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Date: designed 1927
Artist: International Ticket Scale Corporation,
Medium:Steel, iron, brass, chrome, paint, glue, rubber, stamped
Geographic Location: United States, New York
Dimensions: Overall: 77 x 15 x 25 in. (1 m 95.58 cm x 38.1 cm x 63.5 cm)
Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift through the 20th-Century Design Fund
Object Number: 1996.46

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« Back to CONNECT
 
Date: designed 1927
Artist: Joseph Sinel, American, 1890 - 1975
Medium:Steel, iron, brass, chrome, paint, glue, rubber, stamped
Geographic Location: United States, New York
Dimensions: Overall: 77 x 15 x 25 in. (1 m 95.58 cm x 38.1 cm x 63.5 cm)
Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift through the 20th-Century Design Fund
Object Number: 1996.46

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Joseph Sinel designed this scale for the International Ticket Scale Corporation of New York City. The visual qualities of this object reflect the increasing industrialization and consumerism of the 1920s. The tall, stepped form of the scale refers to New York skyscrapers, symbols of the changing cityscape. Sinel also included art deco typefaces in his design of the scale’s platform, which reads, “STEP / ON / IT.”


Sinel exemplifies a new breed of artist that emerged in the 1920s—the industrial designer. Industrial designers worked as consultants to manufacturers, adding visual style and design elements to specific products. This meter is one of Sinel’s most well-known designs. Scales such as this one would have been housed in public, likely art deco-style, buildings.   

 

 

Joseph Sinel

The Skyscraper

Industrial Design

Art Deco

 

Joseph Sinel (1890-1975)

 

Known as the “father of industrial design,” Joseph Sinel began his artistic career as an apprentice to a lithographer. He entered the field of advertising when he moved to the United States from New Zealand in 1918. By 1923 Sinel had begun his own design company in New York. He experienced success designing a wide variety of products, including ads, book covers, company trademarks, and typewriters. Trademarks for publishing companies such as Doubleday, Knopf, and Random House, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other businesses were among his designs. Sinel also taught at numerous design and fine arts schools throughout the country. In 1955 Sinel and thirteen other designers founded the American Society of Industrial Designers (which later became the Industrial Designers Society of America.) The scale height and weight meter (model S) is perhaps Sinel’s most famous design. 

 

The Skyscraper

 

After the development of steel in the late 19th century, skyscrapers began transforming urban cityscapes. The presence of skyscrapers in large, urban areas increased so significantly that in 1916 the New York zoning code was modified to require all buildings over a certain height be set back at the top to allow light and fresh air to reach pedestrians below. As a result, structures such as the Chrysler Building (constructed 1928–1931) had a profound effect on New York’s skyline. The Empire State building, erected in 1931, is also set back at the top.
The form of Sinel’s scale reflects the modern skyscraper; the silhouette features a tall shaft with stepped-back top. Sinel and other 1920s artists, such as Louis Lozowick, Charles Sheeler, and Charles Demuth, incorporated the skyscraper and other new icons of American modernity into their work.



Industrial Design

 

Industrial design refers to the conception and planning of mass-produced products. Industrial designers take into account technology, engineering, materials, aesthetics, and user needs. The 1920s saw the advent of professional industrial designers who worked as consultants to manufacturers, adding visual style and design elements to specific products, such as furniture or home appliances. Raymond Loewy (1893–1986) and Walter Dorwin Teague (1883–1960) were leaders of the movement to professionalize industrial iesign. As one of these new professional designers, Joseph Sinel is reputedly one of the first to use the term “industrial design.” He defined it as the combination of art and science to produce machine-made goods.



Art Deco

 

Art deco refers to a decorative arts movement of the 1920s that became influential in both Europe and the United States.  The term art deco derived from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris. Originally planned for 1915, the exposition was postponed due to World War I. Unlike previous international exhibitions, the 1925 exhibition focused on decorative arts.

Art deco is largely characterized by clean lines and curves and layered geometric shapes that create modern, streamlined compositions. Ziggurat shapes, or terraced pyramids; fans; sunbursts; and chevron patterns were common motifs.  Art deco artists intended to represent wealth, elegance, sophistication, and modernity with their designs.
With its linear symmetry and modern materials, Sinel’s model S scale height and weight meter can be categorized as art deco. The scale’s top reflects the skyscraper as well as the ziggurat motif. Sinel also used art deco typefaces on the façade; the weighing platform reads “STEP / ON / IT.” This scale would have likely been placed inside a contemporary art deco–style building, such as Radio City Music Hall.  

 

 

 

Encouraging Dialogue

Making Connections

 

Encouraging Dialogue

 

1. This scale measures a person’s height and weight. When and where is your height and weight measured? What do scales that you have stepped on look like?

2. What shapes or materials do you recognize in this scale?

3. Why might art museums display scales like this? Do you consider this scale a work of art? Why or why not?

4. The shape of this scale resembles a skyscraper. When was the first time you saw a skyscraper in person? What was your initial reaction to it? What comes to mind when you think of skyscrapers?

5. You may have heard the phrase “Form follows function,” which refers to the idea that the shape of an object is based on its purpose or function. What is the form of this scale? What is its function? How does its form follow its function? How does its form not follow its function?

 

Making Connections

 

1. Industrial designers strive to improve products—technically and aesthetically. Think of something in your school that could use improvements, such as water fountains, cafeteria trays, pencil sharpeners, etc.  Sketch ideas to improve that product and share your plans with classmates.

2. Design is the purposeful concern for the way something looks and functions. Over time, tastes in design change. Research the design history of a product that interests you. (Cars, toaster ovens, clocks, radios, etc.). Present to your class what you found. How has this product’s design changed from the time it was invented to the present?

3. Compare this scale to another work in the DMA’s collection, Charles and Ray Eames’ LCW chair. Make a list of words to describe the scale. Make a list of words to describe the LCW chair. Compare these lists. How are the two visually similar or different? How are their functions similar or different?

4. Make a newspaper advertisement about the scale height and weight meter. What visual qualities will you highlight? Look at a few newspaper advertisements and think about how they use the small area of a newspaper page to entice readers.

 

 

Books

Websites

Interactive

 

Books

 

Fiell, Charlotte, and Peter Fiell. Industrial Design A-Z. London: Taschen, 2000.

 

Websites

 

California College of Arts & Crafts

http://libraries.cca.edu/sinel.html

This offers a brief biography of Sinel as well as links to other resources.

 

The Design Museum

http://designmuseum.org/discoverdesign/

This website is an interactive educational resource about design and creative problem solving.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/study-guide-art-deco/

This website offers links and resources related to the art deco style.

 

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Design, 1900-1925 and Design, 1925-1950

These thematic essays provide a thorough overview of design and decorative arts during the first half of the 20th century.

 

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/educator/modules/teachingthetwenties/

This resource provides lesson plans and resources for teaching about America during the 1920s.

 

History.com: The Roaring Twenties

http://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties#a0

This website explores a variety of aspects of the 1920s through text, photos, and video.

 

Interactive

 

The Brooklyn Museum: What Did the Jazz Age Look Like?

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/youth_beauty/?gclid=CM29v7qW4q4CFcVdTAod4XWeGg#!lb_uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brooklynmuseum.org%2Fexhibitions%2Fyouth_beauty%2Fpublic_interactive

Create a montage with popular photos of the Jazz Age.