Press Release

Streamlines: Air Age Aesthetics for Industrial Design


Charles Schuler
Director of Marketing & Communications
San Francisco International Airport

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

SAN FRANCISCO - 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 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.

About SFO Museum

SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and presenting educational services for the traveling public.  The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport.  Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit Follow us on,, or

About San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 50 international cities on 42 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 85 cities in the U.S. on 12 domestic airlines.  SFO is proud to offer upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising.  For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit Follow us on and