Raymond Loewy is known as the father of American industrial design and is credited with inventing the American “streamline” aesthetic.
Born in 1893 in Paris, Loewy displayed a high affinity for design in his formative years. Early success came with his model aircraft, which won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1908 and led to the commercial sales of the toy plane Ayrel. Loewy went on to study electrical engineering at the University of Paris from 1910 to 1914.
After serving in the French Army during the First World War, Loewy moved to New York City in 1919. He worked briefly as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar before turning his interests to product design. In 1929, he was commissioned to design the exterior casing for for Gestetner duplicators machines and unveiled his “streamlining” concept: a design approach inspired by aerodynamics and aimed at efficiently using materials to keep production costs down. He found popular success in 1934 with his Coldspot Refrigerator for Sears-Roebuck in 1934, and streamline-style appliances, furnishings, automobiles, more would become highly sought-after into the midcentury.
Over the course of his career, Loewy consulted for more than two hundred different companies, leaving his mark on the design world with designs ranging from cigarette packaging and household appliances to cars and spaceships. His most well-known contributions to design history include the iconic red and white Lucky Strike logo (1940), his long collaboration with Coca-Cola, including the Dole Deluxe Fountain Dispenser (1947), the Studebaker Starliner Coupe (1953), the Airforce One livery (1960s), the John F. Kennedy memorial postage stamp (1964), the Exxon (1966) and Shell (1971) logos, and the NASA Skylab (1973), among others.
Loewy held professorships at esteemed institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the University of Leningrad. He founded three design companies: Raymond Loewy & Associates in New York, Raymond Loewy International in London—the largest firm of its kind in Europe—and Compagnie de I'Esthetique Industrielle in Paris. He has also published many articles and books, including The Locomotive: Its Aesthetics (1937), Industrial Design (1951), and the autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone (1951).
Notably, he was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in October, 1949. In 1975, The Smithsonian Institution opened The Designs of Raymond Loewy, a four-month exhibition dedicated to Loewy and his life’s work.
Loewy passed away in 1986 at the age of ninety-three.