Design Magic

by | May 27, 2022 | History

There was always something kind of magical about the industrial design work at Mel Boldt and Associates. Growing up in the 1970s as Mel Boldt’s granddaughter, I’d see designers’ renderings of washing machines, kitchen ranges, record players and stereo speakers and I was certain I was looking at photographs. The chrome trim reflected light, the wood grain was precisely patterned, the shadows were perfectly cast. But then, if I looked really closely, I’d notice the bleed of a marker’s edge, the line of a pencil, the dust from a white chalk highlight. I was always amazed to realize these were drawings and I was astonished by their precision and the skill it took to make these renderings of appliances and electronics look so real. When I was a kid, I thought my grandfather was creating all the magical drawings, but this year, thanks to my cousin Rob, who has brought Mel Boldt and Associates back into business, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know some of the designers who worked for my grandfather back then and hear their stories about what it was like to work at what was one of the most successful industrial design firms from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Every good company has a good story behind it and the new Mel Boldt and Associates’ president Jay Tinen, who worked for my grandfather in the late 70s, helped me track down several former MBA designers to ask them what it was like envisioning the look of appliances and electronics for major companies including Zenith, Presto, and Amana and then seeing their designs in homes and stores across the country and sometimes worldwide.

I had a fabulous time reminiscing with these folks about the roles they all had in design’s mid-century modern movement and how their work filled homes in the convenience-minded era. People everywhere were making coffee in their Presto percolator, whipping up dinner in a Presto Burger hamburger cooker and eating it in front of a Zenith TV — all designed by Mel Boldt and Associates. The company’s designs are so iconic that they are often used by Hollywood to anchor 1960’s and 1970’s settings. I spotted a Mel Boldt and Associates’ designed Zenith Panorama TV, featuring its distinctive curved console, while watching the 2021 film The Eyes of Tammy Faye starring Jessica Chastain.

The former MBA designers told me what it was like first working with pastels, then markers and ultimately the computers that transformed the industry all while dominating the industrial design market and seeing their products in stores, hotels and stadiums everywhere.

And the secret weapon that made them stand out from the competition was the very thing I noticed as a kid: their precise, photographic quality renderings.

“When I saw work done by other studios, it’s not that they weren’t good drawings, but they weren’t as photographic,” said Bill Cesaroni, who worked for Mel Boldt and Associates from 1971 to 1976 and later went on to start his own industrial design firm Cesaroni and Associates. “You could read a Mel Boldt rendering from across a room because of the clarity and preciseness of the rendering, where other designers rendered in a much more sketchy, loosey-goosey manner.”

We turned their reminiscences into a series of videos about the heritage of Mel Boldt and Associates that we are excited to share with you here. We hope you enjoy learning about their roles in mid-century industrial design as much as we did and we look forward to showing you what the new Mel Boldt and Associates can do.

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About The Author

Stacey Alatzas is a journalist, author and social media consultant. She is the granddaughter of Mel Boldt, who started Mel Boldt and Associates in 1952. 

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