Published: September 25, 2007
From locomotives to lipsticks, Raymond Loewy (1893‱986) and his industrial design firms created some of the most important design innovations in the Twentieth Century. “Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture,” on view at the National Heritage Museum October 13⁍arch 23, showcases his work, placing it in the wider context of the shaping of a modern look for consumer culture. His career is brought to life by an array of original drawings, models, products, advertisements, photographs and rare film footage of Loewy at work.
Loewy became involved in the emerging world of industrial design in the 1920s after a successful career in commercial illustration. He eventually would become one of the best-known industrial designers in the world. He spent more than five decades streamlining and modernizing silverware and fountain pens, supermarkets and department stores. Loewy and his teams designed the color scheme and logo for Air Force One, the John F. Kennedy memorial stamp, the Greyhound Scenicruiser and the interiors for NASA’s Skylab. Clients included such icons as Coca-Cola, Exxon and Lucky Strike cigarettes.
On view is the sleek model of the 1951 “bullet nose” Studebaker Champion. The Champion represents the first of the Studebaker line to have that particular style front end. The circular design that was mimicked in the interior instrument panel and dashboard was meant to convey the look and feel of an airplane. The more than 5-foot-tall UPB 100 Jukebox was designed for United Music Corporation in 1958.
Loewy and his wife, Viola, placed one of the jukeboxes in their Fifth Avenue apartment for their guests’ enjoyment. Visitors will also enjoy the GG1 locomotive model designed by Loewy, which launched an effort to modernize the railroad’s image. Streamlining began as an attempt to shape and smooth transportation vehicles along aerodynamic lines for greater operating efficiency, but in reality it was almost always done for the sake of appearance. It soon became the dominant visual style of the 1930s.
“Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture” draws heavily on Loewy’s personal archives, a treasure collection of images and information not previously available to researchers or the public. A national magazine said of him in 1950: “Loewy has probably affected the daily life of more Americans than any other man of his time.” Many of his designs are still in use today.
An array of programming explores the life and career of the designer.
On Sunday, October 21, at 1 pm and 3:30 pm there will be a free gallery talk featuring a guided tour of the exhibition “Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture.”
On October 21 at 2 pm, the Lowell Lecture Series will examine how creative industries imagine their consumers and then design products that meet their customers’ aesthetic expectations. Award-winning author Regina Lee Blaszczyk, PhD, will look at how prominent designers, including Loewy, meshed creative and practical concerns as they created products for postwar consumer culture. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the Lowell Institute, the lecture is free.
On Sunday, November 4, at 2 pm, the Lowell Lecture Series will present Kent Larson, director of the House_n Research Consortium at the MIT department of architecture. He will discuss an open source model for integrating design, fabrication and technology to make possible dynamic, evolving places that respond to the complexities of life. The lecture is free.
On Saturday, November 17, at 2 pm, the Lowell Lecture Series will examine how industrial design is taking a lead from the natural world. Through biomimicry, which imitates the natural processes found in the environment, scientists and designers are encouraging sustainability. Kory Rogers, curator at the Shelburne Museum, will discuss this fast-growing trend in contemporary design and its place in political dialogue as the public grapples with an environment in crisis. The presentation is free.
A free gallery talk on Sunday, November 18, at 2 pm will feature a staff-guided tour of the exhibition.
On Saturday, December 8, at 2 pm, the Lowell Lecture Series will look at how a growing number of designers are finding unique ways to address the lack of basic necessities faced by the poor and marginalized around the world through local and global partnerships. Cynthia Smith, curator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, will discuss how design can be a dynamic force in transforming and, in many cases, saving lives. The lecture is free.
The National Heritage Museum is at 33 Marrett Road. For general information, www.nationalheritagemuseum.org or 781-861-6559.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm