Today in History: March 22
Raymond Loewy, Designer
Preliminary Studies for Studebaker "Avanti" Automobile
fluid marker on paper,
March 22, 1961.
American Treasures of the Library of Congress
On March 22, 1961, industrial designer Raymond Loewy made a dozen sketches of a futuristic sports car at the request of Sherwood Egbert, the recently appointed president of the ailing Studebaker Corporation. Egbert hoped that Loewy, who had a long relationship with the company, could design a new car bold enough to capture the popular imagination and boost the company's sagging fortunes. Loewy and his team of designers produced a prototype automobile in record time; the Avanti—Italian for "forward"— debuted in April 1962 to rave reviews. The four-passenger car was indeed forward-looking, for it had a steamlined fiberglass body with almost no chrome, and was the first American car to incorporate a disc brake system along with other safety features.
A series of problems stalled production of the car, however, and the Studebaker Corporation abruptly discontinued its U.S. manufacture late in 1963. Seeking to revive the popular model, in 1965 two Studebaker dealers acquired the corporation's vacated South Bend, Indiana, factory and as the Avanti Motor Corporation produced the Avanti II into the 1980s.
Raymond Loewy, who is sometimes called "the father of industrial design," also designed automobiles for Hupmobile, Lincoln, and Jaguar, among many other projects. Born in Paris in 1893, he was educated in France as an engineer. Loewy emigrated to the United States after World War I, where his first design assignments were in window decoration for New York department stores. Loewy's signature streamlined style was eventually seen in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products, ranging from railroad locomotives to refrigerators, to pencil sharpeners, to dishes, to corporate logos. He became a U.S. citizen in 1938 and married Viola Erickson ten years later. Never Leave Well Enough Alone, Loewy's autobiography, appeared in 1951. In the early 1960s, Loewy was hired by the Kennedy White House for several projects; he also designed a commemorative postage stamp in memory of John F. Kennedy, in 1964. By 1967 he was employed by NASA to create hospitable spaces for astronauts. Raymond Loewy died in 1986.
Raymond Loewy Associates, "Look" kitchen. Kitchen IV.
June 1, 1951.
Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America, 1935-1955
- Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America, 1935-1955 includes over a thousand photographs pertaining to Loewy's career; to find them, search the collection on Loewy and add appropriate keywords such as kitchen, automobile, office, or steamship.
- View the online exhibition, Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture (external link), on the Hagley Museum and Library (external link) Web site.
- To find more information about the history of technology and invention, go to Gallery C of the Reason section of the American Treasures of the Library of Congress and scroll down.
- Search on the terms automobile or car in the collection Prosperity and Thrift, 1921-1929 for information on America's favorite mode of transportation in the decade before Raymond Loewy came into his own as a designer. For example, see High School Girls Learn the Art of Automobile Mechanics in 1927, or read selections from the 1924 Popular Mechanics Automobile Tourist's Handbook.
- Explore the exhibit The Work of Charles Eames and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention. At the end of World War II the Eameses joined a larger movement of architects and builders aiming to bring good design to everyday life.