John Vassos first go the idea for his iconic 1929 book Phobia while visiting a friend at Shepard Pratt Hospital just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. His friend had suffered from a nervous breakdown, which caused Vassos to ponder the roots of mental suffering. At the hospital, Vassos met Harry Stack Sullivan, a prominent psychiatrist and the founder of interpersonal analysis, who consulted with him about the book and remained a life-long friend. Vassos's book tapped into America's growing love affair with Freud. Historian Ann Douglas notes that bohemians in particular gravitated to Freudianism, holding “Freuding parties” and analyzing each other, and cutting-edge theater and literature also featured Freudian themes.[i] 1500 copies of the book were published and all were signed by the author himself. In writing and illustrating the book, Vassos gained a foundational understanding of psychology that shaped his industrial design career in profound ways.
[i] Douglas, Terrible Honesty, 123–25.
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Danielle Shapiro, is a writer and author of the first biography of John Vassos, modernist Greek-American industrial designer - John Vassos: Industrial Design for Modern Life.