It's styled by Helen Dryden : the fine art of good taste
In the throes of the Great Depression the struggling automobile manufacturer Studebaker made the extraordinary decision to hire a woman to design their new model. The woman Studebaker hired was Helen Dryden, a New York based artist with an international reputation as a style authority and an arbiter of good taste. Through a combination of artistic talent, privileged upbringing, and sheer luck Helen Dryden forged a successful career as a commercial artist and became one of the founders of the industrial design profession. This dissertation explores the complex intersection of art and consumerism, and the ways in which this intersection helped and hindered efforts by women to establish careers as commercial artists in America during the interwar years. During this period the boundaries between fine art and commercial art temporarily relaxed, encouraging experimentation and facilitating the rise of the industrial design profession. This dissertation traces the inevitable consolidation of the industrial design profession through the lens of Helen Dryden’s colorful career. Known primarily for her magazine illustrations and theatrical costume designs the extent of Dryden’s role at Studebaker is contested. However, archival evidence corroborates Dryden’s position as a vanguard of industrial design. This dissertation reconstructs Dryden’s biography in an effort to understand why she was forgotten and to uncover new avenues for exploring the history of design. Her work sheds new light on the formation of industrial design as a profession by countering gendered stereotypes and revealing the limited conditions under which a woman could succeed.