News outlets just announced that the Trump administration is going to redesign Air Force One, the Boeing 747 with the iconic blue-on-blue-on-white paint job that has heralded the arrival of every American president since John F. Kennedy.
Raymond Loewy is rolling over in his grave. First, for not receiving design credit from various news outlets trumpeting the Trumpian redo. Most media incorrectly credited Kennedy with the design. Second, for having one of his greatest visual branding triumphs overhauled by a person whose design aesthetic is “let’s see how much more gold we can pile on this.”
As an internationally known industrial designer from 1930 to the 1970s, Loewy was well known as the designer of Air Force One’s distinctive color markings. His iconic ultramarine blue-on-blue design has lasted almost 60 years, commissioned by John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Air Force General Godfrey McHugh.
While many of Loewy’s designs did not last beyond his lifetime, the case for retaining most, if not all, of the current aircraft’s design is compelling. No single aircraft is more instantly recognizable than Air Force One. The president’s jet has been linked with memorable images, from Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on the plane after the Kennedy assassination, to any number of shots of presidents descending the stairs after a triumphal trip overseas or campaign stop.
The aircraft is a place where policy is made, friendships are forged, and seminal events in history occur. Such a vehicle carries weight as a symbol, which means, and meant even more so in Loewy’s time, thatAir Force One carried the force of the United States in its appearance.
According to Loewy’s 1979 book Industrial Design, Godfrey McHugh, the Air Force aide to the president, told Loewy a newAir Force One was being developed, and McHugh suggested that Loewy redesign the markings. Loewy claimed he did the proposal design for no pay. Loewy wrote: “I flew to the White House, the beginning of a remarkable relationship.” In his book Loewy describes presenting sketches showing Kennedy four different looks. “In every case I had replaced red [the previous predominant color of the jet] with a luminous ultramarine blue.”
The more accurate story emerges from Loewy’s own archives in the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware. According to the 1967 notes in Loewy’s archive, the designer came to the White House with four graphic proposals and five lettering ideas. According to the notes, Loewy’s first ideas were predominantly red. Kennedy made the decision to make the color pattern blue. According to design historian Phil Patton, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had to personally authorize the color change.
The famed designer’s final creation retained the white top section but substituted sweeping shades of blue, including the aquamarine that covered the lower nose section and the cowling on the engines.
Previously, presidential planes had been identified by “United States Air Force” or “Military Air Transport Service” along the upper fuselage. Loewy substituted “United States of America” on the fuselage and placed a flag on the tail section. The flag’s union (the blue section) faced toward the nose. Loewy also reduced the intensity of the blue in the flag in order to match the blue used on the rest of the jet. The typeface for the fuselage lettering was supposedly inspired by the type used in the heading of the Declaration of Independence. As a result, “United States of America” was set in widely spaced Caslon typeface.
Media reports say the current thinking on the redesign is to create what the President no doubt would call a “fantastic and tremendous” red, white and blue. This is a grand old color scheme, but also one that has been applied to everything from bikinis to motorcycle helmets to baseball hats.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider. Do we really want the person who “personally oversees” every aspect of his brand–including Trump Success (a fragrance), Trump Steaks, Trump Casinos, Trump ties (extra long) and Trump wine – to come up with an aircraft design that can compete with the majesty, dignity and stateliness of the current look?
I think not. And Raymond Loewy would agree with me.
John Wall is the author of Streamliner, a biography of Raymond Loewy published by Johns Hopkins University Press. It will go on sale Aug. 15.
Can at least half the 2020 Democrats please quit right now?
OK, Democrats — you’ve had your fun. You grew up being told that everybody could run for president, and then everybody did. Except that this mad anthill scramble of presidential candidates, which resembles a bunch of kindergarteners descending on not enough cookies, really hasn’t been fun so far. All you’ve managed to do is put the fear of God — or the fear of the other guy, more like — into the voters, provoking widespread PTSD flashbacks to November 2016.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Self-preservation fuels the Democratic base’s lurch to the left — before the rich take it all
In 2016 all the corporate news media outlets, NPR included, predicted that Trump would lose. They just did not recognize the discontent in America’s rust belt because the economic dislocation that had, and continues to define life there, was just not part of their personal frame of reference.
They thought the country was several years into a recovery and the national aggregate unemployment data they had commissioned confirmed it. But nobody lives or votes in the aggregate. And it wasn’t until Trump flipped the 200 counties that Obama had carried twice, that the corporate news media started paying some attention.
Experts discuss the distorted impeachment debate at a propaganda forum — and how real debate can untangle it
“Would you be upset if the Democratic nominee called on China to help in the next presidential election?” That’s the concrete question we should ask ourselves about Robert Mueller's report and the issue of impeachment, according to University of California, Santa Cruz, social psychologist Anthony Pratkanis, speaking at a recent Zócalo Public Square event, “Is Propaganda Keeping Americans From Thinking for Themselves?”
This was a week before President Trump’s interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, apparently welcoming foreign interference in the 2020 election. Impeachment wasn’t the ostensible subject of the event — which also featured Texas A&M historian of rhetoric Jennifer Mercieca and UCLA marketing scholar and psychologist Hal Hershfield — but it was never far from mind.