Edw. G. Budd Manufacturing Co. - Stain-less design.

This ad was found in a copy of Fortune magazine from 1936, the publication for industrialists and the horsey set. Basically, this is the magazine that the guy in the Monopoly game would have read. And since it's 1936, every page is covered with proof that Art Deco was just about the most beautiful thing that humanity has ever created. Don't take my word for it. Just look at the proof, then admit I'm right. Ho-lee crapola.
Better people than me have tried to explain what art deco was, and if you're foggy on the concept, there's gobs of places you can read all about it. The Wikipedia article kind of hits the nail of greatness on the head with this: "At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity." Testify. This is why art deco was influential all the way from earrings to trains. The whole "beauty of function" thing makes it obvious why engineery types can easily get all misty when confronted with an especially deft piece of deco, like this Budd ad.

Before I forget to mention, check out the way they laid out the body text in the Budd ad. The weird paragraphs of alternating italicized type for no reason? This looks like the wanted posters from the 1800s, with ONE HUGE LINE OF TEXT and then a few lines of tiny text in a different font CLOSELY FOLLOWED BY MORE IRRATIONALLY HUGE LETTERS FOR no reason. It's like a ten year old who just found out how to change fonts in Microsoft Word. I could be wrong about this, but it's kind of odd how this Budd ad straddles the fence between modernism an antiquity.

Deco was typified by simple geometric shapes and stark colors, which can be useful if you're printing in black and white. Keeping the colors limited to very dark darks and very light lights makes for an eye-catching ad. Often, you'd also find a lot of energetic diagonal lines, like the lines of text in the Budd ad. Note that the text goes up as you read from left to right. Also, the train is heading towards the top of the page. It's no accident, as this subliminally communicates optimism to your brain, whether you notice it or not. This kind of belies the overall dark and non-cheerful colors in this ad. To my mind, this is decidedly characteristic of art deco. Intense, semi-scary tonality, combined with super strong and optimistic shapes. The contrast is beautiful and sometimes unsettling.
Unfortunately, this also was the visual language of WWII propaganda posters, some of which got downright freaky with their blow-the-shit-out-of-em messages. War. Uh! Good god y'awll!

Deco was just the prevailing style of the time, and actually predates dubyah dubhay eye-eye by a good ten or twenty years. Still, it could have easily been smirched with the stink of war forever, due to guilt-by-association. But you can't keep a good design down, and it has remained a favorite. Hell, it's even survived a kind of retarded revival in The Eighties, what with the repeated shapes and cheap-to-produce geometry that polluted every common room in college dorms throughout The Nineties. The Eighties is the mouth-breathing cousin of our favorite idiot decade The Seventies and there's almost nothing it can't ruin, except for art deco.

Hey! Check it out. Budd manufacturing is still around, and they're mostly doing the same kind of stuff, although they're now ThyssenKrupp Budd. The Wikipedia entry sort of reads like it was written by the ThyssenKrupp marketing department, so, grain of salt time. Still, it's good to see them still rocking the steel biz over in Michigan.

Where has deco gone? Nowhere. Something this good doesn't just vanish. It finds it's way into everything. so you don't notice it. Most smartyphones have the perfectly radiused (perfectly rounded) corners and minimalist design of deco, as well as pretty much everything that Apple and Ikea sell.

If you like the fonts in this ad, go to your favorite free font site of choice and look up Two Cent for the "profitable performance" text at the top, and City medium or Rockwell for the stuff at the bottom. Just don't forget to make your text change font for no reason and become RANDOMLY GIGANTIC and bafflingly small. Otherwise, you'll never catch those gall dern Dalton boys.

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Anonymous said...

Ahhhh! The Art Deco of the 30's & pin-up girls of the 40's. I ask you - Does it get any better?


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