An Ode to Freda Diamond
Freda Diamond sits on the floor of a living room amongst an assortment of her designs. Photo courtesy: http://www.goantiques.com/designer-for-everybody-595715
Though you may have never heard of her, there is a good chance you’ve handled some of her designs. A 1954 issue of Life magazine stated that Freda Diamond (1905 – 1998) had, “probably done more to get simple, well-styled furnishings into every room of the average U.S. home than any other designer.” Diamond built her career as an advocate for high-quality low cost design that met the needs of consumers. The daughter of a New York City costume designer, Diamond studied decorative designs at the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union and then worked for William Baumgarten, a top New York furniture store. Looking to do more “real work,” Diamond set up her own design consultancy firm in 1930. In the late 1930s Diamond designed furniture for companies such as Herman Miller. In 1942 she and Virginia Hamill were hired by Libbey Glass as the company attempted to diversify its design team in order to meet the demands of a changing consumer market.
Freda Diamond (right) handles some of her glassware designs for Libbey. Image Courtesy: Freda Diamond Collection, 1945-1984, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
At Libbey, she thrived as a designer who created products that met the functional and aesthetic needs of the middle class. She continued working at Libbey throughout her life, taking on a mentor role towards the end of her career. When she retired in 1988, her client list included Sears, Roebuck, Lighttolier, General Electric, Herman Miller G. Fox & Company and Los Angeles’s May Company. Her work is held at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and many more.
Two golden foliage tumblers designed by Freda Diamond and produced by the Libbey Glass Company. Photo courtesy: http://libbeyhistory.com/Catalogs/1963glamorous.pdf
As I write this, I am holding a small bronze tumbler designed by Freda Diamond. Her Golden Foliage pattern tumblers (above) have become ubiquitous. The pattern was one of the longest selling designs at Libbey lasting from 1957 to 1981. Maybe some of you recognize her iconic work.
Diamond was a persistent advocate creating high-end designs that were affordable and functional. She believed that good design encouraged sales and played a pivotal in shaping middle-class modernism in post- World War II America. Fundamentally, Diamond was an advocate for the middle-class consumer and believed she had a responsibility to meet the needs of consumers.
By Carrie Greif, WPAMC Class of 2019