Monday, October 19, 2009

who's shaping how we think?

Whenever I'm working on a project, it completely takes over my life. Most of the books I've done have a significant art bent, so along with outlining, researching, and writing, I'm searching for the appropriate visuals to illustrate the story. That, for me, is the fun part. I love nothing more than perusing vintage magazines, getting a glimpse into a particular moment in time through a specific window. I can't imagine being a housewife in the 1950s—there's no way I'd ever look that put together while I mopped the kitchen floor, or cleaned my oven. In heels and pearls. The ads for Campbell's soup, for Jello, for stockings, for toothpaste . . . my fascination never wanes as to how we've been targeted and marketed at for decades.

How many slogans pop into your head, just by thinking of a brand? Even tag lines that haven't been used for years?

Coke is It
Campbell's Soup is Mmm, Mmm Good
Don't Squeeze the Charmin (Mr. Whipple always scared me)

It's too easy to get lost in the picture collection at the New York Public Library, or the stacks, in the same building, where they have shelf after shelf of bound magazines dating back decades. Ebay is a treasure trove—people have created careers of selling vintage ads. Part of that is tragic to me—all those amazing time capsules ripped apart with razor blades. But, being able to search "cheerleader" or "beauty queen" or "feminine hygiene" has made my finding art so much easier. And from there, my stories evolve.

I never set out to be a writer, I'm a designer by day, but am finding as my 10th book goes on sale next month, that I've found a way to marry concepts and imagery to tell stories the way I see them. We are such a visual society, constantly being bombarded with images on TV, online, on billboards, in subways, sides of buses, in magazines, that it seems impossible to recount history, evolving cultural developments and mindsets, without showing the images that shape how we think and feel (whether we accept that as truth or not).

Try it. Try thinking of McDonalds or Macy's or Cheetos without seeing an logo or image in your head. I'm betting it's automatic. We've all been conditioned. Without having been offered a blue or red pill (from a fascinating twitter conversation a couple of nights ago).

Now try this. Think of a store, a restaurant, a project without those innate preconceived mindsets. Can you? Please let me know how that goes.

Day 21 is in the bag.

1 comment:

CTK said...

Great piece. I saw it in a Will C. tweet.

The logos soothe me. They good ones (for products I enjoy) are like visual music for me. And the logos attached to brands I don't buy or care for are like disco tunes I wish were never sung.

I have an easy time remember places I frequent without imagining a predetermined logo. For instance a restaurant I know serving up the best meatloaf (just like mama made it) logo in mind's eye is a meatloaf with a bite out of it!

When I think of Starbucks it's of the pretty foamed milk on top of my cappucino, not that hideous logo that annoys me.

I can't always escape the darn logo, but the brand visuals... truly are like radio. Which is why I mostly listen to CDs instead.

And Mr.Whipple, jury is out on that guy!