Monday, March 31, 2014

The First Wearable Advertising

Pinback buttons are most closely associated with political campaigns to promote a candidate or a cause, and were considered the best advertising medium of all in the late 19th century. They were first developed in 1896 by the job printer, Whitehead & Hoag in New Jersey, after securing several important patents allowing them to print reverse designs onto celluloid. With the 1896 presidential election that same year, the buttons became an overnight success. Once advertisers saw it as an opportunity for promotion, W&H were steadily producing buttons at the rate of one million per day. Soon a new printing plant was built in Newark to accommodate their 50 new modern presses, a photo engraving plant, a complete art department and machinery plant. According to collector Ted Hake, several of the artists employed by W&H over the early years included Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Harrison Fisher. 
     The pinbacks displayed here are all part of various collections for sale on the Hake site. The circa 1910 "penmanship" pin with Lady Liberty shown above is considered rare and was presumably used as a reward to the student of good handwriting. I predict this pin will be considered even more prized now that penmanship has been relegated to an archaic pursuit by the common core standards educational initiative. Replacing it with texting dexterity perhaps... Below are many more early 20th century advertising pins for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Intelligent Designer: Erik Nitsche

Swiss-born graphic designer and illustrator, Erik Nitsche (1908-1998) is primarily identified with the remarkably modern work he produced for the defense contractor, the General Dynamics corporation in the 1950s and 60s, along with a series of smartly designed science and technology history books. All of this influential work sealed his position as one of the pioneering graphic designers of the last century. Previous to these achievements, Nitsche produced scores of advertisements for fashion and pharmaceutical clients in New York, and publishers such as Town and Country, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Arts & Decoration, House & Garden and Fortune magazines. His achievements in designing album covers for Decca Records were some of the most inventive of the modern era. Discovering this 1946 magazine advertisement for Holzer alligator handbags, found here, further impressed me with his range of talent and capability. Below is one of Nitsche's early cover designs for a 1933 issue of Der Querschnitt, (The Cross-Section), an art and literary journal which ceased publication during the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. 

Source: ZVAB

This undated Home & Food cover design is another fine example of the range of Nitsche's limitless talent. With exception of the toxic letter E, which should be banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency, his horticultural lettering appears as charming and fresh today as it was at the time it was first produced decades ago. Duly noted is the dripping hose.
     Nitsche lived until age ninety and enjoyed a long and successful career with clients as diverse as handbag designers to military submarines. Long after the age when most people retire, he continued to paint, design postage stamps, childrens' books and build a collection of avant-garde toy designs. For further reading, drop in at Typotheque to read Steven Heller's great essay, Erik Nitsche: The Reluctant Modernist

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alphabet Patterns

This beautiful alphabet specimen is a fine example of the sort of decorative letterforms familiar to many needlework specialists. Over 100 illustrated alphabets and monograms were traced and possibly gathered from printed source material, and then assembled into this bound volume sometime between 1860 and 70. It very likely may have originated in Germany, since a newspaper clipping from Der Bazar—dated March, 20th, precisely 143 years ago today—is glued to the fly-leaf of the book. This one-of-a-kind book is happily shared as a full download here. I've taken the liberty to color correct and display a number of my favorite alphabet examples for a sneak preview. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lucky Charms

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I continue to be charmed by this breakfast of champions, from 4CP / adventures deep inside the comic book. It is more fun than a bowl full of cereal and chewy colored marshmallows for breakfast, and far easier to swallow.

Atomic Robot

3D 4CP Boy

Ben Day in His Laboratory

The Type Machine

Main Frame

Mr. G

Comic Book Art

Captain Meric
You can find plenty more dot goodness here.