Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Charles Harrison Fought Racism to be a Designer

Charles Harrison (left) was an industrial designer at Sears, Roebuck & Company for more than three decades. One of the first African Americans to enter the design field, Harrison began working for Sears in 1961 and eventually became the company’s Chief Designer. He says at first he had to work on his own like a free-lancer because African Americans couldn't work side-by-side with white designers.

During his distinguished career, Harrison created an astonishing 750 products—from radios and sewing machines to hair dryers—for nearly every area of the home. Among his most iconic designs are the first-of-its-kind plastic garbage can (right), a lighter, more durable alternative to its metal counterpart; and a redesign of the now classic View-Master (far right).

In October 2008, Harrison became the first African-American to receive the Lifetime Achievement National Design Award by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Harrison currently teaches design at Columbia College in Chicago.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Charles Harrison.

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