Steve Roden & Dan Goodsell – Krazy Kids’ Food! (2003/2006)
This collection of advertising materials was compiled primarily from the private collections of the authors, and was originally release in Germany by Taschen (makers of many fine art books) in 2003, then reissued by Barnes & Noble in 2006. There is a short introduction to this book that discusses the history of advertising aimed at children, and it’s fairly interesting, but really too brief to teach the reader much, and then the rest of the book is comprised of quality photos of a whole bunch of kids’ products, mostly---but not entirely---of the edible variety. And this is where the book really shines!
Personally, I LOVE old advertisements---the strange colors, simplified graphics, the often horribly bizarre or even offensive subject matter... (“Rots o’ Ruck” candy? Seriously? With horrible, stereotypical portrayals of supposedly “Chinese” characters on it… And what the HELL is Gorilla Milk? It sounds illegal, to me.) Some of it is nostalgia, because I’m old enough to remember quite a few of these products, but a book like this is also a great resource for a visual artist. The smile on the face of the Devil Gum mascot is so menacing, but in a clever, “Maybe we could be friends?” sort of way. I study that thing to see why it’s so effective. And, the brushwork on the tigers who adorned Frosted Flakes boxes in the mid-1950s is simultaneously emotionally evocative AND controlled at the same time. (I would love to learn how the unnamed artist who painted that masterpiece perfected his technique…) And some of the weird ass characters on products like Crazy Foam containers and Fizzies packets are both humorous and (somehow) creepy as hell at the same time.
So, yeah, this book is worth flipping through if you are a nostalgia fan, a cultural historian, or a lover of strange ideas. And if you’re an artist, it’s ESSENTIAL that you be aware of the history of advertising, which is as close as you can get to a true embodiment of the culture in which you are living and working. Advertising AIMS at the people, and GOOD advertising smacks the people right in the eye…
---Richard F. Yates