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New Museum Exhibition - Streamlines: Air Age Aesthetics for Industrial Design

New exhibition presents examples of aviation-inspired streamline design products from the early 1930s to the early 1950s

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the modern airplane became an inspiring symbol of hope. Sleek and shiny, the new all-metal aircraft lifted spirits and promised a brighter future. The emerging study of aerodynamics, using wind-tunnel testing, rapidly advanced the design of aircraft. With smoother streaming lines, airplanes were flying faster and farther and capturing the public’s imagination. The functionality of this new aerodynamic understanding, which became known as “streamline design,” extended to other forms of transportation, including trains, cars, and ships.

To stimulate consumerism, products were designed and marketed in homage to the airplane. The “form follows function” science of aerodynamics was inverted to create visually pleasing appearances that had little to do with physical performance. Sweeping lines, rounded corners, parabolas, and tapering teardrop shapes became new standards of beauty, all pointing to a better tomorrow through technology. Sociologist Robert Lynd (1892–1970) attributed this optimism to the “strong hold on the popular imagination” of the airplane and that “with each new thrilling invention of this sort, the imperatives in the psychological standard of living of a portion of the population increase.” From bicycles and typewriters to furniture and household appliances, this exhibition presents examples of streamline design products from the early 1930s to the early 1950s.

Visit https://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/streamlines-air-age-aesthetics-industrial-design for more information on the exhibition.


Streamlines: Air Age Aesthetics for Industrial Design is located pre-security in the Aviation Museum and Library in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is on view to all Airport visitors from March 16, 2019, to September 22, 2019. There is no charge to view the exhibition. The Aviation Museum and Library is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, closed holidays.