written by:
April 17, 2014
This godfather of industrial design streamlined the look of midcentury America.
Raymond Loewy
Raymond Loewy

According to daughter Laurence Loewy, the stylish and talented designer liked "a stiff drink, a good smoke and a hearty laugh."

1 / 9
PRR S1 Locomotive for Pennsylvania Railroad
PRR S1 Locomotive for Pennsylvania Railroad (1939)

"It flashed by like a steel thunderbolt, the ground shaking under me, in a blast of air that almost sucked me into its whirlwind." Loewy’s description of this one-off locomotive he designed for the Pennsylvania Railroad company belies his talent for self-promotion. It also captures the excitement of this steel behemoth, a projectile at rest that’s more steampunk than anything Jules Verne could have imagined. Sadly, after debuting at the 1939 World’s fair, Loewy’s creation had a short career, retiring from the rails in the mid-’40s due to performance issues.

2 / 9
Studebaker Avanti
Studebaker Avanti (1963)

Italian for forward, the Avanti was created by Loewy and a team of designers during a 40-day crash course at the behest of Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert. Sporting a sleek look during a period of automotive overindulgence, the Avanti also boasted numerous safety features ahead of its time.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell, Creative Commons

3 / 9
Coke Bottles
Coca-Cola Products

According to the Coca-Cola company, Loewy did not redesign the contoured bottle created by the Root Glass Company in 1915, which he called “the most perfect ‘fluid wrapper’ of the day and one of the classics in packaging history.” He did, however, rework different versions of the bottle, as well as retool a variety of packing and promotional material for the soft drink giant, including soda fountains, coolers and delivery trucks.

Photo Credit: Toshiyuki IMAI, Creative Commons

4 / 9
Air Force One
Air Force One Livery(1962)

According to this Forbes article, Loewy told an Air Force general that the President’s plane had a terrible paint job, and an overhauled jet could become a symbol of the office. After collaborating with Kennedy, Loewy concocted a new, elegant color scheme that remains in use.

Photo Credit: Robert Huffstutter, Creative Commons

5 / 9
Skylab
Skylab (1973 )

Not content to design just Earth-bound modes of transportation, Loewy worked as a Habitability Consultant for NASA and helped bring design thinking into orbit with his plans for the Skylab interior. With flourishes big and small, including a triangular table to encourage non-hierarchical interactions between the three-person crew, he brought a human element to long-term space exploration.

Photo Credit: NASA

6 / 9
Pencil Sharpener
Pencil Sharpener (1933)

Looking like a ray gun from an early sci-fi serial, Loewy’s prototype pencil sharpener has been an icon for decades, memorialized (as depicted in the stamp above) as a teardrop-shaped catalyst for streamlined industrial design.

7 / 9
Greyhound Scenicruiser
Greyhound Scenicruiser (1954)

A midcentury highway icon, Loewy’s domed bus design gave thousands a more picturesque view of roadside America during a golden age of motorcoach travel.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell, Creative Commons

8 / 9
Coldspot Refrigerator
Coldspot Refrigerator (1934)

Loewy’s signature touch even added grace and style to home appliances, including this reboot of Sears’ classic refrigerator.

9 / 9
Raymond Loewy
Raymond Loewy

According to daughter Laurence Loewy, the stylish and talented designer liked "a stiff drink, a good smoke and a hearty laugh."

In 1951, industrial designer Raymond Loewy was so prolific, and so highly regarded by the captains of industry, that this humblebrag could go unchallenged: "The average person, leading a normal life, whether in the country, a village, a city, or a metropolis, is bound to be in daily contact with some of the things, services, or structures in which R.L.A [Raymond Loewy Associates] was a party during the design or planning stage."

Considering the then-boom in post-war consumer products, Loewy’s streamlined saturation of the American experience becomes all the more impressive. While industrial design icons such as Jonathan Ive or Phillipe Starck revolutionized a product category, or put their stamp on numerous industries, Loewy’s mark on everyday experiences across the spectrum of design has rarely been duplicated. How many people can, in the space of one career, say they created not only recognizable packages (Lucky Strike Cigarettes) and legendary logos (Shell and Exxon, to name two), but also completed a transportation trifecta with planes (Air Force One), trains (the PRR S1 Locomotive) and automobiles (Studebaker)?

The Parisian-born designer got his start designing window displays and doing fashion illustration for the likes of Macy’s and Vogue, before a chance commission to rework the Gestetner, a duplicating machine, established him as a up-and-coming industrial designer. His user-centric philosophy, MAYA (“most advanced yet acceptable”), which sought to balance radical advancement with the public’s level comfort, may explain why so much of his work was so well received.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
Two toddlers, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016