100th birthday of Industrial Designer…
Today marks the 100th birthday of industrial designer Don Albinson (1921–2008).
Don is perhaps best known as Charles Eames’ “right hand man.” He worked in the Eames Office from 1946 to 1959 and shared patent rights with Eames on over a dozen products. He designed the aluminum group chair, the dining chair with metal legs (DCM) and worked on several other iconic Eames designs.
Don started his own design studio in Los Angeles after he left the Eames Office. Among his clients were Saul Bass, Alexander Girard and Herman Miller. Eventually, Don accepted an offer from Knoll and served as the Design Director for the company from 1964 to 1971. He established the manufacturability of numerous Knoll designs during his tenure and collaborated with his team of in-house designers on their respective designs. His contributions ranged from engineering equipment and tooling to upholstery techniques. A stackable chair he designed in 1965 was very profitable for Knoll. After he left Knoll, Don designed several best-selling, highly successful chairs for other companies including office seating for Westinghouse and a stacking chair called the “Albi,” for Fixtures Furniture.
I first met Don in 2000. We had talked on the phone a couple of times before he invited to his home in Pennsylvania, not far from Knoll’s facility in East Greenville. Of course, I welcomed the opportunity to meet with him. Initially, I reached out to Don to talk about the DCM he designed for Eames. When I lived in Manhattan it was easy for me to drive out to see Don and his wife Nancy. Sometimes I stayed overnight. On those evenings, the three of us watched Jeopardy. During the days, Don and I sat at the kitchen table and talked about design…and all things Eames.
Happy Birthday Don! You’re still a great product designer.
Left to right: Unidentified, Don Richardson, Don Pettit, Bob Lemay, Max Pearson, Don Albinson (in light colored jacket), Bill Stephens, Bob Helms, Richard Hopkins, Richard Schultz, Ellsworth Raypine, Larry Hoff. Special thanks to Bob De Fuccio for helping me with identifications. Image courtesy of the Herbert Matter Papers, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.