Monday, August 4, 2008

A reflection on ever-changing design choices: Some photo print envelopes and inserts, 1950's - 1990's (flickr link)

Please follow this link to my flickr set:
A sampling of photo print envelopes and inserts, 1950's - 1990's
! (22 images)

My Friend Topic was going through some old family photos recently, and gathered together a stack of some of the assorted envelopes and various inserts that so many of the old prints had been packaged with after processing.

Looking through them, I was struck by how even in such a seemingly lower echelon of print ephemera, the graphic design choices employed in these 'throwaway' items still tell a fair bit about each of their respective eras.

- - And not surprisingly, for me the earlier graphics are capable of striking some chord of nostalgia or warmth that diminishes in the more recent examples.

Even in such a banal item, the fifties and sixties stuff has an 'allure' to the design that's barely perceptible by the '80's, and virtually non-existent by the '90's.

As with so many other design choices, I have to wonder if somehow things from the 1990's will seem more visually appealing in fifty years.

Please follow this link to my flickr set: A sampling of photo print envelopes and inserts, 1950's - 1990's! (22 images)


cyberprimate said...

I notice this general difference of quality pretty much everyday.

I hate these drinks but as an example here's the evolution of the Pepsi logo through the years…

50's: charming

1970's : less interesting but still okay

2000's: just unbearable

Ravel said...

Loved it! I wish I had a scan to send you a couple of enveloppes I have...
Took one of yr pics for a screensaver (Kodak Verichrome).

The In Crowd said...


Thanks! Good examples.

So I guess it's not just me, huh?

I'm still trying to figure out if that phenomenon is just a product of 'frozen' tastes vs. the aging process, or is their something else going on?

Are younger people of today going to find that current Pepsi logo 'charming' when they reach middle age?

cyberprimate said...

In Crowd,

I don't think it's just nostalgia. I'm 29. I should logically be nostalgic of the 80's!… There are periods of great style and other periods…

Think about Cowboy movies for instance (Rio Bravo, Ok Corral,…). Their action takes place mostly within the same 10-15 years (around 1880 I believe), and i think it's partly because style in the West at that time (hats, typography, leather belts…) reached a peak of beauty (before moving on to more industrial times and a totally different style paradigm).

But as for the generally lesser quality of today's design, that's a vast question… It became slowly noticeable in the late 60's when the Western economy began to show its first signs of weakness (which i guess put more pressure on designers), when society became much more open to freedom and individual expression (a great cultural evolution obviously but mediocrity became acceptable as well…), when new technologies extended the possibilities of style (and lack of taste), etc…

I'm a graphic designer, and pretty much everyday I'm asked to do things I don't find appealing just because the alternatives I suggest are generally regarded as less commercial. So unfortunately I play a part in the current zeitgeist !

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