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Remembering industrial designer and ID board member Robert Blaich

Blaich was a standout designer and pioneer of design management

By Andrew Connor

Robert Blaich, a celebrated industrial designer and former board member at IIT Institute of Design (ID), passed away in September of 2021 at the age of 91.

Robert Blaich and Charles Eames
Robert Blaich with Charles Eames (source: IDSA)

Blaich was a pioneer of design management who made an impact early in his 60-year career. In 1953 he began a decades-long tenure at Herman Miller during some of its most innovative and prolific years, working with legendary designers like Charles and Ray Eames; later he joined Philips (then Royal Philips Electronics) as senior managing director of design. 

Blaich himself was a luminary of industrial design, our Society, and community, whose impact was vast and deeply felt…[his] advocacy for the important role of industrial design in business and around the world inspired us all.
—Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)

As a design leader, Blaich sought to make design a larger force in business by incorporating design into production and marketing practices to create cohesive and compelling corporate identities. In 1991 he opened his own firm, Blaich Associates, which specialized in design management and strategy.

Blaich became a board member at the Institute of Design in 1995, when the board was first created by former board president Robert Pew

He was always active and engaged, and was especially helpful as we were thinking of alternative locations for the school after the move from LaSalle Boulevard. I viewed him as not just a great designer, but probably the best design manager ever.
—Robert Pew

In its online tribute to the late designer, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) details more of Blaich’s contributions.

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