Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bernbach formula: a visual/verbal fusion

This is the 5th carbon — how come you’re still making carbon copies?

Xerox print ad published in Time magazine, February 26, 1965
from the collection of David Versluis

Negative space successfully emphasizes the image and headline while the visual weight at the bottom third of the page draws the viewer to the text and signature. While I’m not certain this is a Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) print ad it does seems to model the Bernbach formula.

In Philip B. Meggs’s important book on graphic design history he wrote:
A synergistic relationship between visual and verbal components is established.… [In mid-twentieth century advertising] Bernbach and his colleagues smashed through the boundaries separating verbal and visual communications and evolved the visual/verbal syntax: word and image are fused into a conceptual expression of an idea so that they become completely interdependent.…

…Because concept becomes dominant, the design of many Doyle Dane Bernbach advertisements is reduces to the message: a large arresting visual image, a concise headline of bold weight, and body copy that stakes its claim with factual and often entertaining writing instead of puffery and meaningless superlatives. Often the visual organization is symmetrical, for design arrangement is not allowed to distract from the straightforward presentation of an idea.…

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc., 1983. 412. Print

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