OBITUARY : Walter Landor

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The Independent Online
Walter Landor helped create corporate and brand identities for many of the world's foremost companies including Levi-Strauss, Cotton Inc, the World Wildlife Fund, Twentieth Century Fox and Philip Morris. The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History in Washington recently completed the Walter Landor Collections of Design Records and Packaging, a permanent collection of his work.

As a marketing-oriented designer, Landor was comfortable with most modes of graphic expression, ranging from the austerity of the Bauhaus School to the most decorative of design statements. His roots were in the heraldic and the baroque, hence the majestic Alitalia and British Airways, the sexy Thai International, and the sleek Singapore Airlines designs.

Landor spent his formative years in Munich, where he was born in 1913. He settled in London in 1931, where he completed his studies at Goldsmiths' College of Art, and in 1935 became a founding partner in the Industrial Design Partnership (IDP), Britain's first industrial design consulting firm.

After participating in the 1939 World's Fair in New York, he stayed in the United States, in San Francisco, where he and his wife Josephine Martinelli Landor (a designer and artist in her own right) established Walter Landor & Associates in 1941. From these beginnings, the company initially worked in package design, and expanded internationally in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties to include corporate, environmental and retail identity (including the co-ordination of the Coca-Cola identity, and the creation of visual identities for Levi's, Miller Lite, SmithKline Beecham and Federal Express), until it had grown to the international identity design group that it is today, with 17 offices around the world.

Over the years, Landor Associates has been a menage of clients, designers, painters, sculptors, writers, researchers, straights, hippie flower kids and marketing people. For many of those years, up until the late Eighties, Landor Associates, with the ferryboat Klamath as its headquarters, floated serenely on San Francisco Bay.

None of this happened by accident but was just another example of Landor's unique ability to "mix it up" and make life more interesting and enjoyable.

Aside from his own creative talent as a world-renowned marketing designer, Walter Landor was at his best interacting with people. That was the essence of his personality. He had his own inimitable, elegant style. He was charming, urbane, witty, and a firm believer in the group effort. Intuition was an important part of his make-up.

These characteristics, combined with a cool intellectual approach, were factors contributing to his success in the field of corporate and brand identity design. Walter Landor's work was for all seasons, all continents, all people. He understood how to communicate effectively with both the special few and the great masses of people in the world's marketplace.

Rodney McKnew

Walter Landauer (Landor), designer: born Munich 9 July 1913; married 1940 Josephine Martinelli (two daughters); died San Francisco 9 June 1995.