Friday, October 14, 2011

Great Ideas book / part one / Container Corporation of America / 1976

The Container Corporation of America unique ad series Great Ideas ran from July 1950 until June 1975. 195 were published in the leading news weeklies and finance magazines over the twenty-five years. For a packaging company to run ads that had no obvious sales pitch was remarkable but CCA had always been slightly different from other companies. In 1944 they ran a series of ads to salute the allied nations taking part in WW2, this merged into a series representing the forty-eight States which used local artists from each State for the illustrations. In 1953 it published Herbert Bayer’s stunning World Geo-graphic Atlas, 368 pages presenting the world as maps and a montage of beautiful graphics.
    The Great Ideas were available as reprints, loose sheets in seven folders and in this oversize book (above) which was given away in 1976 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the company and the 200 hundred years of America's founding.  It’s in a slip-case and just over fourteen by eleven inches with four hundred pages (heavy, too, at 7.75 pounds) printed by Donnelley in Chicago. Each ad has a spread with biographies of the thinker and designer on the left-hand pages.
The ads were issued as reprints in seven sets
    It was edited by John Massey and as Director of Design for CCA I think he designed it, though not credited. He was strongly influenced by the Swiss designers of the Fifties and the pages throughout the book show their influence. The text is Helvetica set on a four column grid. This is a remarkable and fascinating book though I think the editorial format does come a bit unstuck. Some of the ads use the same artist, for example: Walter Allner designed three; Herbert Bayer eleven; Leo Lionni three; John Massey five; Paul Rand three; Ben Shahn three, and their biographies are repeated each time. The first pages in the book have an excessive amount of white space and the various indexes really should have used some fine rules between the eight point type to improve readability across these pages.

The first ad appeared in the book as above and all the remaining spreads used this format so rather than show the left-hand type page each time I've used the loose-sheet reprints for the first twenty-five ads so the artwork can be as big as possible. 

Next twenty-five in March 2012 and July 2012
March 2013 and July 2013


  1. EB: always a problem to price this sort of publication because, despite the lavish, excellent production, it was given away free by the Container Corporation in 1976.

    If you check out the title (Great ideas / John Massey) on Abebooks or Alibris you'll see copies. The cheapest I found was around $27, which for a good condition copy is a bargain.