Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

12 People Behind Ubiquitous Designs

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Corporate design is its own kind of art form, but the people behind those designs almost never get their proper due. Here are 12 of the people whose designs have left a permanent mark on U.S. culture. 

1. JULIUS SAMANN // LITTLE TREES 

Julius Samann was a German-Jewish chemist who fled the Nazis and landed in upstate New York. There, he met a milkman who complained to him about the smell left behind when his products went bad. Samann had been studying tree-smells for a while at that point, and that brief conversation inspired him to patent the stench-masking paper pine trees that dangle from rearview mirrors to this day. (The company still exists, and now offers 60 scents.) 

2. LESLIE BUCK // THE ANTHORA COFFEE CUP 

Dan Bluestein, Wikipedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Like Samann, Leslie Buck was also a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe. Also like Samann, hundreds of millions of people have appreciated his magnum opus—the Anthora coffee cup—without ever knowing his name. Buck had no formal art training—he was a paper cup salesman, through and through—but to generations of coffee drinkers, his design is as much a work of New York art as Annie Hall. The Czechoslovakian salesman chose his Grecian design after realizing that many of the city’s diner owners were Greek and decided to play to their cultural background. The blue cups were called “Anthora” cups—a spin on Buck’s pronunciation of the word amphora, a type of ancient Greek storage vessel. The marketing tactic worked; by the early ‘90s, Buck was selling over half a billion cups a year.

3. GINA EKISS // THE “JAZZ” CUP 

What started off as just a paper cup design soon snowballed into a cultural phenomenon, with everything from pins to cars emblazoned with the design. Until just a few months ago, the corporate Picasso behind this beloved disposable cup remained unknown to the world at large. Then, last May, a Reddit post kicked off a search that led to a woman named Gina Ekiss, a former Sweetheart Cup Company employee who designed "Jazz" for a company contest in 1989. Ekiss's work went unheralded at the time—she didn't even get a bonus—but a generation of kids who grew up sipping Kool-Aid out of "Jazz" cups have since given her the credit she deserves. 

4. GARY ANDERSON // THE RECYCLING SYMBOL 

iStock

Gary Anderson was a senior at the University of Southern California when he won a contest sponsored by the Container Corporation of America. They'd been looking for designs that symbolized the recycling process, to be used on their recycled paperboard products. Anderson's winning entry has since been stamped on millions of recycling bins and plastic products, attaining stop sign-levels of recognizability. "It seems to belong to everybody—and that is fine with me," Anderson said decades later.

5. SUSAN KARE // THE ORIGINAL MAC ICONS 

Early computer users will recall Kare’s work fondly. As part of the original Apple design team in the ‘80s, the designer was tasked with creating the graph paper designs for the Macintosh's interface. Kane set the template for modern computing, which is impressive, given that before starting at Apple she had never designed an icon

6. SRG ARCHITECTS // THE PORTLAND AIRPORT INTERNATIONAL CARPET 

Unless you’re this guy, you probably don't obsess over industrial carpet designs. The exception can be found at Portland Airport International, whose blue-green carpet has inspired Twitter accounts, t-shirts, and a Facebook page with over 14,000 Likes. Designed by SRG Architects in 1987, its color scheme was chosen in response to the muted tones which at the time dominated the airport-carpet scene. Unfortunately for teal lovers around the world, the carpet was replaced last year with something similar, but not quite as aesthetically legendary. 

7. ARTHUR FRY AND SPENCER SILVER // THE POST-IT NOTE

The Post-It Note was the invention of two people, neither of them Romy or Michele. The two real creators were both employees at 3M: Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver. Fry was looking for some way to bookmark a church hymnal when he remembered that Silver had invented a new form of adhesive that left no residue. He attached the adhesive to a piece of paper, inadvertently inventing the Post-It Note. And so a billion passive-aggressive office kitchen memos were born. 

8. CHARLES O’REAR // THE MICROSOFT XP BACKGROUND “BLISS” 

Wikimedia Commons, iStock // Fair use

Photographer Charles O'Rear was driving through Napa and Sonoma counties in California to meet his future wife when he pulled over to take some quick pictures of a hill in 1996. He couldn't have known, at the time, that he'd just snapped a landscape that would become ubiquitous. That would come later, after he'd licensed his photograph to a service called Corbis. Corbis happened to be owned by Bill Gates, which is how Microsoft wound up selecting his photograph, "Bliss," as Windows XP's default wallpaper.

9. GERARD HOLTOM // THE PEACE SYMBOL 

iStock

British-born designer Gerald Holtom was a conscientious objector during World War II, and he was equally aghast at the post-war proliferation of nuclear arms. In his frustration, he designed a symbol that would come to serve as a worldwide symbol for peace. It first saw the light of day in 1958, at a march organized by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War. Discussing the symbol later, Holtom said, "I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards." Nearly 60 years later, our world powers are still well-stocked with nuclear weapons, and Holtom's design can be found on hacky sacks and tie-dyed t-shirts wherever hacky sacks and/or t-shirts are sold. 

10. PIERRE DE COUBERTIN // THE OLYMPICS SYMBOL 

Getty Images

Pierre de Coubertin was a classically-educated Frenchman who proselytized on behalf of the role of sports in a balanced education. It was that belief that led him to organize the modern Olympics, first held in Athens in 1896. He even found time to design its iconic logo, which, in his words, "represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism." He presented the design to the Olympic Congress in June 1914—about a week before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. 

11. MILTON GLASER // I LOVE NEW YORK 

Milton Glaser's designs are inescapable. A not-even-marginally-comprehensive list of his achievements would include the logos for New York magazine, Brooklyn Brewery, and DC Comics. But his true claim to immortality is the famous I Love New York logo, designed in 1977 and since emblazoned on millions of overpriced tourist shop t-shirts. The logo was commissioned by the New York State Department for Economic Development, at a time when the city was making news for its high crime rate. In a characteristically New York move, Glaser sketched the prototype for the design on an envelope during a taxi ride.

12. HARVEY BALL // THE SMILEY FACE

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Before Emojis, we had the smiley face. Designed by graphic artist Harvey Ball in 1963, the face was meant to boost the morale of employees of an insurance company. The design only took 10 minutes for Ball to complete, and the insurance company paid him $45 for his time. The yellow smiley was then printed on signs, posters, and buttons that were circulated around the office. The design was a hit and the company pumped out thousands of buttons. Soon the infectious smiley became a popular image seen worldwide. Neither Ball nor the insurance company attempted to trademark the creation, likely due to its simplistic nature. After all, the first smiley depiction dates back to 2500 BCE.

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iStock
Want to Boost Your Home's Value By More Than $6000? Paint Your Front Door Black
iStock
iStock

If you're looking to sell your home, you may want to take some advice from The Rolling Stones and paint it black. Just the front door, that is. That's because front doors in shades of black or charcoal tend to raise a home's value by $6271, according to a new analysis by real estate website Zillow.

"For a seller, painting a front door is one the least expensive home prep projects, but also one that can have a powerful impact on a home's sale price," Kerrie Kelly, a home design expert for Zillow, said in a statement.

However, this may have more to do with the contrast than the colors themselves. Kelly said more subdued hues like beige and light blue are still popular, but real estate experts have seen a trend toward "pops of color, particularly in darker hues" like dark blue, gray, and black. "Contrasting colors, especially in kitchens and home exteriors add interest and dimension to a room that plays very well in listing photos and videos," Kelly says.

Also popular are "tuxedo kitchens," in which the countertop and upper cabinets are either black or white, and the lower cabinets are painted in contrast. That design scheme can raise a home's value about $1550, Zillow reports.

For its 2018 Paint Color Analysis, Zillow looked at more than 135,000 photos of homes sold across the country between 2010 and 2018 and compared their closing prices to those of similar homes with white walls. In doing so, they were able to conclude which color schemes are considered most valuable.

Other paint jobs that can hurt a home's value include yellow exteriors, brown dining rooms, and red kitchens (red in general is said to be an anxiety-inducing hue, so it's best to use it sparingly in homes). On the other hand, light blue bathrooms and light taupe living rooms are an asset.

If you're hoping to sell your home but don't plan to do so for another few years, it's best to hold off on repainting, if possible. Tastes in color schemes are constantly changing with the times—just two years ago, Zillow recommended yellow kitchens and purple dining rooms.

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IKEA
Syrian Refugees and Jordanian Women Created a New Line of Home Goods For IKEA
IKEA
IKEA

After debuting the Tilltalande Collection at its Amman, Jordan location last year, IKEA is finally bringing it to the U.S. As Curbed reports, every item in the collection was created by women from Jordan and refugees from Syria.

The new line is a collaboration between IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Jordanians, especially women and children. It includes a flatwoven rug and pillow covers decorated with elements like camels and blossoming cacti. Fifty Jordanian women artists and 50 Syrian refugees worked with IKEA to design the items and craft them by hand.

The Tilltalande Collection is the latest way IKEA is helping some of the millions of refugees forced from their homes by conflict. In 2015, the furniture company debuted its flatpack shelters, temporary homes that provide protection and electricity to displaced people around the world.

The new line of textiles will be sold at IKEA's Brooklyn location starting this June. If all goes as planned, the collection will provide employment to 400 people by 2020.

Pillow decorated with cactus.
IKEA

[h/t Curbed]

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