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Marc Harrison photographs

1950-1999
 Collection
Accession: 2005-255

Abstract

Marc Harrison (1936-1998) was an industrial designer and pioneer of universal design. As a child, he experienced a traumatic brain injury during a sledding accident that required surgery and significant rehabilitation. Inclusivity and accessibility, therefore, played central roles in Harrison's personal life and career. The Marc Harrison photographs documents Harrison's career from the 1950s to the late-1990s, including various designs, product development, finished products, trade shows, and personal trips and events. The collection documents his tenure at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the various projects he completed through his design firm, Marc Harrison Associates. This collection's major companies and organizations well documented include the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the American Red Cross, the International Lead and Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO), Krups, Chemex, and Cuisinart. Researchers interested in industrial design, universal design philosophy, and the history of accessibility will find this collection useful.

Dates

  • 1950-1999

Creator

Extent

6.5 Linear Feet

Physical Description

494 photographic prints : b&w ; 11 x 14 in. or smaller. 764 photographic prints : color ; 11 x 14 in. or smaller. 320 slides : color; 35mm. 181 contact sheets : color ; 120mm or smaller. 114 contact sheets : b&w; 120mm or smaller. 3121 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 3236 negatives : color ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller.

Biographical Note

Marc Harrison (1936-1998) was an industrial designer and pioneer of universal design. He was born in New York on July 1, 1936. As a child, he experienced a traumatic brain injury during a sledding accident that required surgery and significant rehabilitation. Inclusivity and accessibility, therefore, played central roles in Harrison’s personal life and career.

Harrison graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1958 with a BFA in industrial design and continued his studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he received an MFA in 1959. Following his graduation from Cranbrook, Harrison completed some freelance work before getting hired at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he worked for the remainder of his life. At RISD, Harrison helped to establish the Division of Architecture and Design, taught several courses, and oversaw several student-faculty design projects.

In addition to his tenure at RISD, Harrison completed myriad design projects for companies, institutions, and individuals who contracted with his design firm, Marc Harrison Associates, based in Rhode Island. One of his earliest projects, circa 1967, was the redesign of turnstiles and exit gates for subway stations and commuter rails operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. Harrison and RISD students also worked extensively with the American Red Cross in the early 1970s to design mobile blood banks with adjustable equipment that could fit the needs of all blood donors. In the late 1970s, Harrison, RISD students, and the International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO) began planning and constructing the ILZRO House, a dwelling designed to be entirely wheelchair accessible.

Perhaps most notably, Harrison began working with Cuisinart in the late 1970s and was named the company’s principal designer in 1978. Harrison worked with many Cuisinart products during his time with the company, but he is best known for redesigning the food processor. The DLC-X and DLC-X PLUS food processor models, designed by Harrison, were more ergonomic and accessible than previous models and featured bold print, large controls, clear warning labels, and an ergonomic plug designed to fit the contours of the human hand. The redesigned appliance was included in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s installation “Design Since 1945,” which premiered in 1983. While at Cuisinart, Harrison also designed, photographed, and showcased products such as assorted cookware, a precision scale, a tea kettle, and cook’s knives.

Harrison was named Educator of the Year by the RISD Alumni Association in 1997 and also saw the opening of a new building on campus dedicated to industrial design. Harrison continued designing and working closely with RISD students until his death on September 22, 1998, caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive nervous system disease. He passed shortly before completing the “Universal Kitchen” project, a RISD student initiative featured at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s “Unlimited by Design” installation. His legacy is upheld in each of his designs and in the significant contributions he made to the field of industrial design.

Scope and Contents

Marc Harrison (1936-1998) was an industrial designer and pioneer of universal design. The Marc Harrison photographs documents Harrison’s career from the 1950s to the late-1990s, including various designs, product development, finished products, trade shows, and personal trips and events. The collection documents his tenure at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the various projects he completed through his design firm, Marc Harrison Associates.

Major companies and organizations that Harrison worked with that are well documented in this collection include the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the American Red Cross, the International Lead and Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO), Krups, Chemex, and Cuisinart.

The collection is organized into three series; Series I: Personal, Series II: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Series III: Design projects and partnerships. The series are each organized thematically and then chronologically.

The Personal series contains scenes of Harrison with friends and family, content from various trips, and a videocassette of lectures and events. The series also includes miscellaneous personal materials such as undated and unidentified personal and professional events.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) series documents Harrison’s tenure as a RISD professor, faculty member, and project leader. The series consists of two subseries: first, the Studio coursework and presentations subseries, and second, the International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO) House project subseries. The first subseries showcases the work of various RISD students and faculty and is largely centered on campus activities. The second subseries focuses specifically on the major ILZRO House project undertaken by Harrison and RISD students in the late 1970s.

The Design projects and partnerships series, the largest series in the collection, documents the various design projects Marc Harrison completed throughout his career, spanning from minor freelance projects to major national campaigns. The series consists of seven subseries: the Assorted projects subseries, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subseries, the American Red Cross subseries, the Chemex Corporation subseries, the Lightspeed graphic computer system subseries, the Krups Personal Heater/Cooling Fan subseries, and the Cuisinart subseries. The Cuisinart subseries is the largest subseries within the Design projects and partnerships series.

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Negatives (Boxes 8-13) are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at askhagley@hagley.org

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Materials

Marc Harrison papers (Accession 2193), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Marc Harrison photographs
Status:
Author:
Peyton Cleary
Date:
2022
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400