Loewy, Raymond, 1893-1986

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1893-11-05
Death 1986-07-14
Americans
English, French, German

Biographical notes:

Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) was an American industrial designer noted for his streamlined style found on hundreds of products, such as Lucky Strike packaging, the Studebaker Starliner, and locomotives on the Pennysylvania RR.

From the guide to the Raymond Loewy Studebaker Photographs, 1947, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Industrial designer. Full name: Raymond Fernand Loewy. Born in France; emigrated to the United States in 1919.

From the description of Raymond Loewy papers, 1929-1988 (bulk 1960-1976). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70983199

Industrial Designer. Born Paris, France, November 8, 1893/ Loewy initially studied electrical engineering, and by 1909, he has designed and sold a successful airplane model. He immigrated to the United States in 1919 and became a naturalized citizen in 1938. Loewy began working as a freelance window display designer for Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue, and as an illustrator for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and others, from 1919.

From the description of Raymond Loewy papers, mid-1940s-early 1960s. (Smithsonian Institution Libraries). WorldCat record id: 39134673

Raymond Loewy was born in Paris on November 5, 1893. He was the third son of Maximillian and Marie (Labalme) Loewy and grew up in a bourgeois household. As a boy, he developed an interest in transportation and machines. 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 distinguished service in World War I, Loewy emigrated to the United States in 1919, hoping to find work at General Electric. He settled in New York City and for the next decade had a varied career as a fashion illustrator, window dresser, and costume designer, but primarily as a commercial artist, specifically an advertising illustrator. His clients included Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, the White Star Line, and Renault, and his images appeared in Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue. Advertising illustration made Loewy a well-paid professional, but his real interest was in industrial design.

In 1929 Loewy received his first significant product design commission from Sigmund Gestetner, an Englishman who was seeking to modernize the look of his mimeograph machine. Loewy encased the machine's working parts inside a sleek, modern-looking shell and sales were dramatically increased. This project launched Loewy on his new career of industrial design. During the early 1930s, Loewy also worked for Westinghouse and the Hupp Motor Company, where he designed the prize-winning Hupmobile. His major breakthrough came in 1934 when he received the opportunity to redesign the Sears Coldspot refrigerator, and signed a contract with the Pennsylvania Railroad that launched a two-decade relationship with the "Standard Railroad of the World."

Loewy's work for the Pennsy did much to establish his reputation as the leading figure in the century's most noteworthy American design style: streamlining. His streamlined locomotives and passenger car interiors came to symbolize machine age modernism, a look that defined his body of work and industrial design during the interwar years. His interiors, designed for ships of the Panama Lines, Lord & Taylor department stores, and the Missouri Pacific Eagle railcar were stylish and comfortable. Loewy's "Transportation of Tomorrow" exhibit at the Chrysler Motors Pavilion at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair included a streamlined taxi, liner, car and trucks, as well as a rocket ship that would travel between New York and London.

Loewy reached his peak in the post-war decades when his office focused on the American consumer and the suburbs. His company expanded to its greatest dimensions at mid-century. It had hundreds of contracts with a wide array of consumer product companies for which Loewy and his associates designed home appliances, bottles, kitchen utensils, living room furniture, dinette sets, dishware, silverware, food and beverage packaging, radios, television, and stereo systems. By this time the Loewy firm employed a large staff of designers, but it was the Raymond Loewy name that attracted clients. During this period Loewy's partner William Snaith (1908-1974) and the firm's in-house architects designed shopping centers, department stores, hotels, and supermarkets.

Loewy opened his first international office in London in the mid-1930s. The firm designed petrol pumps and scales for the Avery Hardoll company and automobiles for the Rootes group, and various packaging and appliances The London office was closed in 1939 due to World War II, but was reopened in 1947. He formed Compagnie de L'Esthetique Industrielle (CEI), in Paris, in 1952. CEI, a separate operation from the New York office, had been established to bring American-style industrial design to Europe. The office produced designs such as the Elna sewing machine, Le Creuset cookware, the Concorde for Air France, and various projects for Shell (such as corporate identity, gas attendant uniforms, and gas stations).

Transportation, particularly automobiles, was always one of Loewy's passions. After his design of the Hupmobile in the early 1930s, Loewy began work for Studebaker in 1936. His first project for Studebaker was the re-styling of the body of the 1938 President. A year later, the Champion was introduced, and both models boosted the company's image. The postwar Studebakers, particularly the 1947 Champion Regal Deluxe and the 1953 Regal Starlight coupe, had a strong influence on automotive design. Loewy's innovative design of the Avanti in 1962 was widely acclaimed.

Loewy's firm worked on a number of projects for the public sector, including habitability studies for the Navy, and trademark and identity programs for the Coast Guard, the Post Office, and other federal agencies. In 1962, Loewy redesigned Air Force One for President John F. Kennedy, changing the lettering and color scheme on the exterior, and redesigning the interior. Loewy believed that his most significant project for the government was his work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). From 1967 to 1973 Loewy was retained by NASA as a habitability consultant for the Saturn, Apollo and Skylab projects. His recommendations for Skylab included the inclusion of a window through which the astronauts could view earth, as well as proposals for the comfort and privacy of crew members.

In November 1973, Loewy traveled to the Soviet Union to negotiate an industrial design contract with Licensintoge, a government agency, and the All Union Research Institute of Industrial Design. This was an effort to assist the Soviet Union in an attempt to create consumer goods that could compete successfully in American and Western European markets, and to expand the Soviet capacity in industrial design.. Loewy and the Soviets signed a multi-year agreement calling for scientific and design technology collaboration. In 1975, a five-year agreement between the U.S.S.R. and Raymond Loewy, International, Inc., USA was signed that broadened the original pact to include transportation design. Loewy was actively involved with the design of the proposed Moskvich automobile, but it was never produced.

Loewy's experiment with the Soviet Union marked the end of his industrial design career. Financial difficulties had beset the firm in the early 1970s and in 1975, Loewy attempted to stave off the monetary problems by merging all of his corporations into a firm called Raymond Loewy International. The following year, he and Viola (his wife) had sold their shares in that business, and by 1977 Raymond Loewy International declared bankruptcy. The Loewys moved to France and entered retirement. In 1979 his book Industrial Design: Raymond Loewy was published and a portfolio of lithographs of some of his best-known designs were released. Loewy died on July 14, 1986 in Monaco at age 92.

Loewy's life was chronicled in magazines and newspapers. His homes, particularly Tierra Caliente in Palm Springs, appeared in numerous architecture publications. In 1931 he married Jean Thompson, who was a partner in the design firm and played an important role in his early successes. They were amicably divorced in 1946. He married Viola Erickson (1922-1995) in December 1948. During their marriage, she played an increasingly significant role in managing company operations. Their daughter, Laurence Loewy (born 1953), is the CEO of Loewy Design, a firm that is reintroducing Raymond Loewy's designs to a new generation.

From the description of Archive, 1903-1982. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122648739

Biographical Note and Business Chronology

  • 1893, Nov. 5: Born, Paris, France
  • 1910: Graduated, University of Paris, Paris, France
  • 1914 - 1918 : Captain, Corps of Engineers, Fifth French Army, France
  • 1918: Graduated, Ecole de Lanneau, Paris, France
  • 1919: Emigrated to United States
  • 1919 - 1929 : Fashion illustrator, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Wanamaker's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bonwit Teller
  • 1929: Established industrial design office Redesigned Gestetner mimeograph machine Art director, Westinghouse Electrical Co.
  • 1931: Married Jean Thomson (divorced 1945)
  • 1931 - 1934 : Designed Hupmobile, Hupp Motor Co.
  • 1932 - 1935 : Redesigned Coldspot refrigerator, Sears, Roebuck and Co.
  • 1935 - 1939 : Opened first London, England, office
  • 1937 - 1943 : Designed locomotives, Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1938: Became citizen of the United States
  • 1942: Redesigned Lucky Strike cigarettes package
  • 1944: Cofounded Society of Industrial Designers (later IDSA) Established Raymond Loewy Associates with A. Baker Barnhart, Jean Thomson Loewy, Jack Breen, and William Snaith
  • circa 1945: Opened offices in Chicago, Ill., South Bend, Ind., and Los Angeles, Calif.
  • 1946: Designed Greyhound Scenicruiser bus
  • 1947: Designed Coca-Cola dispenser Designed Champion car, Studebaker Corp.
  • 1948: Married Viola Erickson
  • 1948 - 1951 : Opened second London, England office
  • 1949: Incorporated the Raymond Loewy Corp.
  • 1951: Published Never Leave Well Enough Alone (New York: Simon and Schuster. 377 pp.)
  • 1956: Incorporation of the Raymond Loewy Corp. amended as Raymond Loewy and William Snaith, Inc., with William Snaith as managing partner
  • 1961: Established Raymond Loewy/William Snaith, Inc., and Raymond Loewy/William Snaith Associates, Inc., with William Snaith as president and Raymond Loewy as chairman of the board Established Compagnie de l'Esthetique Industrielle, Paris, France
  • 1962: Designed Avanti car, Studebaker Corp.
  • 1964: Established Market Concepts, Inc., subsidiary for confidential research operations
  • 1966: Developed Exxon Corp. name and logo
  • 1967: Merged Raymond Loewy/William Snaith Associates, Chicago, Inc., with Raymond Loewy/William Snaith Associates, Inc.
  • 1967 - 1973 : Habitability consultant, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Skylab project
  • 1969: Opened third office, London, England
  • 1972: Designed Fairchild-Hiller Safety Car, Fairchild-Hiller, Inc.
  • 1974: Death of William Snaith; Loewy firms near bankruptcy
  • 1975: Established Raymond Loewy International by merging all coexisting corporations
  • 1976: Sold Raymond Loewy International to Sheridan Funding Corp. Established Museum Administration and Planning Services, Inc. (MAPS) as a subsidiary Opened office, Atlanta, Ga.
  • 1977: Raymond Loewy International declared bankruptcy Industrial design operations sold to former employee, David Butler, to form Lister and Butler, Inc. Function and Vision, Inc., organized as debtor in possession to handle liquidation of Raymond Loewy International
  • 1977: Established Sheridan Associates specializing in interior design
  • 1986, July 14: Died, Monte Carlo, Monaco

From the guide to the Raymond Loewy Papers, 1929-1988, (bulk 1960-1976), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

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Subjects:

  • Brand name products
  • Locomotives--Design
  • Trademarks--Design
  • Industrial design
  • GG 1 (Electric locomotive)
  • Hupp automobile
  • Tupolev 144 (Jet transport)
  • Streamlined ships
  • Plastic tableware--Design
  • Advertisement
  • Hydrofoil boats
  • Industrial designers
  • Streamlining
  • Tableware--Design
  • Supermarkets--Design
  • Streamlined Moderne
  • Service stations--Design
  • Eagle (Express train)
  • Jeffersonian (Express train)
  • Restaurants--Design
  • Packaging
  • BarcaLounger chairs
  • Melamine plastic tableware
  • Lucky strike cigarettes
  • Airplanes--Design
  • Studebaker automobile
  • Interior decoration
  • Industrial design--Exhibitions
  • Department stores--Design
  • Greyhound buses
  • Streamlined trains
  • Lincoln automobile
  • Railroad stations--Design
  • Air Force One (Presidential aircraft)
  • Industrial design--France
  • Aunt Jemima (Advertising icon)
  • Cartoons (Humorous images)
  • Industrial design--Great Britain
  • Logos (Philosophy)--Design
  • Broadway Limited (Express train)
  • Avanti automobile
  • Coldspot refrigerators
  • Wall coverings--Design
  • Shopping centers--Design
  • Corporate image--Design
  • Architecture
  • Industrial design coordination
  • Railroad passenger cars--Design
  • Furniture design
  • Apartment houses--Design
  • Logos (Christian theology)--Design
  • McDonnell Douglas DC-8 (Jet transport)
  • Razors--Design
  • Greyhound buses--Designs and plans
  • Design, Industrial--Exhibitions
  • Marketing
  • Shopping malls--Design
  • Sikorsky helicopters
  • Automobiles--Design
  • Logos (Symbols)--Design
  • Brand name products--Design
  • Packaging--Design
  • Design, Industrial
  • Industrial design--United States
  • Radio scripts
  • Consumer goods--Design
  • Beverges--Packaging
  • Industrial design--Soviet Union
  • Express trains--Design
  • Architecture, Modern
  • Speeches
  • Scrapbooks

Occupations:

  • Industrial designers
  • Packaging designers
  • Interior designers

Places:

  • France (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)