Happy Throwback Thursday! Today we’re throwing it back to 2015 with our exhibition Silver to Steel, which celebrated the modern designs of Pittsburgh’s own Peter Muller-Munk.
Born in Berlin, Muller-Munk emigrated to New York in 1926 and briefly made silver for Tiffany & Co. before opening his own silver studio. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburgh to teach design at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University). The product design consultancy Muller-Munk founded in 1938 became one of the top consultancies in the nation.
Muller-Munk believed that good design was for everyone and everything. His products were everywhere.
The Normandie pitcher was a breakthrough for the young designer Peter Muller-Munk, as he pivoted from luxury silversmithing to designs for more affordable products. The pitcher’s name and its shape were inspired by the SS Normandie, a French ocean liner that generated lots of buzz and excitement in New York with the arrival of its maiden voyage on June 3, 1935. More 200,000 New Yorkers stood along the harbor and atop buildings to catch a glimpse of the modern ship.
Revere Copper and Brass Company, where Muller-Munk worked at the time, promoted the two-quart, chromium-plated copper pitcher with its popular giftware for brides. One ad proclaimed, “It’s streamlined, shiny—and it pours too!”
In 1957, Schick hired Peter Muller-Munk to redesign its entire line of electric shavers. The company had recently experimented with market segmentation with the introduction of the Lady Schick, hinting to its male customers: “give her one of these and she’ll never borrow yours again.”
Muller-Munk’s firm revised the top men’s and lady’s models and helped Schick introduce a new shaver for the young men in the family—the Varsity—so that they could stop borrowing dad’s, too.
If you ever felt the urge to twirl with your sweeper while wearing pumps—vintage television style—this was the chance!
Peter Muller-Munk redesigned everything from sweepers to packaging to trade show displays for the Grand Rapids company Bissell Incorporated. For our 2015 exhibition Silver to Steel, we recreated a colorful Bissell display from 1962. When a company executive visited with the most recent sweeper model, curator Rachel Delphia couldn’t resist.
Design is an attitude. It is not just an aphrodisiac. It’s bread and butter, and sometimes, jam.