See that crazy cool image of what looks to be a retro-mod bullet train on today’s Google search page? That’s just one of the amazing designs of legendary man-before-his-time industrial designer Raymond Loewy. E3 Spark Plugs joins Google in celebrating what would have been this incredible visionary’s 120th birthday.
Born to a Jewish family in Paris in 1893, Loewy showed innate engineering skill, design flair and entrepreneurial savvy early on. At just 15 years old, he designed a rubber-band powered model airplane dubbed the Ayrel, patented it, formed a company and rented space to produce and distribute it in high quantities. He went on to study engineering and served a stint in the French army in WWI before moving to the United States in 1919.
Loewy’s design career spanned seven decades and multiple industries, churning out streamlined, sexy designs of everything from pencil sharpeners to passenger locomotives, jukeboxes to jet interiors. His works included costumes for Florenz Ziegfeld, fashion illustrations for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, a mimeograph machine for Gestetner, the slimmed-down Coca-Cola bottle in 1940; interiors of Howard Hughes’ Boeing 307 Stratoliner in the 1930s and Air France Concorde jets in the 1970s. He also designed NASA Skylab 2 Space Station, setting standards for space travel including a porthole to allow a few of earth from space. He’s also responsible for many iconic logos, product packages and the 1964 five-cent John F. Kennedy postage stamp.
But here at E3 Spark Plugs, our favorite Loewy works are his automotive designs. His first was the 1932 cycle-fender Hupmobile and the more radical 1934 model. He followed with multiple Studebaker models – the 1939 Champion, dramatic 1947 postwar models, the1953 Starliner model, and the 1962 Avanti; Greyhounds’ 1946 Silversides bus and 1948 Scenicruiser; and the 1946 Lincoln Continental. He also designed components of Harley-Davidson’s 1941 74FL Knucklehead engine.
Along the way, he also garnered respect as something of a philanthropist, hiring many Jewish designers who had fled Nazi Germany at his firm. After his 1986 death in France, his widow started the Raymond Loewy Foundation in Hamburg, awarding annual grants to outstanding designers. Here in America, the Loewy Estate is currently cataloging archives and raising funds to establish the Raymond Loewy Museum of Industrial Design.
We here at E3 Spark Plugs are forever grateful for Loewy’s game-changing work and his enduring influence on automotive and industrial design.