Donald Trump made the already ongoing procurement of new Air Force One aircraft a token defense spending issue even before taking office. Since then, the first year and a half of his presidency has been chock full of news regarding what is a relatively tiny but critical acquisition program within the Pentagon’s massive portfolio. Outright false claims of huge savings on the new aircraft, the controversial move to buy orphaned airframes once destined for Russia, and the airplane’s apparent lack of critical capabilities are just some of the issues that have reared their ugly head regarding the White House’s direct involvement in the program. Now the President wants to do what seems to be unthinkable, to change the iconic blue, white, gold, and seafoam (“Luminous Ultramarine”) paint scheme that has adorned the flying White House since JFK sat in the Oval Office over half a century ago.
In fact, Jackie Kennedy was a pivotal player in the creation of Air Force One’s now iconic livery, transforming the design from the less than elegant flight-test orange motif to the one know so well today.
The New England Historical Society tells how the famous paint job came to be:
Air Force One looks the way it does because President John F. Kennedy sat on the floor of the Oval Office with an industrial designer, scissors, paper and crayons.
It was May 1962, and the Air Force had ordered a Boeing C-137 Stratoliner for the president… The Air Force had designed a red-and-gold color scheme for the plane, a modified long-range Boeing 707.
Raymond Loewy, the world’s preeminent industrial designer, viewed the Air Force One design as hideous.
Loewy owned the largest design firm in New York. He had designed Lucky Strike cigarettes, Studebaker cars, Coca-Cola bottle, Electrolux refrigerators. The press called him The Man Who Streamlined America.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, with her unerring sense of style, lobbied the president to hire the French-born Loewy.
Loewy met with the president twice. The first time, he and Kennedy sat on the floor of the Oval Office drawing with crayons and cutting up paper to come up with a livery for Air Force One.
Then Loewy visited the National Archives to examine historic documents. He was struck by the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence, it had the country’s name set widely spaced in capital letters in a typeface known as Caslon.
Kennedy had already ordered the Air Force to remove the military lettering in favor of the simple United States of America. And he told Loewy he liked blue.
Loewy chose two blues: slate and cyan. He left the underside of the fuselage silver and added the presidential seal near the nose, a large American flag to the tail, and the words “United States of America” in capital letters using the Caslon typeface.
The First Lady had a hand in designing the interior of the plane. Kennedy had his own entrance, a pale blue rug with an American eagle in the center of an oval with 13 stars, a customized bed, a stateroom, a conference room and glassware from Tiffany’s.
Air Force One to this day carries the Loewy design.
So this is not just screwing with some airplane’s paint job, it is destroying a historic work of art by a legendary designer and one of America’s most beloved White House couples. The paint scheme is part of our collective heritage and a major reason why Air Force One remains one of the most recognizable symbols of American ingenuity, might, and prestige to this very day.
Axios broke the story about Trump’s wish to remake the look of Air Force One, with Mike Allen writing:
Axios has learned that Trump had one specification for the plane that could cause tension with the Air Force and surprise around the world:
- Trump wants to change the plane’s signature blue-and-white look that goes back 55 years, to a redesign of the presidential aircraft by President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the early 1960s.
- We’re told that Trump wants a color scheme that “looks more American” and isn’t a “Jackie Kennedy color.” He doesn’t think the current blue (technically “luminous ultramarine”) represents the USA.
- The president’s preferred design is believed to include red, white and blue
“He can do it,” said a source familiar with the negotiations, when asked about whether Trump can make the change:
- But the change could cause friction with the Air Force. We’re told some top officers like the current look, which they point out is “known around the world.”
Another upgrade: Trump is quite proud of his personal Boeing 757, which he used as his campaign plane:
- We’re told he wants the presidential bed aboard Air Force One to be larger and more comfortable — more like the executive livery package on his personal plane than the current, couch-like sleeping configuration aboard Air Force One.
So POTUS seems to want Air Force One’s appearance to be a ‘louder’ visual affair, something akin to a flying flag. Donald Trump has a long history with aircraft of his own, which are famously known for wearing red, black, white, and gold schemes with a huge italicized TRUMP on their fuselages. Even his lower-profile Citation X had huge Rolls-Royce logos and his made-up family crest painted by its cabin door. Trump’s 757, which once belonged to Paul Allen and replaced his ultra-gaudy 727, was also used as a constant backdrop during his campaign. So although this development is troubling, it isn’t very surprising.
What the President wants to do with his personal property is fine. I actually get a kick out of the crazy branding on his airplanes and helicopters and his in-your-face branding style has made him a wealthy and famous man. There is no doubt that he definitely has an amazing knack for self-promotion. But this isn’t his plane. It belongs to all of us. And turning it into a silly 4th of July fireworks stand billboard can’t happen. It wouldn’t make us look powerful. It would make us look ridiculous.
Many people have joked that Trump will paint a giant eagle on the nose of Air Force One. When it comes to Presidential aircraft, there is actually a precedent for that. A VC-118 Liftmaster nicknamed Independence had just this motif when it flew President Truman around. This was before the cultural lore of Air Force One was established though.
Maybe the most conservative thing we can hope for is something akin to the old American Airlines 747 scheme that was also flown on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for years. But it will probably involve a lot more flash based on what we have seen on Trump’s own aircraft in the past.
It’s fine that the President wants to put his touch on the new jets. Including some unique interior elements and other small details like adding a big bed and some gold-plated fixtures or something really shouldn’t be a problem. But changing the aircraft’s outward appearance is.
Clearly, the USAF brass will have some very strong opinions of their own about fooling with Air Force One’s historic and elegant look. But the question then becomes would they actually be willing to take on the White House over such an issue? Probably not, especially considering how this President holds brutal grudges.
The good news is we still have at least a few years before the first of two 747-8i replacements for the USAF two aging VC-25As enters service, so enjoy their gorgeous paint scheme why you still can.
And please, nobody tell POTUS that a new Marine One will be arriving even sooner.
And now a page from our “Sunday Morning” Almanac: November 5, 1893, 124 years ago today — Day One for the man called “The Father of Streamlining.”
For that was the day Raymond Loewy was born in Paris.
An award-winning model airplane designer while still a boy, Loewy moved to the United States after World War I, and went to work.
He transformed the railroad locomotive and the Greyhound bus. He designed modern sewing machines and popcorn machines … and filled his home with his own creations…
On the CBS show “Person to Person” in 1956, Loewy explained his design philosophy: “I felt it was my duty to try to do whatever I could to introduce a little beauty among the things and the surroundings we live with.”
… a theme he expanded on in a 1979 “60 Minutes” interview with Morley Safer. “Good design,” he said, “is a design that does not get obsolete, number one, that stays classic, like a Greek statue. That’s good design.”
By then, Loewy had designed the 1962 incarnation of Air Force One, inside and out. And he designed NASA’s Skylab, just for good measure.
He transformed many a logo as well: the Post Office into the Postal Service … Esso into Exxon.
But Raymond Loewy is perhaps best remembered for the car which he designed for Studebaker in the 1960s: the Avanti. To this day, it’s one of the models most prized by collectors of classic cars.
The Raymond Loewy Foundation was established with the specific objectives of preserving Raymond Loewy’s image and heritage and promoting the discipline of design internationally. Each year it awards the Lucky Strike Designer Award and the Lucky Strike Junior Designer Award. Past recipients include Donna Karan, Karl Lagerfeld and Michael Ballhaus. Read more by visiting the web site www.RaymondLoewyFoundation.com.
Creative work should be fresh but also familiar. Raymond Loewy’s Maya theory explains why.
The Account Planning Group’s inspirational Creative Strategy Awards closed for entries this week. At the risk of imperilling 101’s entries, and at odds with the prevailing awards tide, I hope the venerable judges find time to salute those strategies that demonstrate caution as well as creative daring.
It’s a contrary position to take with regard to an awards scheme now dedicated to transformational thinking, I’ll grant you, so let me explain.
When Raymond Loewy first proposed his masterful Maya theory, he wrote the playbook for advertising planners – not just industrial designers.
Great design solutions, Loewy figured, played to two competing human impulses – our interest in the new and our deep-seated comfort with the familiar. The designer’s goal, therefore, was to find the “most advanced yet acceptable” answer to his or her brief. Excite and assure in equal measure.
Far from being a charter for mediocrity, Maya explains not only many of Loewy’s groundbreaking designs but also why some new brands and businesses disrupt successfully while others fail – the new rides in undetected on the coat-tails of the old. (Steve Jobs’ artful introduction of the iPhone once we had become familiar with the iPod is a case in point.)
Loewy’s theory receives a timely reboot in Derek Thompson’s new book Hit Makers: the Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. (Required reading for all, except perhaps Ed Sheeran.) And although I suspect few marketers and ad people are taught the principles of MAYA, let alone go about our business with it uppermost in our minds, I believe much of the best brand thinking and many of the best advertising solutions conform to this blueprint.
They honour current beliefs while remaining determined to stretch or at least update them. The best communication starts with listening, after all. And it is agency planners, the reluctant stars of the APG’s show, who may be best-placed to “keep the flame” in their myriad roles of brand guardian, “chief engineer” and occasional change agent.
At risk of caricature, creative folk will tend to strike out for the most advanced solution, then bewail the failure of others to either “get it” or buy it. It’s in their nature and it’s what our rewards system drives them towards – the dopamine rush of a bauble. (Creative awards skew towards the new.)
A few – it’s true – instinctively wear a MAYA hat, whether that is to guide them to the right ideas or simply to stuff that gets made. And unfashionable as creative teams now may be, they would often have a built-in “auto-correct” – one partner reaching for the stars, the other with feet planted firmly on the ground. One live wire, one earth.
For the mortal creative, however, the planner – and strategy more generally – can be their friend in two regards – helping them get straight to “most advanced” answers that are intrinsically acceptable (to the consumer, remember, not necessarily the brand owner) and/or policing the unacceptable. My personal preference is for the former.
A good brief and a good briefing is still a great place to start in the quest for surprising advertising that is accepted rather than rejected, even if the APG Awards raised its gaze beyond this many moons ago. The best briefs steer everyone to what Loewy called “optimal newness” – answers that are at once fresh but somehow familiar, original and appropriate. (“Draw me the court I’m playing on and I’ll try to hit the line,” my creative partner, Augusto Sola, says.)
However, once creatives are up and running, the planner’s task is to act as a kind of clutch control: a role that demands a light touch and a gift for nurture (of ideas, that is – not necessarily people), because creative people need to feel they got there themselves and, of course, often do. And because no-one likes a smart-arse.
Just as it does in the spheres of music and film, our industry’s most popular output works because we recognise something familiar even as we embrace the new. Look more closely and our most transformational thinking may actually be grounded in acceptability, not just the more obvious “advance”.
So as the APG judges gather to celebrate the new, they are reminded of an old truth. Here’s to the less crazy ones.
Next time you see an image of Air Force One taking off, think Coca-Cola and Lucky Strikes. The look of today’s presidential plane, emblazoned with “United States of America” on the blue-and-white fuselage, originated with a quiet collaboration between President John F. Kennedy and Raymond Loewy, who was perhaps the most accomplished commercial image and design expert of the post-World War II era.
When the first jet, a Boeing 707, was added to the presidential fleet in 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was content to let the plane’s nose and tail be painted with the Air Force’s easily visible “international orange” and the sides with the block-lettered label of an obscure bureaucracy: Military Air Transport Service.
But his successor, John F. Kennedy, and Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline, were far more attuned to how symbols could enhance a leader’s image — what we might now call his “brand.” When Kennedy first ran for Congress in 1946, his financier father, Joseph (who had once owned the American franchise for well-known liquor brands such as Haig & Haig Scotch), said, “We’re going to sell Jack like soap flakes.” During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy supporters wore PT-109 tie clips to remind voters of their candidate’s heroism in saving his crew after his Patrol Torpedo boat sank in the Pacific during World War II.
As a college student, Jackie Kennedy had once drolly written that her life’s ambition was to be “a sort of overall art director of the 20th century.” Operating out of this aesthetic instinct, her interest in history and her desire to help her husband (who had been elected by a tiny popular-vote margin) at a time of almost unrelenting Cold War crisis, she famously restored the White House with the ambition of improving how the American presidency was presented to the world. To both Kennedys, Eisenhower’s drab, military-looking plane was a missed opportunity. They started by having its fuselage repainted with the words “United States of America.”
In March 1962, Mr. Loewy, who had a house in Palm Springs, Calif., saw the presidential plane landing at the airport there. That evening, he told his friend Gen. Godfrey McHugh, Kennedy’s Air Force aide, that the aircraft, with its “rather gaudy” orange graphics, looked “terrible.” General McHugh explained that an enlisted man of little experience was responsible for the design. He added that a new Air Force One was being constructed. Mr. Loewy offered to make some suggestions, without taking a fee, on how the new plane’s appearance could be made more distinguished.
Born in France in 1893, Mr. Loewy had migrated to New York after serving in World War I. While building his design business, he made his mark on the Lucky Strikes package (changing its color from green to white), the 1940s Lincoln Continental, the Coca-Cola bottle, dispensers and vending machines, the Greyhound Scenicruiser and the Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive. (Later he created logos for Exxon, Shell and the United States Postal Service.)
By Mr. Loewy’s account, he visited the White House a few months after his conversation with General McHugh. After the designer laid out some sketches on armchairs against a wall, President Kennedy chose one that featured a red-and-gold design, but asked for it to be rendered in blue, which he said was his favorite color.
Mr. Loewy recalled that Kennedy also chose the Caslon typeface — which resembles the one used in the heading of the Declaration of Independence — that was used for the legend “United States of America.” During their meetings, Kennedy also asked Mr. Loewy to consider how the federal government’s visual imagery could be improved, and Mr. Loewy’s firm was retained for a feasibility study, which led to the orange stripe used by the United States Coast Guard.
The new Air Force One entered service in the fall of 1962. Its color scheme and graphics proved to be timeless, and they survive today on Barack Obama’s Boeing 747s, combining sky blue with what Mr. Loewy called “a luminous ultramarine blue,” with an American flag on the tail and a presidential seal on each side, near the nose. The Kennedys were anxious about charges of commercialism, so Mr. Loewy — normally no shrinking violet — remained publicly quiet about his role in the plane’s transformation, for a while. Breaking his silence in 1967, he told United Press International about his involvement, adding that the president had “loved that aircraft. It was his baby.”
Just as Mr. Loewy’s logos and designs helped to differentiate commercial products in the marketplace, his work on Air Force One helped to make the plane a world-famous symbol of presidential majesty and power. For instance, on election eve 1976, hoping to benefit from its aura, Gerald Ford’s campaign advisers had the president address American voters from Air Force One on live television, over engine noise, with opening and closing images of the plane soaring above clouds.
The impact of the reimagined aircraft was evident on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, when the Kennedys were landing at Love Field in Dallas, and a local television announcer told viewers, “Here comes the big jet — Air Force One, ladies and gentlemen, with the seal on the side,” adding, “Beautiful sight!”
Jacqueline Kennedy had always drawn the line at letting the plane’s luxurious new interior (also designed with Mr. Loewy’s help) be photographed for publication, out of worry that the staterooms looked too much like those of a rich tycoon’s private plane. The first time most Americans got a look at Air Force One’s interior was that afternoon, after her husband’s assassination, when Lyndon B. Johnson, in one of the most famous images of the century, was photographed taking the presidential oath there at her side.
Le Creuset is thrilled to announce the limited edition re-launch of COQUELLE 2014 in South Korea. First launched in 1958, the Le Creuset COQUELLE was designed by Raymond Loewy also known as the “father of modern design.”
Loewy’s designs included the Coca-Cola bottle, the logos for Shell and Exxon, the Greyhound bus, the Lucky Strike cigarette pack, and the S1 Locomotive.
November 5, 2013, would have been the pioneer’s 120th birthday.
Today’s Google Doodle honors what would have been the 120th birthday of Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), often referred to as the “father of industrial design” who ”made products irresistible at a time when nobody really wanted to pay for anything,” as TIME once wrote.
He is the man behind the Lucky Strike cigarette pack, Coca-Cola vending machines, the Greyhound bus, the S1 Locomotive, logos for Shell and Exxon, plus the interiors of President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One and NASA’s Apollo and Skylab “orbiters.” When he “streamlined” the Coldspot refrigerator design, sales at Sears went up, illustrating his famous line “between two products equal in price, function, and quality, the better looking will outsell the other.”
TIME put him on the cover in Oct. 31, 1949, a period when he was “the dominant figure” in the field, which had ”mushroomed from a groping, uncertain experiment into a major phenomenon of U.S. business.”
While his designs were ubiquitous, some said his personality was an enigma. As TIME wrote:
“He likes good food, but likes a trim figure better (he keeps his weight close to 170 by diet and massage), worked on through the lunch hour, pausing only for an apple and saccharin-sweetened coffee…Loewy talks in a subdued voice that is, at the same time, apologetic and compelling. His face is reposed, gentle, sad, and as inscrutable as that of a Monte Carlo croupier. Obsessively shy, he is always ‘Mr. Loewy’ even to his longtime associates. Even to those who know him well he is something of an enigma. Said one longtime acquaintance: ‘After all these years, I’m not even sure that I like him!’ Everything he does calls attention,-with skilled showmanship, to his work, so that observers at times get the strange feeling that he too is a design−by Loewy, of course.”