Raymond Loewy – American Industrial Graphic Designer

After a brief but promising career as a fashion illustrator, Raymond Loewy dedicated his talent to the field of industrial design. Loewy’s creative genius was innate, and his effect on the industry was immediate. He literally revolutionized the industry, working as a consultant for more than 200 companies and creating product designs for everything from cigarette packs and refrigerators, to cars and spacecrafts. Loewy lived by his own famous MAYA principle – Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. He believed that, “The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.” (Official Site of Raymond Loewy)

Raymond Loewy

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Called the man who shaped America and spanning a career of nearly 60 years, he was born on November 5th 1893 in Paris, France he was the son of Maximillian Loewy a Jewish Viennese journalist and Frenchwoman Marie Labalme. He was educated in France and received a degree in Engineering. In World War One he joined the French Army and joined the corps of Engineers. He emigrated to the United States after the war and set initially to work as a window designer for well known stores such as Macy’s, Wanamaker’s, and Saks. He was a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He became a United States citizen in 1938 and married Viola Erickson in 1948 and had a daughter Laurence.

His first commission was redesigning the ‘Gestetner’ duplicating machine. After this he set up his own company and very soon had one hundred and forty three designers, architects and draftsmen. He had a period of time working on the Pennsylvania locomotives, updating and fine-lining designs and also updating stations, advertising, and passenger car interiors.

His designs have made major moves forward on man made designs like toothbrushes, cars, ships, aeroplanes (a design of which he received his first award), and buildings and kitchen appliances. He was a consultant with companies like Coca Cola (the shape of the bottle is his design), United Airlines, Shell, Exxon, IBM, and NASA, helping them to streamline many of their designs for a sleeker image and more practical value.

Among his numerous honours and awards – from the gold medal, in transportation (for GG-1 Locomotive Design), international exposition, Paris 1937; Royal Designer for Industry, Royal Society of Arts, London, 1937; to the award from the President of France, 1980 – became honorary citizen of France. He was named one of the 100 ‘Most influential Americans of the 20th Century’ by Life Magazine and one of the ‘Thousand Makers of the 20th Century’ by the Sunday Times. He was Founding Member and Fellow of the American Society of Industrial Designs (President 1946).

Loewy retired at the age of 87 in 1980 and returned to his native France. He died in his Monte Carlo residence in 1986. He was survived by his second wife Viola and their daughter Laurence. In 1992 Viola Loewy and British American Tobacco established the Raymond Loewy Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. The foundation was established to promote the discipline of industrial design internationally and preserve the memory of Raymond Loewy. An annual award of €50,000 is granted to outstanding designers in recognition of their lifetime achievements. Recent grantees include Philippe Starck and Dieter Rams. In 1998, Laurence Loewy established Loewy Design in Atlanta, Georgia to manage her father’s continued interests in the United States. Laurence died on October 15, 2008 and is survived by her husband David Hagerman and their son Jacque Loewy. David Hagerman currently manages Loewy Design and the Loewy Estate. The Loewy Estate is currently cataloging the Loewy archives and raising funds to open the Raymond Loewy Museum of Industrial Design, originally envisioned by Laurence Loewy.


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