Raymond Loewy – Consumerism as an art form


I recently learned about the awesomeness of Raymond Loewy after having spotted book with an interesting name located on one of Flatout Design’s sweet pieces for sale on Craigslist. It was a highly collectible book called “Industrial Design” and it was about 20th century American Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy. Thinking about Raymond Loewy, and his aesthetic and his beliefs has really started to get me to think about the artistic merit of the producer/consumer relationship. While much modern thought would characterize consumption as destructive and unethical, I tend to see it as creative and beautiful.

Me, being the unschooled type, has to rely on happenstance to learn most things. I saw the title of this book on the Flatout’s display shelf and had to know what it was all about. One thing lead to another and I was quickly google-fuing my way through Raymond Loewy’s history. This guy, if you don’t know him, was a giant in 20th century industrial design. What is “industrial design”? you might ask….Industrial design is all about product design. The art and science of making products both beautiful, functional, and pleasing to the consumer. Loewy had an interesting philosophy when it came designing pieces for the consumer. He felt that the design had to be forward reaching, but not too foreign that the consumer couldn’t relate to it. He was focused not only on the aesthetics of the piece, but also on how that aesthetic would drive consumer demand.

“The most beautiful curve is a rising sales graph” -Raymond Loewy

Maybe this desire to chase the consumer degrades his “pure artist” cred in the eyes of many, but frankly, I think its necessary. We need artists in this world who can recognize our desires and elevate the products around us. I don’t buy the philosophy that producers “trick” us into buying things we didn’t really want. We want them because what they create is what we want. We didn’t know we wanted it because we didn’t know about it, because it wasn’t created yet. What we drink should taste good, but also be packaged beautifully as well.

Consumption can be beautiful. - Jayson F

I’ve said it. I’m out of the consumerist closet. Consuming, I think, can be part of a sort of relationship. There’s an industrial designer on one side, creating this piece, this thing, which he or she expects to be used, viewed, or manipulated in some way. On the other side is the consumer, the person who takes the item, uses it and manipulates it. Often, the consumer again becomes the producer. How is Loewy’s refashioning of the Coke bottle any less dramatic, significant, and “artistic” than DuChampe’s toilet? Loewy was not only making a statement, but also defining that fictive space necessary for true art.

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