Graphic design through the ages uses universal concepts to market products in a clear, interesting way. Nearly 100 years ago, in the 1915 Woman’s Home Companion, graphic designers were putting into practice many techniques we use today.
The headline, tagline, and advertising copy are easy to read because of hierarchy. Our eye naturally glances at large, bold type first. Too many words in the headline, and it becomes jumbled and difficult to read. In this ad, the headline is brief, and the tagline is carefully separated into two short lines that bring the point across efficiently. Within the body copy, there are italic emphasized words such as “refreshes” and “soothes” so that a quick glance at the paragraph will bring out those key concepts.
Giving a pleasant mood to the advertisement, the figures are confident and happy, surrounded by enough to set the scene without being busy and crowded by objects. The use of diagonal eye-line is strong—see how the eye goes from the headline text down to the main copy by traveling along the main figure? The drapery moves into the advertisement, breaking the square, to make it easy to look past the illustration into the paragraphs. Images captivate our imagination, so it is important to use the visual to bring the eye into the text.
Looking at the areas surrounding the design, there is an equal amount of empty space to the areas that are inked in. This gives the eye room to relax and clearly see the message. The tagline has an especially large amount of white space, since it is crucial to the design. The main copy has ample leading—the area in between lines of text—helping create a flow to the paragraph.
Call to Action
While modern designs feature an obvious call to action, advertisements of a century ago used small type to convey their purpose. This piece offers a free trial bar of soap, and gives the price for buying it in the store. We have learned since 1915 that it needs to be just as easy to read the call to action as the main tagline. A great deal can be learned from looking at advertisements from the past, and some aspects of design are universal, but we have discovered new ideas in the last century. Companies like P&H Creative build on the valuable designs of the past, continually learning new ways to market to the 21st century.
Alexa Chipman has been as web and graphic designer for seven years, specializing in websites and direct mail. She is a Living History docent at Hyde Street Pier and Angel Island in San Francisco, including the era of 1915-18.
1939 Standard Oil stamp booklet.
Remember those little travel booklets that gas stations used to pass out for free that you filled with stamps? This booklet and stamps was created by P&H in 1939, and features travel stamps for locations throughout the Western states.
When I purchased P&H, I discovered an old file cabinet containing the agencies scrap files going back to the 1920′s. The files contained reference photos taken for the staff illustrators, advertisements, and samples of illustrators the agency admired. Over the coming weeks I will post these samples, some bio info, and my commentary. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed discovering them. —Bruce Hettema
Floyd Davis (1896-1966)
When I opened the file folder with Floyd Davis’s samples I was taken by the similarity to one of my favorite illustrators, Jack Unruh’s work. His style, with its stylized characters, fine line work, subtle color and areas of the illustration that are left unfinished, are hallmarks of Unruh’s style. Further research uncovered that this was just the tip of the iceberg in Floyd Davis’s styles.-Bruce Hettema
Floyd Davis: Hirman Walker Ten High campaign
Floyd Davis had no formal art training, but learned on the job, working his way from lithography apprentice to being an accomplished illustrator for magazines like Woman’s Home Companion, American Magazine, and a long run at the Saturday Evening Post.*
His art career, interrupted by two and a half years of service in the U.S. Navy during World War I, was resumed when he returned to Chicago and joined the Grauman Brothers’ organization as an advertising artist. An early exponent of the drybrush technique.
In the thirties, Davis began to illustrate stories of humbler subjects. His pictures of southern rural and hill people for such authors as William Faulkner, Sigman Byrd, Glenn Allan, and MacKinlay Kantor became immensely popular. He loved these assignments and filled the pictures not only with a fascinating cast of individuals, but added the special Davis touches: a cat crouched in the corner ready to leap out at a rival, a fly on an old mans heat, a small lizard hiding behind a tree.
Floyd Davis continued to paint during the final decade of his life. His works continued to appear in major print media as illustrations for stories and advertisements. His wife, Gladys Rockmore Davis, continued to exhibit and paint as well. In 1961, he was elected as the 5th inductee into The Illustrators Hall of Fame**
Frank B. Hoffman (1888-1958)
I wasn’t familiar with Hoffman’s early work, but in researching his career I recognized his western illustration for which he is best known. This blog will focus on his early dry-brush work. His energetic, loose brush style, coupled with his dynamic compositions inspired many imitators.—Bruce Hettema
Growing up in New Orleans where his father raced horses, Frank Hoffman developed a great love for these animals, which was reflected in his paintings. He worked as an illustrator for the “Chicago American” newspaper, which gave him an opportunity to draw many subjects from opera to prize fights, and eventually he became head of the department. During that time, he took formal art training from J. Wellington Reynolds, a portrait painter.
In 1916, having been rejected for military service because of poor eyesight, he went West and lived with cowboys and Indian tribes and served as public relations director for Glacier National Park where he met noted artist John Singer Sargent.
In 1920, Hoffman joined the young art colony in Taos, New Mexico, where he met and studied with Leon Gaspard. Although focusing on his fine art, Hoffman also painted for corporate advertising campaigns and illustrated Western subjects for leading national magazines in the 1920’s. Hoffman became the best-known
New Mexico illustrator of his time.
As his success grew, he bought his own Hobby Horse Rancho, where he raised first thoroughbreds and then quarter horses. His horses became the live models for his paintings, along with longhorn cattle, eagles, burros, turkeys and even a bear. By 1940 Hoffman had an exclusive contract with Brown and Bigelow for calendar art.
He produced more that 150 Western paintings during this time. Frank B. Hoffman died in Taos, New Mexico in 1958.*
1930′s French Line magazine ad
LESLIE SAALBURG (1897-1974)
During the 30′s through the 50′s P&H did many advertisments for the cruise industry including Dollar Lines, American President Lines, and Matson. The early years of ocean travel was exclusivly for the rich society, which is why I believe there are so many Saalberg samples in the P&H scrap files. —Bruce Hettema
Leslie Saalberg broke into commercial art sketching women’s coats of a NY manufacturer. He developed into a careful, and meticulous artist who made period work his specialty, with an emphasis on clothing, furniture, automobiles and architecture.
Leslie Saalburg born of American parents in London. His father was an important figure in the development of the comic strip, starting with “Hogan’s Alley”, a feature in which the protagonist was a character names the “Yellow Kid”, hence “yellow Journalism”.
Hogan’s Alley character “The Yellow Kid”.
Leslie Saalberg studied at the art Students League of New York, for only 3 months. That was his entire art instruction.
Leslie Saalburg did many illustrations for Esquire dealing with the subjects of men’s fashion, parties and society dinners.
In his artistic family includes a younger brother, Allen Saalburg, whose clients included Pennsylvania Railroad, United States Line, and his son Philippe.*
Allen Saalberg, Fortune Magazine cover.
* Heritage Press Sandglass Companion Book 1960-1983
1930 magazine ad
PETER HELCK (1893-1988)
The P&H scrap file on Helck contains mostly black & white line with wash illustrations. My research on his career shows that he is most know for his automotive illustrations in color. While these are notable, there is something appealing about his sure-handed ability with a pen. Having taken drafting classes in high school, and plenty of perspective classes in art school, I can appreciate Helcks capability to creates beautiful illustrations from a variety of perspectives. —Bruce Hettema
Peter Helck was born in New York City in 1893. He studied art at the Art Students League in Manhattan and later studied in England with muralist Frank Brangwyn. From the 1920′s through the 1940′s Helck was very successful as a magazine illustrator and advertising artist. His commissions frequently were of industrial scenes, or featured cars, trucks and locomotives. During that period he also painted pictures of famous automobile races — having been an avid fan of the sport since childhood. In 1944 he did a series of paintings for Esquire magazine in which he recreated the excitement of automobile races from the first decades of the 20th century. To his great satisfaction, these pictures proved very popular, and in the following decades he developed a large market for paintings of old cars. It is for this genre that he is mostly remembered today.*
As a young boy he would garner rides with race car driver Al Poole testing the latest cars from Simplex. The first race that he attended was the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island. He grew inspiration from legendary French artist Edouard Montaut who’s exaggeration of speed leant his work a sense of super realism. While an art student in New York he would spend many a lunchtime gazing at all of the wonderful showroom displays along that city’s automobile row. His first published work was for the Brighton Beach Motordrome. Commissions for the Sheepshead Bay Speedway soon followed. He knew drivers from Louis Wagner to Mario Andretti and his paintings documented their exploits as none had before or since.**
When I purchased P&H, I discovered an old file cabinet containing the agencies scrap files going back to the 1920′s. The files contained reference photos taken for the staff illustrators, advertisements, and samples of illustrators the agency admired. Over the coming weeks I will post these samples, some bio info, and my commentary. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed discovering them.
Boxers, Life Magazine
ROBERT RIGGS (1896-1970)
I was not familiar with the work of Robert Riggs, but I can see how his style has influenced some contemporary illustrators. His heroic figures, with their thick, block shapes look like they where hewn from stone. They are compelling, yet at the same time eerily disturbing. You can especially see this in his later lithographic work depicting circuses, boxers and psychopathic wards —Bruce Hettema
Robert Riggs is known for his paintings of prize-fighting and circus-genre scenes and lithography of gigantic size compositions, He had a highly successful career as an artist, especially in the 1930s and 40s. His painting “The Brown Bomber,” showed the boxing victory of Joe Louis over Max Schmeling. This is one of the paintings that earned Riggs election to the National Academy of Design in 1946.
Liberty, Lithograph—Beautiful composition with an unsettling atmospheric quality. I like how this scrap has a few brush strokes off to the side where an artist, using this image for reference, was cleaning his/her brush.
Robert Riggs was born in Decatur, Illinois and as a young man ran away from home and joined the circus. He studied at the James Milliken University in Illinois and then trained at the Art Students League in New York, but his study was interrupted by Army service in World War I.
He stayed overseas and attended the Academie Julian in Paris and then returned to the United States where he settled in Philadelphia and worked for N.W. Ayer & Sons, an advertising agency for whom he did numerous illustrations. He was active in the Germantown Boys Club, where he worked with an Indian lore group.
He was a collector of European, Asian and African artifacts, and his studio was like a museum.*
Saturday Evening Post, September 1943
Circus Lithographic series
Psychopathic Wards, Lithographic series
From 1932 he began to make lithographs, possibly inspired by an exhibition of George Bellows’ work held in Philadelphia the previous year. Of the 84 lithographs Riggs produced, some 55 were produced between 1932–1934.
Life Magazine profile (Can’t say the headline would fly to well today, “snakes and boys”, but he looks like he was an interesting charactor.)
California Beaches. Southern Pacific Railroad
MAURICE LOGAN (1886-1977)
There are 2 sides of Maurice Logan, The illustrator, and the fine artist. What I like about his work is his ability to, at times, combine these 2 worlds. You can often see in his commercial work the loose, impressionistic brush stroke of a fine artist and his non-commercial work shows what a keen an eye for design and composition he had.—Bruce Hettema
By 1915, Maurie Logan was a leading illustrator in San Francisco. His specialty was creating painted images on demand for advertising work. Someone else would then usually do the lettering and layout work. His expertise with the landscape and the figure made him very versatile. There were few ad agencies at that time. Some of his clients were railroads such as Southern Pacific and Canadian Pacific which wanted landscape travel advertisements.
Scrap illustration cut from travel brochure
He did a number of landscape Sunset Magazine covers in the 1920s and 1930s as well. In 1935 Logan founded the commercial art business of Logan, Staniford, and Cox (competitors of P&H). Their accounts included such names as Dole, Southern Pacific, Caterpillar, Lucky Lager Beer, and Ghirardelli Chocolate.
Caterpillar Tractor brochure
Lake Tahoe Travel Brochure, Southern Pacific Railroad
Postcard: Lake Apache Lake, Southern Pacific Railroad
Around this time he was hired and sent to Africa as preparation for painting dioramas of Africa at the Los Angeles Museum of History and later at the San Francisco Academy of Science.**
He also was a member of one of the most artistically rebellious art groups to emerge in California during the 20th century. The group became known as the “Society of Six” and their rebellion took the form of producing mostly boldly colored impressionistic paintings and watercolors. The Society of six was created in 1917 and consisted of Selden Connor Gile, Maurice Logan, William H. Clapp, August F. Gay, Bernard von Eichman, and Louis Siegriest. These artists worked primarily in Northern California and their art experimentation was not generally appreciated by contemporary art critics. In an interesting philosophical turn-around he reacted to the modernism of contemporary art and late in life joined the anti-modernist Society for Sanity in Art.*
* Chelette, Iona M. California Grandeur and Genre. Palm Springs: Palm Spring Desert Museum, 1991.
** Maurice Logan, Artist and Designer by Marvin A. Schenck
P&H Creative Group has completed a redesign of the KTRY website reflecting the music format change of playing classic country favorites,
such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline along with current contemporary country artists.
1955 Bay Area Map presented to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce
I want to thank Donna Davidson for contacting P&H in regards to this wonderful illustration by agency founder, Ray Sullivan. Donna found us through an internet search and was generous in offering to sell this original illustration for only $100.00!
This map of the Bay Area shows Ray’s skill in one of P&H’s capabilities of cartography. Over the years, P&H created many decorative maps for clients such as Southern Pacific, Matson, Dollar Steamship, and Chevron.