Saturday, April 4, 2009

Advertising + Design = Art?

International Library of Technology, Book 344
Artistic Show-Cards
How to Design and Make Them
By E. L. Koller

Published by International Textbook Company, Scranton, PA. 1927


I picked this book up at the South Dakota State Fair in the 90's for a nickle. Yes, a nickle. There are many wonderful things about it (including it's twin on line drawing, the dyed red page edges and the pressed flowers and other treasures I found between its pages), but the thing that struck me most when I flipped through it earlier this week is this:

"No matter how familiar one may be with various alphabets and styles of lettering, his efforts at making well-lettered show cards will give very mediocre results unless he is acquainted with the principles of artistic design. For a well-designed and well-lettered card is as much a piece of artistic design as is a successful house, a beautiful illustration or a graceful piece of silverware."

A show card was something used in the early 20th century to advertise a product in a retail environment. I wonder if the author would agree that the same could be said for advertising today. Is it as artistic as any other art form? It seems it used to be; in the 20's, all of it was done by hand. Incredible. 

As I browsed the pages I was in awe thinking of how each 'graphic designer' in those days was responsible for typography, layout and aesthetics in an entirely different way than those of us who find ourselves in that profession are today. They couldn't just scroll through typefaces and clip art and pick the things that seemed appropriate. They had to create the letterforms and the imagery with a predetermined sense of what was going to be perfectly suitable. So is design less of an art form today than it was in the early 1900's? Or is it just different?

1 comment:

  1. so cool! i can't believe it was all done by hand. maybe then i could have been a graphic designer. :)