Friday, November 16, 2012

Arty Farty Friday ~ Raymond Loewy ~ Revolutionary Designs

Raymond Loewy: not a household name - I'm not even sure how to pronounce it! His work will be familiar to many though. Think of the design on a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a Ritz Cracker box, the US postal service logo, Air Force One, Greyhound buses, jukeboxes and Coca-Cola bottles for a start.

In the first half of the 20th century Raymond Loewy was the most famous industrial designer in the USA. He was born in Paris, France on 5 November 1893 - yes, another Sun in Scorpio his case Sun conjunct Uranus - and it shows! Most of his professional life was spent in the USA. His designs dragged things, items in plain sight and every day use by almost everyone in the USA, into the then modern era, creating for them new streamlined, sleek and imaginative exteriors.

Sun conjunct Uranus more or less says it all for Mr. Loewy. A mention of Neptune conjunct Pluto in Gemini is appropriate too. This era, with two slow-moving planets, one relating to creativity, the other to power, both in Gemini, sign of communication and mental acuity, brought forth some iconic individuals in several spheres. This fact has long been a source of wonder to me, and it's good to find yet another of 'em.

From Wikipedia
An early accomplishment was the design of a successful model aircraft, which then won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1908. By the following year he was selling the plane, named the Ayrel. He served in the French army during World War I, attaining the rank of captain. Loewy was wounded in combat and received the Croix de guerre. He boarded a ship to America in 1919 with only his French officer's uniform and $50 in his pocket.

In Loewy's early years in the U.S., he lived in New York and found work as a window designer for department stores... in addition to working as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In 1929 he received his first industrial-design commission to contemporize the appearance of a duplicating machine by Gestetner. Further commissions followed, including work for Westinghouse, the Hupp Motor Company (the Hupmobile styling), (also the Studebaker "Champion" and "Avanti"), and styling the Coldspot refrigerator for Sears-Roebuck. It was this product that established his reputation as an industrial designer. He opened a London office in the mid-1930s. It is still active
From: Raymond Loewy the Father of Industrial Design
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."
Loewy retired at the age of 87 in 1980 and returned to his native France. He died in his Monte Carlo residence in 1986.
"It all must start with an inspired, spontaneous idea."

"The main goal is not to complicate the already difficult life of the consumer."

"I sought excitement and, taking chances, I was all ready to fail in order to achieve something large."

Raymond Loewy

Some of his best-known designs - more can be seen via Google Image.


mike said...

I grew-up in the '50s, which seems to be when modernism mushroomed. I remember thinking that I didn't truly care for the modernistic buildings from the 30s and 40s, or the cars, appliances, etc...everything was "blockish", but had smooth, rounded corners and edges. Then came my era...very blockish, rectangular, sharp edges. Cars grew fins that could kill...everything new seemed edgy and sharp. Split-level homes were hugely popular and looked like undecorated rectangles put together.

All of those decades were an outgrowth of the "form follows function" of Louis Sullivan:
"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law."

R.Lowewy did not adhere to this principle and stated his philosophy as MAYA(Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) and developed products with good design with an eye on economy.

I have always preferred the Art Deco, Art Nouveau, or Victorian styles, with the high degree of ornamentation, which is the antithesis of modernism. I'm not a function-only type of person.

I was in awe at the buildings, streets, decorations, fountains, etc. of Europe when I toured. Almost all of Europe is eye-pleasing somehow, with form and beauty trumping function. Quite a contrast to the USA. Gardens and landscaping in Europe is like that, too...more flowing and natural feeling. Landscaping in the US appears industrial in contrast.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Interesting observations!
Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles are my own favourites - different as they are, I couldn't choose one above the other. I love to spot the odd art deco inspired structure on our trips - even defunct gas stations can often display a hint of art deco styling. Victorian style, in general, not as atteactive to me though. They tended to over-do things in furnishings and architecture - tipping into near ugliness at times.

I grew up in '50s Britain. Some beautiful architecture
mercifully unscathed by the horror of World War 2 attacks remained of course, but on recovery sprang up some of those ugly blocky buildings you mention. They looked even worse among the older architecture than in a completely new environment.

Europe and Britain have the advantage of a long history and background in art and architecture, but the USA has the advantage of diversity of wonderful landscapes and subtly varying cultures all accessible without borders and change of languages. As a comparative newcomer here, I find that equally as valuable, but yes, US architecture generally is pretty grim, apart from Frank Lloyd Wright's work and maybe some of the better skyscrapers.....mustn't forget those! :-)