Obituary: Robert Blaich
– September 14, 2021
Bob Blaich passed away on September 14 after a lengthy battle with cancer. His family held a private funeral service followed by a family memorial service on Monday, September 20th.
Bob was a well-known figure in the international design world during the period from the 1980’s through the end of the first decade of this century when he retired.
As Vice President of Corporate Design and Herman Miller, producer of iconic furniture and systems for 15 years, where design was the driver of all corporate functions, Bob recognized that unlike Herman Miller, most corporations considered design a minor, last minute service after all the important decisions had been made.
In 1980 he joined Philips electronics, the huge multinational Dutch Electronics Corporation as Senior Director of Design. He saw that the design function in a corporation that produced and sold everything that could be plugged into a socket and was active in more than 60 countries needed to be reordered in order to compete with the growing competition from Japan. Overseeing more than 20 design offices worldwide, he quickly worked to set what became the world standard for corporate design. He unified the sprawling design offices into a unified function and concurrently worked to position design within Philips as a core competency in partnership with research, engineering and marketing.
Professional business and design organizations internationally recruited him to lecture, often referring to him as the “Father of Design Management”. He was honored with an honorary doctorate degree in the Arts by his alma mater, Syracuse University, and was awarded the Order of Orange of Nassau (knighthood) of the Netherlands by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix for his contribution to Dutch Industry. He received numerous awards from professional design organizations for his contribution to design on a global basis.
He moved to Aspen in 1992 with his wife, Jan, and established Blaich Associates, consulting with corporations such as Proctor and Gamble, McDonalds, Texas Instruments, and Steelcase on the role of design management. He became chair of Teague Design, the primary design firm for all aircraft at Boeing.
In Aspen he was a member and chair of Planning and Zoning for eight years, and most recently served on HPC as member and Vice Chair until January of this year. He was an Ambassador in the first group formed by the Ski Corporation and was fond of noting his ski experiences in Aspen as dating from 1948 when he first came to Aspen with his high school ski team. He was an active member of Rotary and Christ Episcopal Church.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jan; sons Jed , David and Jamie; daughters-in-law Nancy, Susan and Carlene; grandsons Cameron and Kyle and two great grandchildren.