Archie Kaplan / New Dimensions
Archie Kaplan (1917- 2008)
Archie was born in Connecticut, but spent his adult life in New York. He had no formal design training. He dropped out of Brooklyn College to open his own school school. During high school and college he taught drafting, math, and similar subjects at trade schools -- "night tutoring schools" in his words – and that's the kind of school he opened. The school closed while he was in the Army.
He was stationed on Okinawa during the war, and said he was influenced by Japanese architecture and landscaping.
When he returned home after the war he opened another school, but decided to close it and go in a different direction.
Designed for Moderns was his next venture. The company's name was changed to New Dimensions. Sol Bloom also designed for the company. Although it's sometimes unclear who designed what for the company, all the photos in this post are by Archie Kaplan.
This is from Playboy magazine. What, you didn't know iron was the way to get the ladies?
Even though the the company only lasted a few years, it received much notoriety, including selection in the MOMA Good Design exhibitions. Like many of the small companies that started post-war, it just wasn't making enough money.
After Designed for Moderns, Archie freelanced for a while – furniture, and designs such as a store display for artificial flowers.
More notably, in 1956, he designed an exhibit for Life which had its debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was called Illuminations: Fifty Great Painting and the Sistine Chapel. The exhibit was color transparencies of the paintings, and the big deal was that (with the exception of the Sistine Chapel ceiling) the transparencies were the size of the actual pictures. In 1956, a lot of people, even people who cared about art, had never seen important pictures except in small illustrations. He worked on this with another designer. After the New York opening, the exhibit toured the country.
After the freelance period he went to work for a business called Designs for Business, run by some childhood friends, last name Mogulescu. (Maurice, I think, was one of the brothers.) They'd realized that in the post-war business boom, there was a need for office design. After a few years of that, he left and started his own office-design business, Environment Planning. He kept Environment Planning until he retired, around 2000.
He started teaching at Parsons in in the 1950s, in departments called Industrial Design, Interior Design, and, later Environmental Design. Then, in the early 90s he started teaching at F.I.T. After teaching generations of designers, he taught his last class in 2004.
I'd like to thank Archie's daughter, Kate Kaplan for sharing her father's story and photos.