The classic phone design used in 250m homes

Design Moment: Bell Model 302 telephone, 1937

Henry Dreyfuss’s Model 302  set the template for decades of what a telephone was supposed to look like

Henry Dreyfuss’s Model 302 set the template for decades of what a telephone was supposed to look like

a
 

Henry Dreyfuss (1904-72) was one of the United States’ most influential industrial designers of the 20th century. As well as being immensely practical – functionality was key for him – and productive, he was a design theorist.

His book The Measure of Man (1960) shows how he studied the human body to make his products more usable – he was ahead of his time in his understanding of ergonomics. In the 1930s he was commissioned by Bell to design a telephone. His Model 302, which was rolled out across the AT&T phone system in the US, in many ways set the template for decades of what a telephone was supposed to look like.

Satisfying click

It had a square base and a handset with ear and mouthpiece that sat in a cradle with a satisfying click. A dial for numbers dominated the front of the base. While working on his design he dressed as an AT&T repairman so he could visit homes, to see what problems consumers were encountering with their existing phones.

Originally, 302s were made in black-painted metal until shortages during the second World Ward saw it being made in heavy plastic. It is estimated that by the 1950s, when the 302 was replaced with an updated design, 250 million had been sold.

a
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.