Thursday, April 19, 2012

California Design and Fruit Advertising

I recently visited the LA County Museum of Art’s exhibit called “California Design, 1930-1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way.’” [] The exhibit featured everything from furniture and fashion design to interior decorating and graphic design. Among the graphic design section, I remember noticing several vibrant, eye-catching advertisements for California fruit companies, very similar to the ones we discussed in class Claremont Oranges after the Colonia Complex reading. In the earlier days of advertising, the fruit advertisers put a strong emphasis on the organic nature of their product by drawing attention to the beauty of the natural surrounding. They combined references to the landscape with other themes by drawing the openness western frontier, Spanish mission culture, and railroad transportation. These types of ads emphasized the fact that they were specifically ‘California’ fruit to differentiate themselves from other states.

The fruit labels I saw in the LACMA exhibit had a very different look to the ones we examined in class. Influenced by the art deco styles of the era, these advertisements distilled their concepts down to a more visually simplistic style. In contrast to the emphasis on natural surroundings, these advertisements used stylistic blocky typography, bright and bold colors, and shapes and lines to highlight the product. The backgrounds were primarily one solid color, rather than against a setting of mountains or orchards, giving them a modern, minimalist look. These ads drew attention first and foremost to the brand name of the fruit in an effort to set themselves apart from a more focused in-state competition.

In researching this topic a little bit more, I came across an article in the LA Times from 1996 entitled “Fruit Growers Sour on Ads, Go to Court” []. I found it really interesting to read through, as it discusses the tension between the farmers and the government with regards to the tradition of California fruit advertising. While the farmers take pride in the tradition of natural and organic fruit growing practices that have been a part of their culture for decades, the government mandates that they are required to pay a fund that goes toward advertising general California fruit as a whole. This article shows that the legacy left by advertisements such as we saw in class or that I saw in a museum is still alive today. As Dan Gerawan says, the farmer featured in the article, he “despises paying more than $600,000 a year to a government-mandated fund to advertise and promote generic California tree fruit. ‘We're doing everything we can to differentiate ourselves,’ gripes Gerawan, 34, a third-generation Central Valley farmer. ‘Yet we have to pay into a fund that advertises that all peaches and plums are the same. A generic message, we feel, definitely hurts us.’”

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