Mel Byars
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Mel Byars

Mel Byars (born in Columbia, South Carolina), is an American design historian.

Byars studied journalism in the 1950s at the University of South Carolina.[1][2] He subsequently settled in New York City[3] and eventually became active as an art director or creative director for a number of publishers, such as Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill, and for advertising agencies, including Leber Katz Partners (subsumed into Foote, Cone & Belding, the world's second oldest advertising agency, founded 1873). In the early 1980s, he studied anthropology under Stanley Diamond (1921-1991) in the master's-degree program of The New School for Social Research. And, previously there, he was enrolled in the School of Media Studies.

A decade later, he turned to the history of applied art/industrial design and served as the archivist of the Thérèse Bonney Photography Collection (images of 1925-35 French decorative arts and other subjects) in New York's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and has been a major donor of 20th-century objects to the museum's permanent collection.[4] He has made other donations to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (Um?leckopr?myslová museum v Praze),[5]Israel Museum,[6]Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and Columbia Museum of Art.[7]

Byars has taught at Pratt Institute and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City and Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and Holon Institute of Technology in Israel[8] and at others as well as lectured widely[9] while remaining active in the advertising sector. Since May 2017, he writes a column for Elephant art and culture magazine.[10][11]


Byars's most significant work is the second edition (2004) of The Design Encyclopedia, which won the Besterman/McColvin Gold Medal for the best reference book of 2004 from the British Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.[12][13] When active in graphic design earlier in his career, he won a number of awards, including from the Art Directors Club of New York and had works published in various books such as 100 Years of Dance Posters[14] and Dance Posters.[15]

In addition to The Design Encyclopedia, other literary works include more than a dozen books, essays for various design-exhibition catalogs, book introductions and articles for I.D., Beaux Arts, Clear, Echoes, Graphis,[16][17]form, and other periodicals. A number of the books have been translated into Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Hebrew[18]


  • "What Makes American Design American?", introduction in reprint, R.L. Leonard and C.A. Glassgold, eds., Mocern American Design by the American Union of Decorative Artists & Craftsmen, New York: Ives Washburn, 1930 (reprint New York: Acanthus, 1992) | ISBN 0-926494-01-5
  • Introduction in Bo?ek ?ípek: blízkost dálky, architektura a design = the nearness of far, architecture and design, exhibition cat., Amsterdam: Steltman, 1993, in English, Czech, and Japanese | ASIN B000J3L54S
  • The Design Encyclopedia, New York: John Wiley, 1994 | ISBN 0-471-02455-4
  • 50 Chairs: Innovations in Design Materials (Introduction by Alexander von Vegesack), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 1996 | ISBN 0-8230-6505-7
  • 50 Lights: Innovations in Design and Materials (Introduction by Paola Antonelli), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 1997 | ISBN 2-88046-265-7
  • Tropical Modern: The Designs of Fernando and Humberto Campana, Mel Byars, ed., et al., New York: Acanthus Press, 1998 | ISBN 9780926494183
  • 50 Tables: Innovations in Design and Materials (Introduction by Sylvain Dubuisson), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 1998 | ISBN 2-88046-311-4
  • 50 Products: Innovation in Design and Materials (Introduction by David Revere McFadden), New York: Watson-Guptill, 1998 | ISBN 0-8230-6794-7
  • 100 Designs/100 Years: A Celebration of the 20th Century (with Arlette Barré-Despond), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 1999 | ISBN 2-88046-442-0
  • 50 Sport Wares. Innovations in Design and Materials (Introduction by Aaron Betsky), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 1999 | ISBN 2-88046-418-8
  • On/Off: New Electronic Products, New York: Universe Books, and Kempen: teNeues, 2001 | ISBN 0-7893-0648-4
  • 50 Beds: Innovations in Design and Materials (Introduction by Brice d'Antras), Hove, UK: RotoVision, 2001 | ISBN 2-88046-449-8
  • Design in Steel, London: Laurence King, 2003 | ISBN 1-85669-313-9
  • The Design Encyclopedia (Foreword by Terence Riley), New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004 | ISBN 0-87070-012-X
  • New Chairs: Innovations in Design, Technology, and Materials, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, and London: Laurence King, 2006 | ISBN 0-8118-5364-0
  • Improvisation: New Israeli Design ( - ), Tel Aviv: The Haim Rubin Tel Aviv University Press, 2007 (in Hebrew) | ISBN 978-965-7241-28-8

See also


External links

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