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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 5 (February-March 1950)

Art in Industry

page 104

Art in Industry

Black and white wood engraving depicting Maori female by E. Mervyn Taylor.

Last year we praised Imperial Chemical Industries for its initiative in commissioning a leading New Zealand artist to illustrate its calendar. This calendar turned out to be a decisive break from the conventional cottage-garden scene sent to us in the grocer's Christmas parcel. The 1949 calendar, illustrated with six wood engravings by E. Mervyn Taylor, was successful as good design and was possibly successful also as a good advertisement for ICI, as this year the firm has commissioned an equally distinguished artist, George Woods, to illustrate its 1950 calendar.

Whatever the motive of ICI, the result is an achievement in good design for everyday things.

Events and personalities in New Zealand's history of the pre-1830 period provide the subject matter for the six scraper-board illustrations and accurate letterpress at the front of the calendar gives the bare bones of the story behind each illustration.

These illustrations show a vigorous imagination at work and through sharp contrasts and the strength of a central figure appear to grasp the very essence of the story, though sometimes at the expense of other details. The figures have a bold, imaginative and somewhat sinister appearance. William Colenso, for example, examining a botanical specimen, looks rather like Sherlock Holmes sniffing at blood stains.

The one major criticism about the calendar is that it does not work. The cover, which in itself is well designed, and the written commentary about the illustrations, have both to be torn off before the January-February page can be hung, and the January-February page suffers the same fate by the time March appears. It seems a great pity that by the end of the year nothing will be left of such a well designed calendar except the December sheet. A spiral ring binding would have obviated this difficulty.

Perhaps in the years to come when good design is no longer a rare achievement, the Postmaster-General might follow the enlightened policy of Imperial Chemical Industries. And then we might have some postage stamps of which we need no longer feel ashamed.


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