This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

January 31, 2014

Art directing ordinary people as models for brochures

Working as a Graphic Designer for Bank One of Arizona in the early '90s went from being in a department of a big bank in Arizona (which is still fairly small) to being part of the division that handled collateral advertising for the western region, which included Texas, Colorado, and Utah. And one of the first jobs that was handed to our department was the redesign of all of the brochures that were in the branches. If you're familiar with graphic design, you know that these are called "Take ones" - and that they explain services in a company. For example, there would be a brochure about Home Equity Loans.

As the "new guy" I was handed, and asked for, the most difficult assignments. And what turned out to be nearly impossible in 1992 was to find stock photos that showed diversity. And that meant photos that showed men and women of all races. Nowadays it's hard to imagine, but back then stock photos of people applying for home equity loans were pretty "white bread". Even photos that showed professional women were rare.

Native American people on a Bank One brochure.

Luckily, I had done some art direction and I knew how it worked. But no one else did, so even getting a budget for a photographer was difficult. There was no budget for models. And I didn't need one.

I worked at Bank One Center, which had 35 floors of people. And I hired models by finding people who looked good, asking if they would like to be in a Bank One brochure, giving them a model release, and paying them a dollar.

Art direction is one of the most difficult things that I have tried to explain to my students. It's like being the director of a one-frame movie. The art director hires the models, tells people what to wear, where to stand. The art director determines the location, the props. The art director hires the photographer.

Doing the art direction for the photos used on these brochures is some of the best work that I've done as a graphic designer and art director that almost no one ever understands. If you lived in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, or Utah in the '90s and 2000s, you saw my co-workers, my girlfriend, and myself, every time you picked up a brochure. But if you really didn't see us, that's OK. The point was to get you to use a debit card, or get a home equity loan, which you probably did.

Good graphic design doesn't call attention to itself, it conveys a message, and a feeling.

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