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Raymond Lowey

Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) designed many of the corporate logos and objects that became defining images of the period between the 1930s and the early 1960s, like the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the rounded Coke bottle and the classic "United UPA 100" jukebox from 1957. Born in France, he translated a distinctly European sense of style into dozens of American industrial objects and gave household appliances an almost unprecedented visual command within a space. A savvy businessman known for the "hard sell" approach, Loewy also realized that image is one of the most important facets in moving product and he paid great attention to both his personal appearance and that of his company. At the height of his career he had offices in America, London and France, and it was said that on the average, three out of four Americans would encounter his designs each day.

Loewy trained briefly as an engineer in France, before being called to fight in World War I. He moved to America in 1919 to pursue a career in graphic design, and, for most of his life he maintained houses in both countries. His first jobs were window dressing for Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue and illustrating fashion magazines. He established his own firm in 1930. Loewy's enduring tactic for design was to make products so visually seductive that consumers would feel the need to buy them. He was undeterred by the added challenge of trying to work during the Depression, managing to continually design objects that sold miraculously well. It was almost as though he were prematurely introducing the optimism and freewheeling consumption of the 1950s. Stylistically, he gave his objects an innate kinetic energy, designed in shapes that suggest motion like teardrops and bullets. He would add features like horizontal racing stripes to accentuate the theme of speed and movement. For his objects and furniture he used a great deal of chrome and bakelite in clean, mechanical forms. He simple maxim was that, "Good design keeps the user happy, the manufacturer in the black, and the esthete unoffended."

Major American corporations like Sears Roebuck, Coca-Cola, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and Studebaker hired Loewy to redesign their existing products and to design their forthcoming ones. For Sears he created the softly curved steel frame for the 1935 "Super Six Coldspot" refrigerator, and went on to design the next two versions, changing the exterior enough so that people would want to update their model yearly. He designed the "S-I" train for Pennsylvania, featured at the 1937 New York World's Fair, as well as their sleek "K45" locomotive. Loewy was responsible for Studebaker's 1947 "Champion," and the 1950 "Commander" with round edges and a subtle fin motif. He also designed buses for Greyhound and, contributed a prototype for a streamlined rocket ship to the New York World's Fair. In the late 1960s he was commissioned by NASA to create the interior for their Skylab space capsule.

A bold self-publicist, Loewy published his autobiography "Never Leave Well Enough Alone" in 1951. He recounted that his start in industrial design came when, at sixteen, he designed and sold a successful model airplane. Over the course of his career he combined presentation, functionality and spectacle to create an enduring image of the mid-century industrial designer.

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