Friday, 18 October 2013

Highlights of Hasler: brands and packaging

As regular readers of this blog will know, we've recently been doing a lot of work to make the material in our Charles Hasler collection more accessible to students and researchers.  We've discovered some interesting foreign banknotes, a whole mass of stuff relating to Rye and other English market towns, and quite a lot of material about the Great Exhibition of 1851.

At first glance these might seem unrelated topics, but what binds them together is Hasler's interest in all aspects of lettering, typography and graphic design.  He was an avid collector of packaging, and his interest seems to have been in the way that the outside of a packet could be designed in order to 'sell' its contents.

packaging material from the Charles Hasler Collection, 
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, CH5/4/1

This idea was presumably part of the reason for his interest in wine labels and book jackets.  In both cases, the external appearance of the item has to attract the buyer's attention before they have the opportunity to sample the contents.  More than that, a wine label or book jacket possibly even subtly influences the purchaser's experience of the product; hence the importance of getting it right. 

All of this seems to have related to Hasler's interest in the psychology of branding, which was emerging in the 1930s and 40s, and which was explored in new publications like Shelf Appeal magazine.

Shelf Appeal magazine, October 1935,
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, CH5/2/5

Published in the 1930s, Shelf Appeal explored the  - then relatively new - idea that products could have a 'brand identity'; so that consumers could be persuaded to buy a particular brand of soap, for example, rather than seeing soap as a boring commodity.  We're now so familiar with the idea that certain colours and letters represent specific companies (think of a large golden 'M' and you'll know what I mean), that this seems like a commonplace.  But the material in Hasler's collection is a reminder of the power of typography and lettering in the development of brand identity - worth thinking about if, like me, you tend to choose wine because of the attractive labels.

More of the material from Charles Hasler's collection will be featured here soon, or you can check out the ephemera section of our website.  If you would like to make an appointment to see anything from the collections for your own research please contact Maggie Wood at the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture.

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