There are few machines that convey speed and power better than the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S1 locomotive. A blistering steam-powered behemoth of a train, the S1 looks less like a train than a bullet full of people fired from a land cannon. It’s an iconic design by the legendary Raymond Loewy–who was born 120 years ago–and is being celebrated in today’s Google doodle.
In the search giant’s illustration, the contours of S1’s duplex locomotive are bent into the iconic Google logo. It’s not an exact match for the S1–in fact, it looks a little bit more like an elevated train blasting between art deco skyscrapers in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis–but it gets the point across. Loewy’s designs look just as fresh now as they did 80 years ago.
Born in France on November 5, 1893, Loewy emigrated to the United States after completing his studies at the Université de Paris and École de Laneau. He started on the bottom rung, working his way up from a position as a shop window decorator for Saks Fifth Avenue, before moving on as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Vanity Fair, until finally gaining his first industrial commissions. Loewy died in 1986 at the ripe old age of 92, widely hailed as the father of industrial design.
For the design-minded, it’s about time that Google got around to Loewy. In addition to the S1 locomotive, the Loewy is responsible for the Lucky Strike cigarette packet, the Coca-Cola Bottle, the interiors of Skylab, Schick’s electric razors, the Greyhound bus, the early IBM punchcard machines, and the logos for Shell, Exxon, TWA, and BP. We owe even the logo of the U.S. Postal Service to his keen design mind.
Loewy was so prolific and the impact of his designs so profound that a world without him is practically impossible to imagine. So check out today’s Google doodle, but when it goes away on November 6, don’t sweat it: in a very real and profound way, every day is one designed by Raymond Loewy.