Locomotive (Raymond Loewy)

This is  a post about the American industrial designer, Raymond Loewy. It’s also about locomotives and streamlining, and about book design and art-direction.

The pictures in this post are taken from Loewy’s book on locomotive design, published in 1937. Not surprisingly, Loewy uses the book to promote his own idea of what successful design would be when applied to railway engines. It’s called “streamlining.” Guess what, he does it best!

The centre-fold image is this fantastic shot of Loewy’s design for the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1936. There’s another photograph of him posing on the front of the engine…

The book was published by The Studio and was part of a series of books, collected under the title, The New Vision. The other titles in the series were by the famous architect Le Corbusier and also by W Watson Baker. Le Corbusier wrote about Aircraft design and Watson Baker about the World beneath the Microscope. 

Ostensibly, these books are about science and technology and the idea of progress through design. They are also books about photography and about how the new camera technology and film stock would allow us to see the world in new and exciting ways.

You can think of the themes of these books as exploring the visual language of speed, height and scale…That’s all very 1930s. So, the books are about the visual language of progress.

Because it’s the 1930s, the implicit message is of a new type of mechanical image making and mass-production. This is what Walter Benjamin was trying to promote in his essays on image production and politics.

You can see that, even at the end of the 1930s, art-direction was though of in terms of black and white photography. Using images to tell a story was quite new in book publishing. Loewy’s book is like a slide presentation by Alexey Brodovitch. Nowadays, this is what we do on powerpoint; except not as well.

Here are some more pages from the book…

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One Response to Locomotive (Raymond Loewy)

  1. Samuel Jennings says:

    Thank you for showing wonderful portrait of Loewy posing in front of his classic streamline design.

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