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Noel Mayo

Philadelphia native industrial designer Noel Mayo is the owner and president of Noel Mayo Associates, Inc., the first African American industrial design firm in the United States, whose clients include NASA, IBM, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Black and Decker, the Museum of American Jewish History and the Philadelphia International Airport.

Mayo was the first black graduate to receive a B.S. degree in Industrial Design from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1960. He later became chairperson of this department, making him the first African American chairperson of an industrial design program in the United States. He held that post for eleven years and was awarded an honorary D.F.A. degree from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1981.

Mayo has been a regularly published writer magazines and journals such as Innovation, The Wall Street Journal, and The Minority Business Journal. He has been a speaker at various international design symposiums and serves on the boards of numerous professional organizations. He was named the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Art and Design Technology in 1989 at Ohio State University where he taught product, interior and graphic design. Noel advocates alternative methods for education, accelerated learning and information distribution using new technologies and has a personal interest in developing synergistic learning products that include music, color, light and psychology. He has been instrumental in establishing various mentoring programs for minorities and establishing a directory of minority professionals in industrial, graphic, interior and architectural design.

Accession Number

A2002.186

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/5/2002

Last Name

Mayo

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Sunnycrest Farm for Negro Boys

University of the Arts

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Noel

Birth City, State, Country

Orange

HM ID

MAY03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

12/30/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Columbus

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Falafel

Short Description

Industrial designer and design professor Noel Mayo (1937 - ) is the owner and president of Noel Mayo Associates, Inc., the first African American industrial design firm in the United States. Mayo was also the first African American to receive a B.S.degree in industrial design. Mayo was instrumental in establishing various mentoring programs for minorities.

Employment

Noel Mayo Associates

Philadelphia College of Art

Ohio State University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Noel Mayo's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Noel Mayo lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Noel Mayo talks about his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Noel Mayo talks about his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Noel Mayo talks about his middle school years

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Noel Mayo describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Noel Mayo talks about Mrs. Valentine, an influential grade school teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Noel Mayo talks about his activities as a youth

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Noel Mayo talks about becoming an industrial designer

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Noel Mayo describes his industrial design firm, Noel Mayo Associates, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Noel Mayo describes an exhibit in Casablanca, Morocco

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Noel Mayo describes his design philosophy and his partnership with Lutron Electronics

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Noel Mayo talks about the general public's unawareness about industrial design

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Noel Mayo talks about the ubiquity of industrial design

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Noel Mayo talks about logo design and famous logos

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Noel Mayo talks about the Organization of Black Designers and his efforts to document the work of black designers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Noel Mayo talks about a design challenge and his design process

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Noel Mayo talks about the importance of adding cultural diversity to the design world

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Noel Mayo talks about his aesthetic, the home office furniture system, and his design displays

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Noel Mayo talks about racial discrimination in the design business and HistoryMaker Charles Harrison

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Noel Mayo talks about the challenge of getting clients

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Noel Mayo talks about lighting and color

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Noel Mayo describes the power of the color

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Noel Mayo talks about the impact of typeface

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Noel Mayo talks about his hopes as an industrial designer

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Noel Mayo talks about designs with long-lasting and widespread impact

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Noel Mayo reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Noel Mayo describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Noel Mayo talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Noel Mayo talks about becoming an industrial designer
Noel Mayo talks about the challenge of getting clients
Transcript
So when you were ready for high school graduation, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do--$$Uh-huh.$$--Or had you done enough art where you thought you learned enough?$$Well, in working on this effort to get a portfolio together for the scholarship, the high school instructor asked us to write a term paper on a subject that we were interested in, a part of which we didn't know anything about. I was working my way through high school, delivering art supplies for those cities the largest art store to ad agencies and art directors all in the city, center city. And the owner of the art store would let me take any new book home that I wanted, long as I brought it back undamaged and so I could go through any book, the library didn't even have these. And I would take them home every week. And I knew about illustration and painting and sculpture and lithography and all of that. And I discovered this one little area called industrial design. So as a result the requirement on the term paper was that you had to interview three people in the field and do the history of the area, whatever the subject was. So I discovered the field, interviewed three professionals who were practicing in the city, decided that's what I wanted to do when I went to college. By the time I finished the term paper, I got an "A" on it and I got the scholarship. I interviewed the head of the program at the college as one of my people. And went into the major, much to the chagrin of my family, because they said "how many negro designers are there?" and I said "I have no idea." So they went to the college and said we want to talk to the dean and want you to tell this young man how many people have graduated in this program who are African American, at that point negro. And he said, none. And they said, how many tried. And he said only two in the history of the program. One flunked out and one quit. So I said what's that got to do with me. I didn't understand it. And they said well, you know, are there any jobs, and the dean said well, I don't know, never had anybody graduate. So at any point, I decided to take it. I wound up being an "A" student in it. And because I had done the term paper, I knew more than most of the faculty about the history of industrial design, and pursued that from that point on. I wound up working the summer of my junior year for the head of the department with one of the faculty from the program, and the two owners decided to go off to--one went to Europe to--Bill Sclaroff (ph.) was a top designer, went off to Europe to marry a German girl and his partner, my faculty head, went to Europe on a project in Algeria, and said, here's the office--I'm a junior in college, here's the clients that are gonna to be calling, just take care of it. I didn't know anything. The faculty member who was working with me said this is insane and he quit, left me with the office, the checkbooks, everything, and I wound up taking on projects by myself, hiring other students and paying them and paying projects through. And it was a successful summer. I actually made money. So that was my kind of introduction in junior year to the field, first hand. And then after graduation, I went to work for the office, and that's the firm I own today [Noel Mayo Associates, Inc.].$I was talking about getting clients is part of the challenge for any designer and in particular for minority designers, finding, getting access to publicity and that sort of thing is one the critical issues because the typical journals do not publish photographs of the designer, they'll use the designer's name. Architects are saying they also have that problem, black architects typically get most of their work through competitive bid for city state or federal dollars where there--it's not an old boy network, they can actually bid and have a better chance. There is a firm in Columbus [Ohio] called Moody Nolan that is--Moody and Nolan are both African American. One's an architect from OSU [Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio] and the other is an engineer, and they have grown a business of over a hundred employees to the point where they're not on minority bid lists, they go straight after major contracts from major companies around the country. And to my surprise 98 percent of their employees are white, you know, they're there, but hiring and finding blacks who come into the business, they just haven't been able to do as well. So that's another kind of issue. At one point my firm [Noel Mayo Associates, Inc.] was predominantly white, because I couldn't find black kids. If they're really good, I wanted them to get as far as they could and if they could go in a major corporation, I thought that would be better. In more recent years, I've tried to focus on bringing in minority people who are talented. Tony Ute(ph.) in the other room is from Cameroon, and he got his masters under me at Ohio State and I hired him, he's just terrific talent. We're looking at kind of planning issues for community groups, for profit groups, where you can go in and say this is a concept for a hotel that'll make it more successful than the traditional hotel. And we can design the entire thing.