Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Richard S. Latham Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MK
Date: Mar 1978

Biographical History

Richard Latham (1920-1991) was an American industrial designer.

Latham was born in Kansas City and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. His first job was as an industrial designer for Montgomery Ward. During the war he worked for a model shop building models and mockups of military products, including the first instrument panels for radar and for jet fighters. In 1945 he took a position with the Chicago office of Raymond Loewy, where he entered the then-new field of corporate imaging and branding, designing a complete "look" (packaging, logos, advertising, etc.) for clients ranging from International Harvester to Frigidaire to meat-packing giant Armour.

Latham eventually became Director of Design for Loewy's Chicago office, but in 1955 he left to open Latham, Tyler, and Jensen. The new firm focused on product planning, which was at the time a relatively new field. Their first large client was General Electric's Major Appliance Group in Louisville; later they added GE's consumer electronics group. The company was successful to open a branch office in Denmark.

In 1965 Latham became President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Designers, whose members societies come from 40 countries; in this position he travelled, lectured, and met with designers from all over the world. Speaking a few years later, he said:

What has become a prominent question in my mind is, "Is all this design necessary or literally are all these things necessary?" I've been told that the design staff at General Motors as of 1969 is 1,700 men...[and] that in 1969...the four major television companies will completely restyle their product lines, in effect duplicating each others product...The question that occurs to me is are all of these exact copies of each other necessary, and finally, the question is, "is an Early American television set necessary?"...If LTJ had not pursued the planning philosophy I probably wouldn't be asking myself these kind of questions, but rather concentrating on the next client and all the next things that we should design whether the world needs them or not.

In 1970 Latham opened Richard S. Latham & Associates, Inc. He became design advisor for Bang & Olufsen of Denmark, and for Land's End, which he helped found. Shortly after his retirement, Latham said:

I find I have not changed my opinion of the fundamental rights and wrongs attendant to the practice of my profession and the succeeding years seem to have demonstrated the inherent problems of "marketing too many" low quality products to ordinary citizens; "junk food" has become a part of the American language in that time period, and the excesses of high pressure marketing and low quality products and service have come to be understood at every walk of life in the USA today.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from the biographical sketch on the IDSA's website, and the autobiographical essay in the collection. Quotes are taken from the essay in the collection.]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Richard Latham Papers are arranged in five categories.

Financial papers consists of invoices canceled over a four year period. Client correspondence refers to correspondence with Latham's business clients; among the companies represented are Archer Daniels Midland, Blackhawk Manufacturing, Celotex Corporation, Chicago Tribune, Culligan, General Electric, Hammond Organ, Kuehne Manufacturing, Playskool, Simplicity, and U.S. Steel. General correspondence contains correspondence to various persons concerning non-business topics. Expense files contains material relating to business and personal expenses, 1966-1968. Diaries discuss Latham's trip to the Berlin Fair in 1962.

Arrangement of the Collection

Financial papers are subdivided by year into four series (1965-1968 inclusive); within that material is arranged alphabetically. Client correspondence is arranged alphabetically. General correspondence, expense files, and diaries are arranged chronologically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has numerous collections of individuals and organizations in the field of industrial design. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Latham, Richard S.


Industrial design -- United States.
Industrial designers -- United States.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Richard S. Latham Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents


Clients correspondence

General correspondence

Expense files