NEW YORK — What do such disparate cultural icons as the Chrysler Building, the Dunkin' Donuts logo and Big Bird have in common?
They were all created by alumni of New York's Pratt Institute. To mark its 125th birthday, the renowned college of art, design and architecture is showing off 125 world-famous designs by its students and faculty throughout the years. The private Brooklyn institution is kicking off the celebration with a gala Oct. 15 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, designed in 1929 by — who else — another Pratt alumnus.
The school was founded on Oct. 17, 1887, by businessman and philanthropist Charles Pratt, whose petroleum refinery merged with Standard Oil. Fifteen hundred students were enrolled at the end of the first year. Today, 4,700 undergraduate and graduate students studying painting, print-making, sculpture, illustration, architecture and industrial, interior and graphic designs attend the 25-acre campus that has grown to include 27 buildings in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.
Pratt's vision was to create an "institution that would broadly educate people to be producers and creators in society," who could also make a living at their professions, said Pratt President Thomas F. Schutte, who has led the school for nearly 20 years.
The 125 designs will be on public view Nov. 30-Jan. 19 at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery. Among the visionaries they represent are leading American painters Ellsworth Kelly and Arthur Wesley Dow, writer and satirical cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Heisman Memorial Trophy sculptor Frank Eliscu and Scrabble inventor Alfred Mosher Butts.
Below are 10 of the designs that have become part of our cultural psyche:
— 1955 Two-seater Ford Motor Thunderbird. Industrial design alumnus William Boyer was the lead designer on this car, the first luxury car to be manufactured in the United States. More than two million models have been sold.
— The Dunkin' Donuts logo. Lucia DeRespinis, an alumna and faculty member of the school's industrial design department, came up with the logo in 1980 using her 5-year-old daughter's favorite colors — pink and orange. She suggested the cushy-looking font to evoke a doughnut.
— The Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The New York City art deco landmark was designed in 1929 by Lloyd Morgan.
— Betsy Johnson. The fashion designer was a fine arts major at Pratt. She is celebrated for her sexy and whimsical silhouettes.
— The Glass House. The national historic landmark was designed by architect and Pratt faculty member Philip Johnson., known for his innovative use of materials and seamless integration into the landscape. The Glass House, built in 1949, was Johnson's residence in New Canaan, Conn. It's considered one of the most famous houses in the country.
— Big Bird. Kermit Love, a fine arts faculty member, was a costume designer who designed, developed and constructed the Sesame Street character in 1969. He also helped design several of the television show's other lovable characters including Mr. Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster.
— The Chrysler Building. The art deco landmark was designed by architect William Van Alen. Built in 1930, it's lauded for its tapering spire and curvilinear lines. It's considered one of New York City's most beautiful skyscrapers.
— RCA television. David Sarnoff, an engineering alumnus, was president of RCA and an early investor in the development of television when this set was designed. It was first introduced at the 1939 World's Fair.
— Shrek animation characters. Tim Cheung, a computer graphics alumnus, led the computer-animation team in 2001 that earned "Shrek" an Academy Award for best animated feature. Former digital arts department faculty member Rob O'Neill worked on the digital character development of the film's hit sequel, "Shrek 2."
— U.S. Department of Transportation Symbol Signs, 1974. The American Institute of Graphic Arts asked graphic design alumnus Roger Cook and his partner Don Shanosky to design a set of 34 internationally recognizable pictograms that were ultimately adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation to guide users of public spaces. Cook received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1984 for the signage. It part of the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
Pratt Institute: http://125.pratt.edu