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Raymond Loewy was a highly accomplished industrial designer who revolutionised the American way of life and the way consumers consume and designers design. Born in Paris, France in 1893, Raymond spent his formative years in his home country before setting off for new horizons in the United States at the age of 25. It was here that he briefly explored a career in fashion illustration in which he was said to have a promising future. However, in 1929 at the age of 28 he turned his focus to industrial design when British manufacturer Sigmund Gestetner commissioned Loewy to enhance the design of a mimeograph machine. A mimeograph machine is a hand-operated printing machine with an ink fed drum, around which a cut waxedstencil is placed and which rotates as successive sheets of paper are fed into it.
Raymond Loewy is referred to as the “Father of Industrial Design” and “The man who shaped America” due to his incredibly talented and wide ranging abilities. He is credited for designing many iconic and important items in a broad range of areas including logos and packaging design, trains, planes, automobiles, household items most of which are still in use today. Unlike today where most designers are specialists in one main field, Loewy was a specialist in seemingly all areas of design. To demonstrate the sheer scale of his influence on modern design these are some of his most iconic designs and include the Lucky Strike cigarette packaging, the John F Kennedy memorial postage stamp, the Air Force One livery, the original BP logo, the U.S Mail logo and the Greyhound bus logo.
At the peak of his career it has been estimated that 75% of Americans came into contact with one of Loewy’s designs on a daily basis.
Loewy designed many logos in his career with the vast majority being well known and one of the world’s most recognisable that is still in use today is the Shell Petroleum logo. The Shell logo began as a black and white image of a scallop shell in 1900 and evolved gradually changed over time to reflect graphic design trends toward the last major change which came in 1971 when Loewy was tasked with a reimagination of the logo. He took the detailed shell design from 1961 and simplified it using a bold semi-circle and reduced the ridges of the shell from thirteen to seven defined lines pointing towards the bottom of the shell. Since this design, the Shell logo has become one of the most recognisable in the world and is such that it is often used without the wording.
The Exxon logo is another logo that Loewy designed. This logo has been used unchanged for the entirety of Exxon’s lifespan after the company changed its name in 1972. Originally named Esso, Loewy was hired to re-name and re-brand the company due to the Esso name copyright being restricted in the United States so Loewy proposed the name Exxon and presented seventy-six rough pencil sketches placing the focus on the double ‘x’. This design has been incredibly influential on design and has been subject to legal action by Exxon on two occasions, the first being Minolta in 1985 when they released their Maxxum SLR camera and utilised the same double ‘x’ crossover and the most recent being FX Networks in 2013 for doing the same thing only reversed. They were successful in both cases.
Cover Image: https://www.raymondloewy.com/about/photos/
Bush, Donald J. n.d. "Streamlining and American Industrial Design." Leonardo (MIT Press) 7 (4): 309-317. Accessed May 15, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1573060.
Coca-cola. n.d. Coca-cola: Master of Design. Accessed May 15, 2015. http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/master-of-design-coke-and-the-legacy-of-raymond-loewy.
Kihlstedt, Folke T. 1980. "Twentieth Century Limited. Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939 by Jeffrey L. Meikle; Industrial Design by Raymond Loewy." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 39 (4): 335-336. Accessed May 15, 2015. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.federation.edu.au/stable/989548.
Loewy, Raymond. 1951. Never Leave Well Enough Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Silver, Lisa. 2001. Logo Design that Works: Secrets for Successful Logo Design. Gloucester, Massachsetts: Rockport Publishers.
May 6, 2018
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