This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Strathmore Town News no. 4 (1926) was titled the “Dummy Issue.” It was only one of several examples of how Strathmore sought to help printers sell jobs to their customers. The dummy, an aspect of graphic design we take for granted today, was still a new idea to printers in the 1920s even though the trade press had been touting its value for over a decade. To assist printers in creating dummies Strathmore’s mailers for Strathmore Town included illustrations that could be re-used and re-purposed. They even offered to provide them as electros. This was the 1920s equivalent of clip-art.
Some of the Strathmore direct mail material bypassed the printer and addressed the businessman directly. For instance, the Strathmore Jewelers mailer (1924) proclaimed:
This portfolio is literally chock-full of ideas for advertising fine merchandise and high-grade services of all kinds. All have been developed for you to apply to your own business. The method is—the dummy. For instance, a portfolio, such as this or smaller, could be made into your own form of Suggestion Advertising. Any one of these sheets could be made the basis of envelope enclosures, counter literature, or folders. The page layouts suggest booklet formats. By having the dummies made of [Strathmore] Alexandra Japan, you will be sure of the same effects. Your printer will gladly work with you. Why not have him try this better way of producing profitable printing?
Some of the most popular Strathmore clip-art came from the promotion for the Strathmore Woman’s Shop (1923) by Helen Dryden. Her illustrations were re-purposed to sell the Strathmore Department Store, the Strathmore Hotel, the Strathmore Shoe Shop, the Strathmore Jewelers, the Strathmore Gift Shop and the generic Strathnore Shop.
George Illian’s drawings for the Strathmore Men’s Shop were also commonly reused. But Strathmore’s clip-art was not limited to fashion and jewelry. The company also made available small illustrations in line art for kitchenware, furniture, hardware, and automobile components. Regarding the latter, a brochure that accompanied the Strathmore Motor Cars folder said, ”Take your scissors, cut along the dotted lines and paste these designs on dummies to show your customers.”
Strathmore not only provided printers and businesses with stock art to use in dummies (and often in final printed pieces), but gave advice on how to use it. For instance, it was suggested to combine Helen Dryden’s illustrations with “light italic type for headlines” for small envelopes and envelope stuffers, but for small booklets, to “lay out the pages with hand-lettered headlines” adapted from Originations by Fashion. Finally, if furnishing ideas, advice, paper and clip-art was not enough to induce printers and businesses to adopt the dummy idea, Strathmore offered to do the work for them. It established a “dummy service” in which its sales agents would create dummies for customers at no cost.
For Strathmore promoting the dummy was a smart move.