Browsing through Raymond Loewy’s CV, one could almost be led to believe he had designed the actual surface of the earth. Perhaps a little exaggerated, but it’s not without reason he has been called the father of modern-day industrial design.
Raymond Loewy designed locomotives when locomotives needed to become streamlined, cars for the somewhat avant-garde US marque Studebaker and interiors for NASA’s space stations. He has made logos for multiple international companies such as Lucky Strike, BP, Shell, TWA and he even created the iconic bottle design for Coca Cola. He has penned Air Force One’s paint scheme, designed the cutlery for the Concorde and he also became the first designer to get his face on the front page of Time Magazine.
Loewy set out to improve the world. He rode on the wave of modernist design which began in the roaring twenties and continued through to the seventies until it finally faded out. He was one of the first designers to shape everyday life and use these ideas in a world where the grand global companies increasingly found themselves on a roll as they expanded exponentially.
Born in Paris, France in 1893, Raymond Loewy travelled to America after World War I, where he stayed and performed his work until he chose to retire to Europe at the ripe age of 87 years in 1980. He died in 1986 in Monte Carlo.
Loewy’s car design was first and foremost a simplification of the development we had seen thus far from American shores. He was not educated in car design and found Detroit’s car factories frustrating. He did, however, have a close working relationship with Studebaker for several years, but he always managed to keep a certain distance and remained independent for most of his life.
Jalopnik came up with a nice review of Loewy’s car design some years ago, which can be seen here.
To be entirely honest, Loewy’s strong side does not seem to have been car design. It is a discipline which he did not fully master. Granted, the Avanti is quite intriguing and the Studebaker Starlight is a thoroughly beautiful car, but even so I just don’t feel Loewy’s hand was blessed when it came to car design. His sense for other products, on the other hand, was unique and in these fields he is definitely one of history’s giants.
“I believe one should design for the advantage of the largest mass of people, first and always.”