Do you still remember the first time you drank Coca-Cola? The bottle with a soft shape existed in your memory for a long time. The bottle that refers to energy, passion and creation, was designed by Raymond Loewy. From the crest of the John F. Kennedy’s presidential plane to the Greyhound, Raymond Loewy’s design will never fade in the industrial design field.
Raymond Loewy, the most famous industrial designer in 20th century, combined streamlined design and European functional modern design and also built his unique design art. He literally revolutionized the industry; working as a consultant for more than 200 companies and creating hundreds of product that refer to different fields; from cigarette packs and refrigerators, to cars and spacecrafts (Gorman, 2003). Almost every industrial designer will be inspired by Loewy’s works. Whether Americans are aware of it or not, they are living in Raymond Loewy’s world.
Raymond Loewy was born in 1893 in Paris. He grew up in Paris and had big interests in the rapid succession of the automobile, the air plane, the phonograph, and the telephone (Endt, 1990). At age seventeen, Loewy enrolled in a pre-engineering school, an experience that prepared him for the technical aspects of an industrial design career. After World War I, Loewy immigrated to the United States in 1919 and began to seek for his early dream (Raymond Loewy archive, 2001).
Loewy’s creative genius was innate, and his effect on the industry was immediate. He pursued the streamline and simplify concept, namely “the process beauty through function and simplification (Loewy, 1952)”. At that time, no one thought that these words would become the most famous and most important concept of industrial design for more than half century.
In 1929, Loewy took the first contract relative to his engineered knowledge and went into industrial design field. In this contract, the Gestetner Company wanted Loewy to redesign the Gestetner Copying Machine. The work had a limited time and was quite difficult because it included improving the appearance in three days and making its form follow function. Loewy designed a removable case that can cover its machine part, and he also changed its crank, the shape of table-board and used “the four slender, but solid support” (Arthur, 1990) instead the old ones. Loewy’s design transformed the product from an “ugly and awkward” (Arthur, 1990) collection of mechanisms into a piece of office furniture. Loewy used ergonomics and aesthetic concept in his industrial design, making the copier to increase in sales. In the process, his copier design began to help launch a profession that has changed the look of America.
Loewy drove the streamlined movement in design field. He made his every design streamlined and simplified. The most famous streamlined designs include GG1 and S1 engine, Coca-Cola bottle, space station and Greyhound bus. Eighty years later, people are still using Loewy’s designs. At the same time, junior designers are studying Loewy’s works and using his style to design better products.
While Loewy established his reputation as an industrial designer, he boosted his profession by showing the practical benefits to be derived from the application of functional styling. He advocated the concept of using design to promote marketing and came up with the idea that functional design would be great help for marketing. He thought “the most beautiful curve is a rising sales graph” (Loewy, 1949), therefore, he emphasized that design is not for being unconventional but for selling a product.
During the Great Depression of United States, good design and business began to connect, and Loewy’s career also developed very quickly. He used design to give products irresistible charm and made those people who didn’t have the desire to purchase goods become his customers.
One of the first major successful products for sale is the Coldspot refrigerator in 1934. In that task, Loewy designed a new appearance for the refrigerator. The great circle and arc shapes that were used by the refrigerators made an integrated body, which made it looks modified and lively. The wasted space under the refrigerator was transformed into additional storage (Arthur, 1990). The modern art styling and functional improvements of the refrigerator were welcomed in the market, with the result that sales doubled in the first year. This progress laid the basis of the modern refrigerator. This model made Coldspot’s annual sales reach 65,000 and then rose to an unheard volume of 275,000 units (Arthur, 1990).
After the Coldspot refrigerators, streamlined products became consumers’ purchasing intention. Until now, the influence of its style still exists; meanwhile, most of modern refrigerators are using the Coldspot refrigerator’s model as their basic model.
As the creator of streamlined style, Loewy made this style become more popular in his later projects. In 1936, Loewy’s design of the Pennsylvania GG – 1 Diesel Locomotive, was another example of functional design, demonstrated on an even larger scale the efficacy of industrial design. Loewy separated the outer shell of the product from its internal mechanisms and accomplished it by butt-welding steel plates into a one-piece shell that could be lowered over the wheeled chassis with its component energy and operated systems (Arthur, 1990). He also eliminated tens of thousands of rivets, and used welding technology and the manufactured powered enclosure to make its surface completely smooth and simplified the maintenance process, which reduced the production cost (Browder, 2013). This design of the Pennsylvania GG – 1 Diesel Locomotive changed the face of American railroading.
Launched in 1886, Coca-Cola became so successful by its deliciousness and its inspiring shape of bottle. As the designer of the bottle, Loewy gave the bottle more subtle, gentler curve. The Coca-Cola bottle had all the qualities of engineering excellence and timeless style (Bayley, 1990). “Coca-Cola is a symbol of the dynamic economy. It is not surprising that Raymond Loewy sought to be identified with it” (Kobler, 1949). The slenderized coke bottle shape also became a symbol of American culture.
Loewy’s business designs made a huge success and brought huge profits for those companies he had served. Loewy summarized his design philosophy as the MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle and spread it in all his creations (Lichtenstein, 1990). In 1949, Time put his portrait on its cover. His head was encircled by an aureole of his most important designs; beneath is the sentence:”he streamlines the sales curve.” In his 70-year career, compact, practical and active works poured from Loewy’s office.
Like the entire famous industrial designer in that time, inevitably, Loewy got in touch with car design. Benefited by his inspiration and hard work, Loewy made big contribution to the car industry.
In 1930, Lowey was employed by the Hupp Motors as a senior adviser. Loewy was convinced that this contract “was the beginning of industrial design as a legitimate profession. For the first time a large corporation accepted the idea of getting outside advice in the development of their products” (Loewy, 1951). Since then, Loewy and American carmakers had started to work a long and quite bumpy journey and made a great contribution to process of car design at the end.
Before the gasoline economy system became the world focus, Loewy advocated his idea of lowering the car body and making car shape thinner to produce fuel-efficient cars. He also drew the tilted windshield, embedded headlights and tyres into his car design to make the cars lighter than before. “He waged a long war against the worst extravagances of Detroit styling,” commented Times,“he has the ability to do this, after a few small changes, it makes the ugly production becomes a unique beautiful thing in the world” (Smith, 1949).
In 1961, during the design of Avanti car, Loewy put forward his thought that weight is the enemy. Under his working hard to Hupp, Avanti car didn’t use the radiator grille in its body. Loewy put all he had studied into this project, after nearly ten years in which he had made no great contribution to the fortunes of the south bend firm (Sacco, 1990). Although far away from the Detroit design style, many of Loewy’s design works, such as the 1953 Studebaker Starliner Coupe and 1963 Avanti, once they showed their head, the redesign tails of Studebaker car put fresh wind in the car industry.
Until today, those cars are still classics in car design history. In the big three best car poll in 1972, Loewy’s 1953 Studebaker were ranked as one of the most beautiful cars ever made by many US specialists. Automotive news announced: “The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time.” (Automobilemag, 2009).
Apart from his achievement in motor-dom, Loewy is undoubtedly one of the most talented commercial artists in the world.
Loewy worked for the Macy’s department store in the New York Fifth Avenue with its fashion display window when he reached America in 1919. He also made some illustration designs for Vogue and Harper’s. At that moment Loewy was famous in fashion industry with his unique art style.
In the ’40 s, he began to undertake product packaging and corporate image design because of a bet. For a long time, Lucky Strike cigarettes used green and red hue in its packaging. In 1940, the American tobacco company bosses wagered Loewy $50,000 that he couldn’t change its familiar image. Loewy accepted the challenge. He changed the green background to white to reduce the printing cost. Then he printed the Lucky Strike logo on both sides of the cigarette packets, making the whole cigarette case more striking. The new packaging made a huge success because this new image was used by the company for more than 40 years.
When Loewy redesigned the company logo for Shell, he made some renovation to continuation its original concept but more visual retention and higher index. Up to now, the logo of Shell still the one designed by Loewy.
The logo designs of Loewy have strong visual shock that can give people a deep impression even just a glance. To these days, those successful designs such as Exxon Mobil, Greyhound bus, and Nabisco Cookies attracting people’s attention with their unique visual wallop that people will never forget.
Loewy’s design career lasted until he was 80 years old. Loewy worked in multidisciplinary design which includes product design, car design, graphic design and also interior design of the space station. His designs have leaded the fashion of modern designs until the present day. As the founder of American industrial design, his life goes with the U.S. industrial design development from the start, to the peak and the decline. It is no exaggeration that Loewy’s life is a brief history of American industrial design.
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