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Vintage Print Design – Still Got What It Takes

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Vintage Print Design – Still Got What It Takes

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Great advertising stops us in our tracks and demands attention. At its best, it is visually exciting and attractive, with a clear message we understand immediately. Because of its simplicity and graphic appeal, vintage print design hits these targets of effective advertising right on the head, making it as effective and relevant today as when it was created.

Let’s unlock the vault on vintage print design to learn a little of its history, take a look at some examples, and identify its timeless elements that today’s saavy advertisers can use to create effective marketing today.

Advertising: A Reflection Of Society

In the early 19th century, the advertising people saw were mainly from the local clerks that sold them supplies. Products and goods were sold without much branding back then, and people often brought their own receptacles to be filled. Aside from hand-bills or posters, and an occasional traveling salesman, the consumer was not marketed to directly.

By the late 1860s, with a booming economy, and the ability and demand for products to be mass-produced and merchandised, newspapers earlier restrictions to allow large display advertising in newspapers.

Around the same time, people become accustomed to buying packaged goods, rather than buying in bulk, and the practice of branding and packaging products also began.

It was the dawn of marketing, and manufacturers sought new ways to reach their customers. New publications emerged, and lithography allowed The Montgomery Ward Catalog to offer the first color printed advertisements, with the Ladies Home Journal quickly following suit.

Colorful and eye-catching ads, packaging, posters, banners, slogans and more were created to help manufacturers reach an explosive new market – the middle-class consumer.

The Golden Age of Print Design

The period of time most people associate with vintage print design is approximately 1910-1959.

Because of a booming population and production advancements by 1920, advertising grew to a $3 billion dollar industry! Advertising was used to support the war effort, as evidenced in James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic Uncle Sam poster of 1917.

Specific and sophisticated ad campaigns were launched, and many advertisers developed mascots such as the Morton Salt girl, Joe Camel, Mr. Peanut, and Aunt Jemima. Women, responsible for 85% of household purchases, were marketed to heavily.

Print advertising remained strong from the 1930s through the 1950s, despite competing radio and television mediums. You can see glimpses of the changing mores and escapism many people sought during the depression, as in this Camels cigarette ad in McCalls magazine ad from 1934 featuring a high society debutante from New York City.

After the depression, ads generated a vision of the ideal family, prosperity and. Children and teenagers became target markets for print advertising during this time, and were featured prominently in vintage print designs of that time.

By the 1960s, print advertising started to reflect the dominant visual media at the time – the television, The illustrative designs of vintage print advertising were nudged out by more realistic-looking ads featuring photographs.

Why Vintage Print Design Works

There are several key marketing aspects of vintage print design that make these pieces strong and compelling.

Simplicity. Vintage print designs possess a clarity and simplicity that shines clear when compared to many of this era’s overly-branded and cluttered ads. That doesn’t mean designing a simple ad is easy. It can actually be quite challenging to edit and streamline for maximum effectiveness.

Bold color. Retro print designs feature strong colour choices, and high contrast. This draws the eye in, and visually stimulates the reader immediately. The colors in vintage design advertisements of all kinds are bold, to match their bold message.

Branding with slogans. A well-crafted and pithy slogan representing your product will stick in your customers’ minds and make it easy for them to remember you. A great slogan sums up your product’s benefits, or sets you apart from your competition within seconds.

Creative fonts. The typefaces used in vintage print design are creative, stylish and full of character. Do not under-estimate the power of the font in design. Typeface design, kerning, and leading are huge design features in vintage print designs.

Tell a story. This might be at the heart of why vintage print designs hold a special place in peoples’ hearts; they tell a story. Although some of the copy may be overly flowery, engaging in a story and making it relatable is invaluable in getting customers to relate to your product.

Everything Old Is New Again

Art repeats itself. Today’s marketers and artists can be inspired by the artists of vintage print pieces, just as those folks were inspired by artists before them. Getting ideas from the past works, and giving it a modern twist with a unique approach is the best kind of creative fusion.

Shepard Fairey did just that with his iconic “HOPE” portrait of Barack Obama in 2008, taken from Mannie Garcia’s original photograph. Using retro colouring and contouring techniques of the vintage print design era, Fairey created a visually stunning and emotionally moving piece of art that defined a movement and an era in American politics.

Browse these great examples of modern marketing that borrows from the past to make bold impact today.