Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wouldn't it be nice?

I have an admission: I have a rip-roaring obsession with a time period I didn't live through.

I can't be blamed, really. I grew up surrounded by people who showed me the best of what those times had to offer. My dad, a man who used to work for Eatons and produced some of the most gorgeous advertising illustrations I have seen (I'll track some down and scan, I promise!), taught me all about quality and workmanship. While playing Twist and Shout on our record player, he taught me how to draw, starting with Disney characters. You want to see some of the best hand-drawing skills? Watch Disney films from the 1940's and 50's. Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland. When Disney started using computers, they took their skills to another plane, but to me this was the best animation money could buy.

Check out the saddest scene in Bambi to see what I mean.

If you've watched Mad Men, you'll also know that it was this period that was a golden age of advertising. I believe that we're seeing another kind of era with advertising now too- there's so many new developments: QR codes, flash sales websites, social networking, but I digress. As far as really beautiful work and strategic campaigns go, the 1950's and 60's still reign supreme in my mind. It was in the 1940's and 50's where ads started selling a lifestyle rather than a product, especially to women.

Take this one that's selling "a bit of the brilliant, sophisticated air of Yardley ’Bond Street’ Perfume." Sounds quite a bit more glamourous and European than "this perfume smells nice". You also can't beat these classic illustrations. I feel indebted to Leif Peng for sharing his 40's and 50's illustration blog with my college class- you should definitely check it out here!

It's not to say that the 50's were perfect- I'm aware there were massive social, racial and gender prejudices. I could definitely do without those, but sometimes I crave the absolute quality that existed back then. The art, the pop culture, the fashion and the respect and manners people were socially expected to have. I think in our time, where digital reigns supreme and all technology is quick to become outdated, it is important to look back and appreciate a time when quality and the Good Housekeeping seal of approval reigned supreme.