After finishing school as one of six women in a class of 106 men, including Charles Pollock and Louis DeRespinis, whom she’d later marry, DeRespinis began working on small appliances at Emerson Radio for fellow Pratt alum Monte Levin. Later, she spent eight years designing “everything from rugs and tableware to trade shows, graphics, and interiors” at George Nelson Associates, including an Abbott Laboratories exhibition on nerve growth factor at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the Glass Pavilion apartment in the landmark American National Exhibition in Moscow. As was customary in this era, credit for individual furniture pieces produced by the Nelson office was given solely to George Nelson—a practice that’s been reconsidered by license holders in recent years. Vitra now credits DeRespinis for the Eye and Spindle clocks, two recognizable designs originally produced by the Howard Miller Clock Company under Nelson’s and Irving Harper’s names.
Later, DeRespinis expanded her port-folio by freelancing with the advertising agency Sandgren & Murtha, where, in 1975, she created the now iconic orange-and-pink Dunkin’ Donuts branding. She also served as a designer for companies producing ceramics and tableware, including flatware for the airline industry. DeRespinis’s ahead-of-its-time, verging-on-postmodern lighting for Nessen Lighting (1960), raised-relief tile for Pomona Tile Manufacturing Company (1961), and MLLE Award for Mademoiselle magazine (1973) further testify to her range. “I developed a way of analyzing and mapping the problem,” she says about ping-ponging between disciplines. “I take a familiar figure, then use abstraction to develop a way of looking at the figure other than how you’re used to.”