Say it with Snap: work incentive posters from the 1920s at the Harn

In Design, Journalism on June 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Back in the day, bosses built company culture a little differently. After all, they only had 48 states.

To the Mather Co., incentive posters were for real men who had real work. Printers didn’t know what pastel colors were.

So it is with great excitement that I am pursuing an interview with the curator of a new exhibit at the UF Harn Museum of Art, America at Work: Art and Propaganda in the Early-20th Century.

At first glance, these sincere posters produce the oft-cynical laughter of the 21st century. Maybe cynical isn’t the right word. The sayings are so foreign to our current culture, yet there’s also some genuine amusement and appreciation of an earlier time. A simpler time.

As one commentator notes, “In my day, we didn’t pussyfoot around. We got to the crux of the biscuit.”

A laugh isn’t the only thing to be had, however. Disregarding such striking images as mere amusement would be silly.

The classic design and color palettes evoke a time when good work was valued. It’s easy to imagine a laser-printed smiley face producing an instant gag reflex in any of these artists if they were alive to see such office decor.

And the messages are pretty true. Who would want to lose an eye or an arm just to save ten seconds? Factory maxims have value not to be discounted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: