Charles Harrison is a designer and educator specializing in industrial design. The primary portion of his career was spent working for Sears Roebuck & Company; first, as a freelancer in 1956, then as a staff designer beginning in 1961, and later as head of the company’s design department until he retired in 1993. A gifted designer, Harrison’s work touched most areas of household products from the AM-FM radio to tractors and everything in between. During his career he executed 700-plus designs, a significant number of which were highly successful.
Perhaps most iconic were Harrison’s redesign of the View-Master in 1958, and the first-of-its kind plastic refuse can designed in 1963.The View-Master, which Harrison designed for Sawyer Manufacturing Company in 1958, quickly moved from being a serious photographic instrument to becoming a sought-after toy, which achieved worldwide success. His timeless, intuitive design sold from the late 1950s until the late 1990s, with only minor color changes over its 40-plus-year lifespan. The product could be found in almost every U.S. household and throughout the world.
Similarly, Harrison’s design of the first polypropylene refuse can in 1963, and his subsequent redesign a short time later achieved lasting success. The cans were developed at a unique period during the maturation of plastics manufacturing, which afforded Harrison the opportunity to adopt an old standard into a new execution. His design of the rectangular refuse can with wheels is the foundational design for all of the refuse containers that line the alleys and streets of urban and suburban America today. These products expanded both technical and design possibilities winning several design patents and requiring creation of the largest blow molding equipment up to its time.
In addition to these iconic products, Harrison designed unique furniture items and suites while working with noted designer Henry Glass in 1957. He designed significant numbers of radios for RCA Victor and other brands and some unique products for Popeil Brothers, Inc. including the Dial-O-Matic while in the employ of Ed Klein & Associates. With his next employer, Bob Podall & Associates, his work included the design of numerous other products including the Lady Casco line of countertop appliances and the iconic ViewMaster. Harrison’s work at Podall’s also included management which, for a young African American executive at the venerable corporation. Subsequently, he worked withSears for 34 years. While there, he designed hundreds of successful products and won more than 20 patents for the merchandising giant. It is estimated that his contribution to the corporation was well over $1-billion. Among his designs were the first Japanese-made television to enter the U.S. marketplace, the patented fixture that allowed fluorescent lamps to be used in incandescent fixtures and over 100 sewing machines...