Diplomatic design

Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, Designer, Is Dead at 92
By Steven Heller
New York Times
January 4, 2009

Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, an architect and industrial designer who led the team that created the United Nations logo, died on Sunday at his home in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. He was 92. The cause was prostate cancer, said his daughter, Jill Lundquist. In World War II, as a Navy lieutenant, Mr. Lundquist served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the C.I.A. Until 1946 he worked directly with Alger Hiss and the architect Eero Saarinen, preparing visual presentations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the Washington press corps. After the Navy, Mr. Lundquist attended the San Francisco conference at which the United Nations Charter was signed. His team was responsible for designing all the graphics for the conference and an official delegate’s badge, which became the prototype for the United Nations logo. The team did not set out to design the logo for the United Nations, but the badge became the prototype. It was initially designed by Donald McLaughlin, who worked for Mr. Lundquist as the director of graphics for the conference.

The distinctive blue in the design, Mr. Lundquist explained, was “the opposite of red, the war color.” He continued, “It was a gray blue, a little different than the modern United Nations flag.” The symbol of the globe was also slightly different in the original design, he said: “We had originally based it on what’s called an azimuthal north polar projection of the world, so that all the countries of the world were spun around this concentric circle, and we had limited it in the Southern sector to a parallel that cut off Argentina because Argentina was not to be a member of the United Nations. We centered the symbol on the United States as the host country. Subsequently, in England our design was adapted as the official symbol of the United Nations, centered on Europe as more the epicenter, I guess, of the East-West world, and took into account the whole Earth, including Antarctica. By then, of course, Argentina had been made a member.”

Mr. Lundquist was born on September 20, 1916, in Westbury, N.Y., the son of Frances Molly Lundquist and the landscape architect Louis Lundquist. He grew up in Peekskill, N.Y., and studied architecture as an undergraduate at Columbia University. In 1937, during his senior year, he was hired to work in the prestigious industrial design office of Raymond Loewy and was trained by Loewy himself. He later studied on his own for the New York architecture licensing exams, all of which he passed on his first attempt, in 1956. At Loewy’s firm, he worked on the Chrysler Motors Exhibition for the 1939 New York World’s Fair; Chrysler had developed the Air Flow car, and Mr. Lundquist was involved with designing a wind tunnel display that used smoke to show the smooth air stream. He helped create a “magic talking car” that spoke in the voice of the “Amateur Hour” host Major Bowes about the great autos created by Chrysler. He also installed a “frozen forest” to demonstrate Chrysler’s new air-conditioning system. The forest had palm trees made of steel with refrigerant inside. “This became a favorite refuge inside on the hot summer days,” Mr. Lundquist said.

In Arts & Architecture magazine’s Post War Living housing competition in 1943, Mr. Lundquist won top honors for a house he designed with Saarinen. Mr. Lundquist was a partner in the architectural firm Van Der Lanken & Lundquist and was later a partner in the firm Lundquist & Stonehill in New York. In addition to designing private residences, he worked on hospitals, schools and Parks Department buildings; the offices of the investment firms Bache & Company and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and the drug maker Hoffmann La-Roche; and the renovation of the art auctioneers Sotheby Parke Bernet in the former Kodak Building in Manhattan. He was an early proponent of track lighting, doing many original designs for the lighting company Lightolier. Mr. Lundquist’s marriage to Betty Cooper Lundquist ended in divorce in 1975. He is survived by their three children, Jill, Timothy and Eric Lundquist, and five grandchildren. While he was at the Loewy office, Mr. Lundquist designed something almost as visible as the U.N. logo: one of the most widely known of product packages, the blue-and-white Q-Tip box.

See also: Q-tips

United Nations

Arts & Architecture


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