Raymond Loewy

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Raymond Loewy
Raymond Loewy LOC.png
Raymond Loewy in 1950
Born(1893-11-05)November 5, 1893
Paris, France
DiedJuly 14, 1986(1986-07-14) (aged 92)
Resting place Rochefort-en-Yvelines Cemetery, Rambouillet, France
CitizenshipFrance, United States
Education University of Paris
OccupationIndustrial Designer
Years active1909–1980
Notable work
Spouse(s)Jean Thompson Bienfait [1]
(m. 1931–1945; divorced)
Viola Erickson
(m. 1948–1986; his death)
ChildrenLaurence Loewy
(b:1953 d:2008)
Website raymondloewy.com

Raymond Loewy ( /ˈli/ LOH-ee, French: [ʁɛmɔ̃levi] ; [2] November 5, 1893 – July 14, 1986) was a French-born American industrial designer who achieved fame for the magnitude of his design efforts across a variety of industries. He was recognized for this by Time magazine and featured on its cover on October 31, 1949. [3]


He spent most of his professional career in the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1938. Among his designs were the Shell, Exxon, TWA and the former BP logos, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus interior, Coca-Cola vending machines and bottle redesign, [4] the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators, the Studebaker Avanti and Champion, and the Air Force One livery. He was engaged by equipment manufacturer International Harvester [5] to overhaul its entire product line, and his team also assisted competitor Allis-Chalmers. [6] He undertook numerous railroad designs, including the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1, S-1, and T1 locomotives, the color scheme and Eagle motif for the first streamliners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and a number of lesser known color scheme and car interior designs for other railroads. His career spanned seven decades.

The press referred to Loewy as The Man Who Shaped America, The Father of Streamlining and The Father of Industrial Design. [7]

Early life

Loewy was born in Paris in 1893, the son of Maximilian Loewy, a Jewish journalist from Austria, and a French mother, Marie Labalme. Loewy distinguished himself early with the design of a successful model aircraft, which won the Gordon Bennett Cup for model airplanes in 1908. [8] By the following year, he had commercial sales of the plane, named the Ayrel.

He graduated in 1910 from the University of Paris. [9] He continued his studies in advanced engineering at Ecole Duvignau de Lanneau in Paris, but stopped his studies early to serve in World War I, eventually graduating after the war in 1918. [9]

Loewy served in the French army during World War I (1914–1918), [9] attaining the rank of captain. He was wounded in combat and received the Croix de guerre. After the war he moved to New York, where he arrived in September 1919.[ citation needed ]


Early work

In Loewy's early years in the United States, he lived in New York and found work as a window designer for department stores, including Macy's, Wanamaker's and Saks in addition to working as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar . In 1929, he received his first industrial-design commission to contemporize the appearance of a duplicating machine by Gestetner. Further commissions followed, including work for Westinghouse, the Hupp Motor Company (the Hupmobile styling), and styling the Coldspot refrigerator [10] for Sears-Roebuck. It was this product that established his reputation as an industrial designer. He opened a London office in the mid-1930s that continues to operate. [11]

Pennsylvania Railroad

in the early 1930s, Loewy did comprehensive design work for the Pennsylvania Railroad in providing a deeply modern Art Moderne design for the railroad's flagship electric locomotive, the GG1. The engines would operate into the 1980s under a variety of paint schemes, some of them reflecting ownership changes, and one of them - 4935 - would be restored to its original appearance all the way down to paint colors. He designed other passenger locomotives for the firm, including a streamlined shroud for K4s Pacific #3768 to haul the newly redesigned 1938 Broadway Limited. He followed by styling the experimental S1 locomotive, as well as the T1 class. In 1940, he designed a simplified version of the streamlined shroud for another four K4s. In 1942, he designed the streamlined shroud for the experimental duplex engine Q1 which was his last work of streamlining PRR's steam engine.

In 1946, at the Pennsylvania Railroad's request, he restyled Baldwin's diesels with a distinctive "sharknose" reminiscent of the T1. He also designed the experimental steam turbine engine V1 "Triplex" for PRR which was never built. While he did not design the famous GG1 electric locomotive, he improved its appearance with welded rather than riveted construction, and he added a pinstripe paint scheme to highlight its smooth contours.

In addition to locomotive design, Loewy's studios provided many designs for the Pennsylvania Railroad, including stations, passenger-car interiors, and advertising materials. By 1949, Loewy employed 143 designers, architects, and draftsmen. His business partners were A. Baker Barnhart, William Snaith, and John Breen. [12]


Raymond Loewy's 1930s era Studebaker logo Studebakerlogo1940s.png
Raymond Loewy's 1930s era Studebaker logo
Raymond Loewy's ambigram logo New Man Ambigram New Man logo metal button on a shirt animated gif.gif
Raymond Loewy's ambigram logo New Man

Loewy had a long and fruitful relationship with American car maker Studebaker. Studebaker first retained Loewy and Associates and Helen Dryden as design consultants in 1936 [14] :[p.247] and in 1939 Loewy began work with the principal designer Virgil Exner. [14] [15] Their designs first began appearing with the late-1930s Studebakers. Loewy also designed a new logo to replace the "turning wheel" that had been the Studebaker trademark since 1912. [14]

During World War II, American government restrictions on in-house design departments at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler prevented official work on civilian automobiles. Because Loewy's firm was independent of the fourth-largest automobile producer in America, no such restrictions applied. This permitted Studebaker to launch the first all-new postwar automobile in 1947, two years ahead of the "Big Three." His team developed an advanced design featuring flush-front fenders and clean rearward lines. The Loewy staff, headed by Exner, also created the Starlight body, which featured a rear-window system that wrapped 180° around the rear seat.

In addition to the iconic bullet-nosed Studebakers of 1950 and 1951, the team created the 1953 Studebaker line, highlighted by the Starliner and Starlight coupes. (Publicly credited to Loewy, they were actually the work of Robert Bourke. [16] )

The Starlight has consistently ranked as one of the best-designed cars of the 1950s in lists compiled since by Collectible Automobile, Car and Driver , and Motor Trend . The '53 Starliner, recognized today as "one of the most beautiful cars ever made", [17] [ not specific enough to verify ] was radical in appearance, as radical in its way as the 1934 Airflow. However, it was beset by production problems. [17]

To brand the new line, Loewy also contemporized Studebaker's logo again by applying the "Lazy S" element. His final commission of the 1950s for Studebaker was the transformation of the Starlight and Starliner coupes into the Hawk series for the 1956 model year.

In the spring of 1961, Studebaker's new president, Sherwood Egbert, recalled Loewy to design the Avanti. Egbert hired him to help energize Studebaker's soon-to-be-released line of 1963 passenger cars to attract younger buyers.

Despite the short 40-day schedule allowed to produce a finished design and scale model, Loewy agreed to take the job. He recruited a team consisting of experienced designers, including former Loewy employees John Ebstein; Bob Andrews; and Tom Kellogg, a young student from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The team worked in a house leased for the purpose in Palm Springs, California. (Loewy also had a home in Palm Springs that he designed himself. [18] ) Each team member had a role. Andrews and Kellogg handled sketching, Ebstein oversaw the project, and Loewy was the creative director and offered advice.


Air Force One livery, designed by Loewy according to the typeface, color and other preferences of President Kennedy, who was advised on the scheme by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Air Force One SAM 27000.jpg
Air Force One livery, designed by Loewy according to the typeface, color and other preferences of President Kennedy, who was advised on the scheme by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy

Raymond Loewy worked for NASA from 1967 to 1973 [19] as a Habitability Consultant for design of the Skylab space station, launched in 1973. [20] One of NASA's goals in hiring him was to improve the psychology, safety, and comfort of manned spacecraft. [19] Due to long duration confinement in limited interior space in micro-g with almost non-existing variability in environment, the comfort and well-being of the crew through the use of aesthetics played high importance. Loewy suggested a number of improvements to the layout, such as the implementation of a wardroom, where the crew could eat and work together, the wardroom window, the dining table and the color design, among others. A key feature of Raymond Loewy's design for the sleep compartments was that the floor plan for each of the three was different to create a sense of individual identity for each compartment. Elements of the crew quarters included sleep restraints, storage lockers, privacy partitions, lighting, a light baffle, privacy curtains, mirrors, towel holders and a communication box. [21] The table was designed by Loewy in order to avoid creating hierarchical positions for crew members during long missions. Food was eaten using forks, knives and spoons, which were held in place on the table by magnets. Liquids were drunk from squeezable plastic containers. [21] [22]

International Harvester

The International Harvester company was a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, light and heavy duty trucks, construction equipment and appliances. In 1935 it engaged Loewy to overhaul the product line, from the company's logo to operator ergonomics. The first new machine to reflect Loewy's design aesthetic, a crawler tractor known as the International TD-18, [23] was launched in 1938. [5]


For the 1958 model year, Loewy was engaged to style the Canadian Cockshutt Plow Company's new line of agricultural tractors in the squared-off style that was becoming popular.The Cockshutt 540, 550, 560 and 570 models were all styled by Loewy. [24]


Raymond Loewy's designers influenced the design of Allis-Chalmers crawler tractors. [6] The tractors were described as having stylish panelwork with curvaceous lines. [6]

Personal life, death and legacy

Loewy's first marriage was to Jean Thomson, which ended in divorce. [25] Jean Thomson remained employed by the Loewy firm after the marriage ended. [25]

In 1980, Loewy retired at the age of 87 and returned to his native France.

He died in his Monte Carlo residence on July 14, 1986. [25] He was raised a Roman Catholic and was buried in the cemetery of a Catholic church [26] in Rochefort-en-Yvelines, [27] a village located 40 km south-west of Paris, where he owned a rural home named La Cense. [28] [29] He was survived by his wife Viola (née Erickson), and their daughter Laurence. [25]


In 1992, Viola and Laurence Loewy, with the support of British American Tobacco, established the Raymond Loewy Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. The foundation was established to preserve the memory of Raymond Loewy and promote the discipline of industrial design. An annual award of €50,000 is granted to outstanding designers, in recognition of their lifetime achievements. Notable grantees include Karl Lagerfeld, Philippe Starck and Dieter Rams.

Design philosophy

In 1998, Loewy's daughter, Laurence, established Loewy Design in Atlanta, Georgia, to manage her father's continued interests in the United States. In 2006, the Loewy Gallery [30] opened in Roanoke, Virginia through the supportive efforts of the O. Winston Link Museum, the local business community, and art patrons Laurence Loewy, David Hagerman, and Ross Stansfield. Laurence died of natural causes October 15, 2008, and is survived by her husband David Hagerman. Hagerman is the representative for the Estate of Raymond Loewy, which remains dedicated to reintroducing Loewy's design philosophy of MAYA, or "most advanced, yet acceptable", [31] to a new generation, through design exhibitions, publications, and documentaries. In October 2017, the documentary, "Raymond Loewy: designer of American dreams", originally conceived by Laurence Loewy, premiered to Paris audiences. The film has aired on the French Arte channel. [32]

Google doodle

On November 5, 2013, Loewy was honored with a Google Doodle depicting a streamlined locomotive bearing a resemblance to the shroud design of K4s Pacific #3768, using the wheels of the train to form the word Google. [33]

Loewy designs

Published books

See also

Related Research Articles

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  2. Duden – Das Aussprachewörterbuch (in German) (8 ed.). Berlin: Dudenverlag. 2015. ISBN   978-3-411-05508-1.
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  4. "The History Behind the Coca-Cola Bottle". The Coca-Cola Company. Archived from the original on August 19, 2019. Retrieved October 20, 2019. When King and Family sized packaging were introduced in 1955, Raymond Loewy was part of the team that worked to recast the bottle but still keep the proper proportions.
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  40. "Designed to Travel; Curating Relics of T.W.A. As It Prepares for Departure". The New York Times . June 7, 2001.
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Further reading