ephemera

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1936.

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“In the month of February were born Washington Lincoln and I.
These are ordinary ideas. If you please these are ordinary ideas.”

Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, Random House, 1936. First edition. 2,000 copies, most were destroyed (so it is written in pencil in the inside front cover).
Is there a more beautiful book spine in the world?

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Talk to me please.

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Employee newsletters for the NYC MTA, 1970-1972. Forty years later, I wish I’d designed these today. Crazy beautiful. And that map!

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The seven devices of propaganda that are well worth watching for.

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I found some of the earliest issues of Print Magazine (or as it was called then, “A Quarterly Journal of the Graphic Arts”) at a great old bookshop this weekend. I purchased Number 2, from September 1940. It’s very much a journal — small size, text heavy, seriously focused. But not without some fantastic treats, visual and otherwise.
The opening essay is by Frederick G. Rudge (son of Print’s founder William E. Rudge?): “Propaganda and the Graphic Arts — Influencing Public Opinion for National Unity.” Some beautiful examples of all sorts of “positive” messages accompany the essay, which explores the idea of using graphic design as a tool for conditioning human behavior. Rudge writes: “It is obviously vital to be able to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ (propaganda), through understanding and analysis. In other words, know how to evaluate; and, as the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Inc. puts it, ‘Don’t be fooled.’”
Given that particular moment in history, his advice was appropriate, if somewhat obvious today. But what’s remarkable is this list of “the seven devices of propaganda that are well worth watching for,” which he quotes from the above-mentioned institute. They’re still well worth watching for in 2010 — who hasn’t experienced (or actually created) each of these in media, politics, advertising, etc.?
1. The Name Calling Device: “Name Calling” is a device to make us form a judgment without examining the evidence on which it should be based.
2. The Glittering Generalities Device: “Glittering Generalities” is a device by which the propagandist identifies his program with virtue by use of “virtue words.”
3. The Transfer Device: “Transfer” is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept.
4. The Testimonial Device: The “Testimonial” is a device to make us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy.
5. The Plain Folks Device: “Plain Folks” is a device used by politicians, labor leaders, business men, and even by ministers and educators to win our confidence by appearing to be persons like ourselves — “just plain folks among the neighbors.”
6. The Card Stacking Device: “Card Stacking” is a device in which the propagandist employs all the arts of deception to win our support for himself, his group, nation, race, policy, practice, belief or ideal.
7. The Band Wagon Device: The “Band Wagon” is a device to make us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandist’s program en masse.
It’s a fascinating essay, then or now.
Another section is titled “Why Printing Is An Important Part of the Picture” and includes a chart listing “Methods of Distributing Printed Messages.” The 40 methods include broadcast delivery (“Scattering from airplanes, Leaving on seats of parked cars”), at exits of factories, and personal delivery by school children.
And apparently, there was to be an exhibition at the AIGA in November 1940, covering “in detail the usefulness of proper graphic techniques in adding to the attention-value and in strengthening the resultfulness of government messages.”

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Good clean typography.

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Some quick Google research reveals that the bag probably hails from Torrington, CT where F. L. Wadhams & Sons produced coal at the turn of the last century, so it hasn’t traveled too far in the last 100 years. Amazing that it hasn’t been destroyed or even used.
I thought I could date the bag with the 4-digit phone number but this only tells me that it’s probably pre-1920 (when 2- or 3-letter city exchanges started to come into use) but that’s about it.
The bag itself is branded — “Bull Dog Sacks” by Miller, Tompkins & Co., Rutherford, NJ in the small circle at top.
I’m sure someone who really knows their type history could pin-point the date more accurately. Anyone?

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Berlin surprise

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Last weekend I stayed in an apartment in Berlin with a magnificent library. Thousands of books lining the walls in each room. I started looking closely and realized that there were some real treasures in here, like a Josef Müller-Brockmann designed book from 1960, der Film. His poster of the same name is one of the most famous of the 20th century, but I didn’t know about the book.
And I started pulling out dozens of small paperbacks from the 1960s and 70s, all published by dtv (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag). The designer is Swiss-born Celestino Piatti, who designed 5,000 books for dtv from 1961 until the mid-90s. I wish I’d brought my Nikon with me but the iPhone shots aren’t too bad.
An Akzidenz Grotesk dream-come-true.

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1975

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There’s something really wonderful about these Mobil roadmaps (c. 1975). The black typography (some kind of corporate typeface based on the wordmark?), the white space, the use of the pegasus, everything. I also stumbled upon some corporate identity history when I looked into the origin of Mobil’s pegasus. Chermayeff & Geismar killed it in 1966, but did you know that it was originally adopted from Socony-Vacuum?
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Data visualization 1890.

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Yesterday’s flea market find: “Number of hogs, sheep and cattle, of the United States, in 1890.”

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Chair.

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It’s 1978, and Peter Bradford has just produced his first book. Chair–The current state of the art, with the who, the why, and the what of it. Pictured is Mary Plumb Blade, born 1913.