Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Oral history interview with Niels Diffrient

Online Media

Catalog Data

Interviewee:
Diffrient, Niels  Search this
Interviewer:
McQuaid, Matilda, 1958-  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Cranbrook Academy of Art  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Bassett, Chuck  Search this
Dreyfuss, Henry, 1904-1972  Search this
Hernmarck, Helena, 1941-  Search this
King, Bob  Search this
Knoll, Florence, 1917-  Search this
Knoll, Hans  Search this
Loewy, Raymond  Search this
Magnusson, Carl G., 1940-  Search this
Rowland, David Lincoln, 1924-2010  Search this
Saarinen, Eero, 1910-1961  Search this
Saarinen, Eliel, 1873-1950  Search this
Whelan, Elizabeth  Search this
Wolf, Henry, 1852-1916  Search this
Extent:
55 Pages (Transcript)
4 Items (Sound recording: 4 sound files (2 hr., 58 min.), digital, wav)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Interviews
Sound recordings
Place:
Italy -- description and travel
Michigan -- Detroit -- Description and Travel
Mississippi -- Description and Travel
Date:
2010 July 28-August 31
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Niels Diffrient conducted 2010 July 28 and August 31, by Matilda McQuaid, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Diffrient's home and studio, in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Diffrient speaks of growing up in Detroit while spending his summers with his mother's family in Mississippi; the value of growing up on a farm; attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit; realizing that he did not want to work in a factory; learning about crafts at Cranbrook Academy; travelling to Italy on a Fulbright Grant; working with Italian versus American designers; designing office chairs; the state of education in America. Diffrient's wife, Helena Hernmarck, contributes to the discussion of craft, weaving, and textiles. Diffrient also recalls Hans and Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, Chuck Bassett, David Rowland, Henry Dreyfuss, Bob King, Carl Magnusson, Raymond Loewy, Henry Wolf, Elizabeth Whelan, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Niels Diffrient (1928-2013) is an industrial designer in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Matilda McQuaid (1958-) is deputy curatorial director, Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, New York.
General:
Originally recorded on 2 memory cards. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 58 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Occupation:
Industrial designers -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.diffri10
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-diffri10