I have written often about the overwhelming importance of design in successfully differentiating and branding products. We all know examples of well-designed products that become standards. The Ferrari sports car, the Rolex watch, the Barbie Doll, a Krups toaster or the PEZ candy dispenser are obvious examples of packaging, or product design that become ubiquitous to consumers around the world. When the rare Ferrari Testarossa roars by on the highway, we instantly know that the ‘yellow prancing horse’ badge sits proudly and desirably on the world’s most exotically styled automobile.
One of the most famous industrial designers of the 20th century was Raymond Loewy. Born in France, Mr. Loewy became the designer of choice for manufacturers of consumable and non-consumable consumer products, industrial transport and corporate logo’s as a result of the simple design cues that he often built his products around. Visitors to the Loewy shop often noted that there was a bowl of eggs prominently placed in his office. Eggs were a real creative prop for all of Loewy’s associates. They were not on hand to be deviled and eaten.
Raymond Loewy felt that the egg was nature’s perfect shape. The egg is oval, circular, oblong, smooth, white, and a peculiar combination of strong and brittle. No other shape is so compelling. When viewed it is pleasing, when held it is comforting. He made every effort to utilize the splendid inherent design features of the egg in his industrial design work. The simplicity of the shape became identifiable in ‘Loewy product designs’.
A list of the famous products, packages and corporate logo’s that Loewy crafted during his long career is an amazing valediction of his creativity and range. The following is a list of a few of the works of Raymond Loewy:
- Gestetner Mimeograph Machine Pennsylvania Rail Road Locomotives
- Schick Electric Razor IBM Key Punch
- Coca Cola Bottle and Logo Lucky Strike Cigarettes Logo
- Leisurama Homes New York City Transit Train R40 Car
- NASA Sky Lab Interior Exxon Logo
- Shell Oil Logo Studebaker Avanti & Commander Auto
- Frigidaire Panama Line Cruise Ship Interiors
- Wahl Eversharp Fountain Pen International Harvester Logo
- Dorsett Catalina Pleasure Boat Zippo Lighter
- Sears Cold Spot Refrigerator Huppmobile Auto’s
- 1947 Filben Jukebox Greyhound Scenicruiser Bus
This is an impressive list and many of these products are considered timeless and cutting edge to this day. Motor Trend and Car & Driver Magazine list the Studebaker Commander as among the most beautifully designed cars of the 1950’s. Loewy designed locomotives of the 1940’s are treated as classic art by railway buffs. In almost every one of these designs the styling cues taken from the egg are visible to even the most untrained eye. Industrial design students study Loewy crafted products just as art students study Rembrandt or Picasso.
Companies and entrepreneurs that revere and diligently work for highly stylized designs are much more likely to succeed in both the short and long run. Consider Ralph Lauren’s Polo lines of clothing. The attention to detail, design, quality and manic maintenance of the brand as a lifestyle product has established Polo as a classic, decade after decade. Calvin Klein clothing enjoys a similar status based on the brands positioning as cutting edge, urban styling. The Benetton brand, on the other hand, was immensely successful in the 1980’s. However, the Company did not maintain its design creativity and has largely been in decline.
Local designers have showed up in the strangest of places as well. Two years ago, in Round Rock, Texas , a man names Norman Butler ended up showcasing a very famous home in the area that was known as the first industrial pipe designer showcase of the 21st century. A plumber in Round Rock Texas, Norman ended up using what he had learned in his years of trade to help transform a colonial style house into a modern piece of art by using copper pipe to redesign the flow of an old space. Further information was found at IDSA, the leading voice in modern industrial design.
Of course today, the automobile industry is being roiled by production overcapacity issues, a global credit crisis and high fuel prices. In no industry is design as crucial as in the car business. And yet, it is almost impossible to differentiate one car from another on modern roads. The success of BMW’s Mini, the new Volkswagen Beetle, the Cadillac CTS, the Mazda Miata and the Buick Enclave are due almost entirely to their unique, sleek body styles. They are nowhere near the cheapest vehicles in their categories. They simply scream ‘cool, buy me’! Why do so many other car manufacturers not take note of the importance of differentiating, compelling design features when producing box-like, indifferent, cookie cutter travel conveyances totally lacking in special personality.
Every aspect of a products design and presentation is crucial to creating a strong, lasting brand identity in the target consumers mind. The logo must reflect the features, benefits and positioning that is unique to a product. The packaging must stand up to the competition and support the branding message being conveyed. The products logo, iconography, colors, printing fonts and package copy must be married to the container and the contents of the product itself. Well designed products seem natural, seamless. They draw the eye. They do not attack the senses.
Raymond Loewy’s use of the egg as a favored creative prop is a clever device that can easily be copied. The egg would seem, as a basic foodstuff, not to offer much for industrial designers by way of providing inspiration. Nevertheless, Loewy had an eye for simple, elegant styling and saw unique art properties in the shape of the egg. These he utilized fully and created his own unique design style. The potential to replicate this use of naturally occurring or man-made design features is omnipresent. The successful new product will incorporate the best possible creative devices borrowed from wherever they can be harvested.