Today’s Google Doodle honors what would have been the 120th birthday of Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), often referred to as the “father of industrial design” who “made products irresistible at a time when nobody really wanted to pay for anything,” as TIME once wrote.
He is the man behind the Lucky Strike cigarette pack, Coca-Cola vending machines, the Greyhound bus, the S1 Locomotive, logos for Shell and Exxon, plus the interiors of President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One and NASA’s Apollo and Skylab “orbiters.” When he “streamlined” the Coldspot refrigerator design, sales at Sears went up, illustrating his famous line “between two products equal in price, function, and quality, the better looking will outsell the other.”
TIME put him on the cover in Oct. 31, 1949, a period when he was “the dominant figure” in the field, which had “mushroomed from a groping, uncertain experiment into a major phenomenon of U.S. business.”
While his designs were ubiquitous, some said his personality was an enigma. As TIME wrote:
“He likes good food, but likes a trim figure better (he keeps his weight close to 170 by diet and massage), worked on through the lunch hour, pausing only for an apple and saccharin-sweetened coffee…Loewy talks in a subdued voice that is, at the same time, apologetic and compelling. His face is reposed, gentle, sad, and as inscrutable as that of a Monte Carlo croupier. Obsessively shy, he is always ‘Mr. Loewy’ even to his longtime associates. Even to those who know him well he is something of an enigma. Said one longtime acquaintance: ‘After all these years, I’m not even sure that I like him!’ Everything he does calls attention,-with skilled showmanship, to his work, so that observers at times get the strange feeling that he too is a design−by Loewy, of course.”