While Loewy established his reputation as a designer, he boosted his profession by showing the practical benefits to be derived from the application of functional styling. In the book Industrial Design, Loewy notes, "Success finally came when we were able to convince some creative men that good appearance was a salable commodity, that it often cut costs, enhanced a product's prestige, raised corporate profits, benefited the customer and increased employment."
One of Loewy's first major successes, a Coldspot refrigerator he designed for Sears Roebuck & Company in 1934, served as a testimonial to creative packaging. Loewy's streamlined Coldspot, complete with the first ever rustproof aluminum shelves, sent Sears refrigerator sales from 60,000 units to 275,000 units in just two years. Another Loewy design, the GG-1 electric locomotive built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1936, demonstrated on an even larger scale the efficacy of industrial design. The welded shell of the GG-1 eliminated tens of thousands of rivets, resulting in improved appearance, simplified maintenance, and reduced manufacturing costs. As the first welded locomotive ever built, the GG-1 led to the universal adoption of the welding technique in their construction.
Several years earlier, in 1930, Loewy had been brought on as a consultant to the Hupp Motor Company. He called the Hupp contract "the beginning of industrial design as a legitimate profession," explaining that it was "the first time a large corporation accepted the idea of getting outside advice in the development of their products." The Hupp contract also marked the beginning of Loewy's long and often frustrating association with American automobile manufacturers.
While Loewy introduced slanted windshields, built-in headlights and wheel covers for automobiles, he also advocated lower, leaner and more fuel-efficient automobiles long before fuel economy became a concern. "He waged a long war against the worst extravagances of Detroit styling," commented Edward Lucie-Smith a Times Literary Supplement. "He could take a production-line monster and make it an infinitely better-looking 'special,' with comparatively minor rebuilding. What he could not do was to alter the industry's fundamental attitudes. Gas-guzzlers remained gas-guzzlers, and no fancy-pants designer was going to be allowed to change that."
In 1961, while designing the Avanti, Loewy posted a sign that said, "Weight is the enemy." The Avanti design eliminated the grill, which he argued, "In this age of fuel shortages you must eliminate weight. Who needs grills? Grills I always associate with sewers."
In spite of the differences that Loewy had with Detroit stylists, several of his designs are now considered automobile classics, including the 1953 Studebaker Starliner Coupé and 1963 Avanti. In 1972 a poll of stylists representing the Big Three automakers named one of his works an industry best. Reporting the results, Automotive News announced, "The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time."
In addition to his achievements in the transportation field, Loewy was undoubtedly among the world's most talented commercial artists. He began designing packaging and logos in 1940 when George Washington Hill, then president of the American Tobacco Company, wagered him $50,000 that he could not improve the appearance of the already familiar green and red Lucky Strike cigarette package. Accepting the challenge, Loewy began by changing the package background from green to white, thereby reducing printing costs by eliminating the need for green dye. Next he placed the red Lucky Strike target on both sides of the package, increasing product visibility and ultimately product sales. A satisfied Hill paid off the bet, and for over 40 years the Lucky Strike pack has remained unchanged.
"I'm looking for a very high index of visual retention," Loewy explained of his logos. "We want anyone who has seen the logotype even fleetingly to never forget it." Among Loewy's highly visible logotype designs are those for Shell Oil Company, Exxon, Greyhound and Nabisco.