Monday, June 9, 2014

Space-Age Packaging Design

With the rise of science-fiction novels and movies in the post-industrial age and the allure of space travel decades later, it is no wonder we all became fascinated with the anthropomorphic robot. The robot represented an optimistic future which would relieve the factory worker and provide us with more leisure time. After WWII, it was the toy robot which helped pave the way to economic recovery in Japan and the US, when toy manufacturers quickly seized the opportunity to meet a demand for this funny little tin man. The robot future was securely sealed when Japanese manufacturers introduced the first battery operated robot in 1955, and they continue to be on the march today. Robots purchased for under $5 even fifty years ago, now bring as much as $25,000 to $50,000 at auction when in their original packaging.
     Judging from the early robot package designs offered up at Morphy's Auction house this past February, the vision of space-age exploration was still being invented. More than likely, the packages were illustrated by nameless artists envisioning the future toy, sight unseen. As the package example above illustrates, the robot has little resemblance to the actual tin toy inside, however it is not without its charm and personality. Sidenote: No wonder his "eyes light up" when he sees that $110 price tag. What a steal! It just sold at auction for nearly $600. 

Space-age Wordspacing

Sometimes, I believe we take lettering and typography rules much too seriously. These space-age package designs are a true folk art, and were just as theatrical as the mechanical marvels they portrayed. The Japanese artists who hand-lettered much of the English text on the early box designs, gave little forethought to word and letterspacing or alignment, because they probably didn't even speak the language. They ventured where few lettering artists had gone before, bringing a whole new meaning to the term outer space. Graduated italic titles with airstream strokes characterized space-age travel; dramatic lightening bolt lettering symbolized electricity; and rivets and gears suggested the perfect industrial machine-age toy. 

The "Non Stop Robot" is fun for the entire family...until the batteries die out. And I'm still waiting for all that extra leisure time.


  1. Loved this article!
    I did a robot like this for the University of arts and Design in Stockholm recently. Out of the same passion as in your article.


  2. My Aunt's still have the Lost in Space,,it's just blows me away how we lost touch with such wonderful and amazing art, Lettering, just back to basics,, I still do everything by hand I don't like using the computer for any design if I really don't have to,,and you really don't,,but this is just great


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