It saddens RIT and the Industrial Design Department to note the passing of former ID Chair, Toby Thompson. In 1968, Toby was asked along side Craig McArt to start the RIT Industrial Design Department and was later appointed as one of the Chairman of the program. He retired from RIT in 1995 and moved to Sarasota, Florida to pursue his own personal work. Professor Thompson passed away on October 7th at the age of 79, after a battle with Angiosarcoma. The image below was the last message of one of Toby’s posts on Facebook. Thank you for everything you gave to RIT and our department, you will be missed.
“Toby was born in Kvinesdahl, Norway, emigrated to the US in 1934 and grew up in New York City. In 1950 he attended Brooklyn College and studied Liberal Arts. From 1952 to 1954 he was drafted into the US Army infantry and served in Berlin, Germany. He became a US citizen on Radio Free Europe. In 1954 he attended Fordham University, studying Liberal Arts. In 1955 he entered Syracuse University and graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Industrial Design (BID).
From 1956 to 1959 he formed a business partnership with fellow ex-GI, Miller/Thompson Design Associates. From 1960 to 1962 he was Design Director for Williamson Associates specializing in exhibit, interior and graphic design. From 1962 to 1968 he was principal of ES&J Art, Inc, a design office specializing in three-dimensional design, graphic communication and illustration.
From 1968 to 1975, he was partner, president and treasurer of Thompson + Cook Design Group, Inc. In 1968 he began his teaching career at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and was given the challenge of starting a degree-granting program in Industrial design. In 1975 he received a Masters degree in Fine Arts (MFA) from RIT. He was granted tenure and promoted to professor. From 1975 to 1996, Toby formed Design, Etc., a sole proprietorship consulting design firm. Clients included Kodak, Xerox, General Motors, Honeywell and many others. Projects included World’s Fair concepts for Montreal, New York and Seattle, dozens of international trade shows around the world.
Many completed projects received awards and were recorded in print in Omni, Elle, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. In 1985 he received the Kudos Award from the upstate New York Chapter of IDSA. The London BBC did a TV segment on his 1988 Olympic poster designs for Kodak.
In 1988 he was appointed Chairman of Industrial, Interior and Packaging Design at RIT, a position he held until his retirement in 1995 after 28 years of teaching, and received the title of Professor Emeritus.”
At RIT, we believe that industrial design education lies at the nexus of theory, process and practice. Industrial design is a human-centered discipline which requires an understanding of the complex relationships between culture and commerce. Our varied and experienced faculty expose our students to the history, context and state of the art while imparting the skills necessary to compete as contemporary designers.
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