I happen to meet a good designer friend in the library looking through some magazines. After a few minutes he said, “You can stay here all day if you want, but I’m still promotable.” And went back to his studio. I also remember this rather intimidating, middle-aged woman with a heavy German accent that ran the library. Crossing her in any way was not an option.
Magazines used to have all kinds of cool and inspiring artwork and cutaway drawings. A good illustration can often communicate the essence of something and capture the imagination of the reader better than the camera. And readers buy magazines. Designers express themselves through their artwork and are often inspired by a particular view or perspective that excites the imagination. We’ll buy a magazine for one photo or illustration. Popular illustration styles often influenced drawing styles in the studios. The Harry Bradley post on Dean’s Garage has several galleries of his magazine illustrations.
Illustrations from Sports Car Graphic magazine.
Illustrations by George Bartel that appeared in Sports Car Graphic magazine and made available as a set of prints
So what does the caption mean in English? I contacted a good friend who speaks German like a native because he is. Anyway, he said that the some of the words were difficult to understand in German let alone translate into English. It roughly means “the space (for the driver) in this efficiently small Baumm is not as small or confining.” Small as compared to some unknown something else. We don’t know what a Baumm is exactly, either.
Especially LOVE the cutaway drawings.. my favorite as a growing car nut, and still love them… puts space into perspective… thanks!
Gary, very impressive. I don’t recall the Ford design library having comparable material in early ’50s. I do recall spending most of my time there reading Arts & Architecture, which was devoted to mid-century modern architecture and furnishings, of course.
Your observation regarding the floor to ceiling windows in the library were spot on. I was in the library early one morning, and as I glanced through those aforementioned windows, the Color Studio was going up in flames. Got my attention to say the least! Great view.
Gary, what happen to the contents of the Library? I mean where are they today?
Gary, really appreciate you putting this together…keep up the good work.
The library archives and materials are still there for reference only, but inaccessible except by special request even to Design Center employees.
I enjoyed your post: “The Design Staff Library”. If the librarian was Joan Maki she may have been huffy due to her heavy duties. These included writing inquiries to large international automobile corporations for “advertising brochures or any literature you may have describing your latest models.”
As Minister of Propaganda for Automobili Cyclops SpA, I received such an inquiry in 1969 (attached). I sent her the requested material and she sent me a thank you note (also attached).
Though Ms Maki may have been huffy, she did her part in propelling our corporations to where they are today.
Minister of Propaganda In Perpetuity
Automobili Cyclops SpA
Stan, I emailed a friend who is still at GM Design. He reminded me that the Librarian I was remembering was named Billie Dulavitch (or something like that). She took over the library I’m guessing in the early ’80s. I remember the name Joan Maki. I also remember that Billie was completely different from her predecessor. By necessity, because materials disappeared faster than they could be replenished. Plus, Billie didn’t not allow X-Acto knives in the library.
A number of persons out there asked me why Ms Maki would request information about a Cyclops? Well, as an established international automobile manufacturer, Cyclops was listed along with other established international manufacturers in the reputable journal “Automotive Industries.
I enclose the cover of “Automotive Industries” and page 141 of their 1969 issue in which Cyclops is listed between Bertone and Ferrari.
Minister of Propaganda In Perpetuity
Automobili Cyclops SpA
Thanks for this article. I used the library many times at lunch to see outside our little world at Design, especially foreign brands that were not imported here and the architecture and art magazines which were mostly inspiring. I also used the brochure files extensively to research brand identity when we had a strategic studio to clearly separate the brands and create the mission statements for them ( yes. designers were involved in this! )
I think Billie was there before Joan. She had very big and thick glasses as I recall and spoke with an accent. There had to be rules and she kept them. I am sure she was some kind of library scientist. The reason it was so outstanding was that the designers could ask for subscriptions for interesting books or periodicals and she would get them. Actually in those days design media was hard to find as not nearly as much existed as now. Joan was very good about that also as I recall.
It was a great place, for a while movies were shown next door in the conference room at lunchtime. Once we saw, in black and white, Grand Prix movies from the late thirties. Supercharged Auto Unions driving in the rain with those tall skinny tires made the most horrific screams of any race car I have ever heard. The rooster-tails from the tires went fifty feet in the air.
Great stuff, thanks Gary for raising the subject.