Sunday, June 27, 2010

Glorious b&w and lessons from old-school generic labels

I remember thinking that the old stark black and white generic food labels were freaking cool. I liked how a box of corn flakes would simply be a big white box with the word "Corn Flakes" written in bold black letters across the front.

You would see these labels spattered about the store. Green Beans. Flour. Beer. Cola.


Companies are always trying to figure out the best way to draw a consumer's eye to their particular product as it sits on a cluttered store shelf. Well, take some lessons from the old-school generic label, man. The reason it stuck out to me was because it stood as this shining beacon of pure black on white within a sea of supposedly popping colors and images.

You couldn't help it. Your eye would automatically go right to the white box. For many years now, many generic/store brands have used color package design, ironically making them more generic.

"New look! Same great taste!" Yeah, right. :P

The idea of how well the black and white labels products drew my eye followed into my days of screaming in a hardcore/thrash metal band. When printing up flyers, I hated it when others would recommend colored paper to "draw attention" to our gig advertisement.

Heck, EVERY band was printing flyers on orange, yellow, and light blue paper. My guitarist and I demanded pure white paper with big-ass bold black type.

It was great to see on the outside walls of the local record stores and clubs, done up like a freaking rainbow with all the colored flyers, you could see our bright white paper flyer from across the street.

Although the only people who would show up to our gigs were those who lived for METAL and mosh pits, the flyer still did its job of making people look at it - at least those who were looking to see live music.

In my day job as a graphic designer for a financial institution, I tend to get a ton of black and white ad work orders. I know of people who sneer at having to create black and white ads, especially small ones. They look at them as "throwaways" that can be slapped together and shipped to print.

An understandable mindset when you are on your 20th small b&w ad, that will essentially advertise within similar publications, the same services as the past 19 ads. Just switch out the little photo/graphic to fit the demographic, and BOOM, new ad. Yawn.

Yes it is an understandable, yet misguided mindset. Even the smallest newspaper ad can shine in its color-challenged form if done right (and even if you have to do a bunch of 'em throughout the year).

There is so much potential for a cool b&w ad to pop, especially when everyone else wants to cram as much information into their ads as possible. You know where I'm going with this. A good lesson from the old-school generic labels. Chipotle ads got it right!

Beyond ads, stark black and white design can look fantastically slick.

Here are just a few examples that have caught my eye.

I love, love this cover for Spectacular Spider-Man #101. I believe it was created by the legendary John Byrne.

Beautiful, slick and eye-catching.

These are a couple examples of b&w art from the ridiculously talented Alex Trochut.

EDIT: Over at the inspirationfeed site, they have a nice list of b&w biz cards. Check it out.

No comments: