With its space-age look and red, domed roof, the Travelers Insurance Pavilion was a remarkable site at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. Remarkable not only for its unusual design but also for its intentional use of design to tell a powerful branding story.
Donald Deskey designed the pavilion to resemble the Travelers logo — an open umbrella symbolizing the protection that consumers got with a Travelers insurance policy. Inside the pavilion, visitors wandered through 13 life-size dioramas and a multimedia exhibit called “The Triumph of Man,” which celebrated humankind’s ability to rebound from life-threateners like war and disease (much like insurance can help people bounce back from calamities). The exhibit ended with a glimpse into 1960s-era space travel and the company’s promise to protect humanity through all of its future challenges.
The construction of the pavilion coincided with Travelers’ one hundredth anniversary, a time when companies like to look back at where they’ve been and ahead to where they’re going. The umbrella roofline (a nod to their past and present) was mirrored by the base structure, which created a scalloped edge around the middle of the building that gave it a futuristic saucer look. The entire pavilion was surrounded by water as though it were floating, quite possibly in the minds of visitors, on a calmed puddle after a rainstorm.
Listen to "The Triumph of Man" original narration below.