Design of the Mad Men era

Recently I made a nice find at a private book sale in my neighborhood: three thick volumes on the greatest American advertising and editorial designers of the 60s.

I liked the Mad Men series as much as anyone else, but in some of the scenes I would have liked to have a drop-down-menu in order to see more of the actual advertising work from the New York City of the 1960s. Therefore I instantly felt a tingle when these three books with more than 120 pages each fell into my hands at a studio in the neighborhood.

The volumes, which were printed in Japan in 1971 and have somewhat yellowed but are otherwise in great condition, form part of a series on advertising graphics, editorial design and illustration, and in these three books only the most distinguished American designers are gathered – with a cornucopia of works that would be difficult to reproduce here.

Still, I have tried it in a late night session. All the motifs seen in this post were photographed and trimmed with the iPhone at the kitchen table – I did not aim for perfect reproduction, my intention is merely to celebrate these often stunning works of art, many of which I have never seen before and find absolutely fascinating.

All of these works are around or more than 50 years old, all of them were made without computers, and of course, many of them are in a style that now looks beautifully retro. But there’s also quite a few designs that are still very much up-to-date – because of their style, like the ad for the hype label Paraphernalia, or for their respective subject matter.

Thus, a Fact Magazine cover from 1965 questioned the US national anthem by way of citations. The stark photography of Herb Lubalin and Louis Dorfsman focuses on the African-American experience, and a poster by Tomi Ungerer deals with racism in a, well, Tomi Ungerer way. These are all issues that still concern America and the world today.

In much the same way I can lose myself in the wonderful graphic works of Milton Glaser, Peter Max or Paul Davis – and that ingenious full-page advertisement by Louis Danziger, who put together 35 small pictures for a long sentence about a 35mm camera. One can easily imagine Don Draper delivering a captivating sales pitch for that one.