Apr 24

Creativity in the thirties

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Between the two World Wars, the Swedish businessman Ivar Kreuger built an emporium with safety matches. They were no doubt of the highest quality, but so was the marketing of these matches, marketing built upon design! Fascinating designs by acknowledged artists, as the profession ‘package designer’ was not yet established. The very diverse designs were not built on today’s positioning, nor on target thinking, but according to the clients’ taste. Unfortunately, Mr Kreuger’s ‘empire’ broke down with his sudden death in 1932.

At the time, each design was a small masterpiece of simplicity and creativity, imagined by artists, crafted in a way to express a unique illustration. Today, we leave out too often the artistic side and we design packages with just a trite photo, typeface and logotype.

Elsewhere on this site, I have written about my wish to see more art in package design and in order to stimulate young designers, I give here a collection of safety match designs from the last century.

But before analysing the 8 basic groups of designs, we should not forget “Solstickan” (meaning sun-stick) which survived both competition and today’s cricket lighter, remaining the only brand (design) on the Swedish home market.

It was designed by Einar Nerman, one of the three very wellknown and respected brothers in Sweden.

In the twenties, the business world had already discovered sponsoring and part of the sales of these safety matches went to charity. The Solstickan Foundation still exists today; the text on the pack says “sold in favour of children and the elderly”.

So here are the 8 design groups/styles/categories that I found, looking at some hundred match boxes. Some 9’000 brands were used since their introduction in the 1880ies.

A brand with an icon that amplifies the brand

A special situation or emotional story

The magic of the figure 3

In this collection, we find the most famous design on the world market: three stars. This design, referred to as “the Mona Lisa of labels”, was designed as early as 1887! Please note that, with the exception of this label, the text “Made in Sweden” appears on most designs – what a publicity for a country!

The strength or personality of a special animal

A real character

As the attentive reader may realise, some of these designs would most likely not be possible today!

An object typical of the 1920ies-30ies

Whereas in some countries the telegraph wires are still above the earth, the phonograph is long gone and the Fire Engine is more modern. As Swedish Match did not only produce in Sweden, the text on the Fire Engint says “British made”.

A special edition

The “Sudoku” of the 30ies

As each match box contained about 60 matches, The Magic Square told this in a very creative way. Note that however you add it up, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally, you arrive at 60!

If you wish to learn more about this very special collection of designs, I suggest you go to Tidaholm in Sweden where this business originated. I got my collection from the Tidaholm Museum. Most of these designs were printed at the Vulcan Lithography Company in Tidaholm who also designed those labels which were not conceived by recognized artists. There is also a book on this subject: “Matchbox Cover Design” by Ben Jones.

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