Shop America: Mid-Century Storefront Design, 1938-1950

Shop America: Mid-Century Storefront Design, 1938-1950

Window shopping In postwar America, everything pointed to a bright, shiny future. Sheer optimism and opulence informed everything from automobile design to architecture, infusing design with larger-than-life planes and curves. Storefront design of the era is particularly indicative of this phenomenon, incarnated here in an extensive collection of hand-illustrated shop window designs from 1938 to 1950. These spectacular, often grandiose plans for grocery stores, shoe Buy Shop America: Mid-Century Storefront Design, 1938-1950 at Amazon

3 Responses to “Shop America: Mid-Century Storefront Design, 1938-1950”

  1. In the midst of the Great Depression, American Business adopted an American form of modernism that heralded a new age of technology and progress. This period of design history is sometimes called, “Machine Age”, “Streamline Modern” or “Midcentury Modern.” This belief in the spirit of progress can be seen in almost all American design of this period.

    “Shop America” adds to our understanding of the time by focusing on store front design. American glass companies produced beautifully illustrated catalogs that promoted the use of glass and modern building materials. These catalogs inspired architects and small business owners to create store fronts that embraced the progressive spirit of modernism.

    When many of us think of the 1940’s and 1950’s, we think of a conformist age best understood by old television shows like Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best. However, a book like “Shop America” also demonstrates that American business and consumers of the time were willing to adopt a bold modernist vision. Although the designs in these books are 50-60 years old, they are still very fresh and exciting.

    This book was produced by the German Publisher, Taschen. Like all Taschen books it is a very good value. It is a large format book with very high production values. This book is a must purchase for all enthusiasts of the period as well as for contemporary architects and designers. Highly recommended.

  2. Turn the pages of this fascinating book and you’re window shopping on Main Street in the late forties, plenty of consumer goods are just a touch away thanks to large glass windows. The essence of the book is more than ninety ideas for storefronts created by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. Each has an artists rendering, sometimes a technical detail or floor plan and technical information about the glass used.

    It is the exuberant artwork that makes the book come alive. They capture a mid-century of elegant shoppers seduced by Carrara glass and Aluminum. Virtually every store has an overall streamline design frequently mixing atomic motifs and the final individual touch is the name in a modern sans type or a casual script for a ladies retail unit. Strangely there is no actual reference to the Pittsburgh PGC or the artists though E A Lundberg has his signature on many of the illustrations.

    This is a large book (handsomely designed and printed) that fortunately makes all the wonderful renderings large too. In the first few pages Steve Heller contributes an overview of storefront design illustrated with black and white photos of real stores in large American cities. Predictably few of them are as flamboyant as the concept artwork in the glass-makers sales material.

    *** FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click ‘customer images’ under the cover.

  3. This book has some great illustrations, but I was disappointed to find mostly different elevational drawings with one fabulous color illustration for each project. I was hoping to find much more depth and maybe some photos of the actual shops with some stories of the shops themselves. Instead I found that this book was just “suggestions” of what could be with no factual details of if ANY of the stores were actually built! I’m sure if you are an architect this book is an invaluable resource. I’d love to see any these shops, which is why I am so disappointed to find nothing but drawings. If any of these shops or buildings still exist today the book does not hint at where you would be able to find them.

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