Our Bodies, Our Products

I bet many of you don’t know what the Michelin Man, also known as the Bibendum, is made of. Take a wild guess! French cartoonist Marius Rossillon, also known as O’Galop, created the prototype for a Munich brewery (he was holding a glass of beer and quoting Horace’s phrase “Nunc est bibendum” — now’s the time to drink). It was rejected. But the Michelin brothers saw the image and suggested replacing O’Galop’s man with a figure made — yes indeed — from tires. Voila! The Bibendum is now one of the world’s most recognized and collected trademarks in the world.

Concocting trade characters from the products or the things they represent derives from an long tradition — dating back to medieval trade markings and up through the golden age in the early twentieth century (and beyond).

French designers were indeed quite fond of playful mnemonic manipulation, as the examples here for steel wool cleaners, pots and pans, teas and coffees from the 1920s and 30s attest. The characters are quite surreal yet none so abstract that the message is lost. Made from the packages or from the products themselves, these characters are not as cuddly as Speedy Alka Seltzer or the Mt. Olive Pickle man, but they do have an artful presence and charm.

5 thoughts on “Our Bodies, Our Products

  1. Phil Zimmermann

    I have always loved Bibendum. I grew up in Europe, where every child was very familiar with his friendly plump figure from signs and billboards. He was never used to the same extent here in the USA. There he isn’t know as The Bibendum, by the way, (like The Donald) but simply Bibendum. I had never heard the Rossillon/O’Grady origins of the name. We were always told that he got his name from the sound of a turning flat tire on a car.

  2. Paper Acrobat

    Michelin are based very close to where I live and there is a giant statue of the Michelin man there!
    Don’t forget Bertie Bassett who is made of licorice all sort sweets… Do you know him in the USA?

  3. Thurmond

    I continue to review images you show Mr. Heller, the more I feel closer to a creative side I could not see when I started in design school. These old adds further my idea of creative work. How to make something easily recognizeable because thats good design and these examples are that. I listened to the last show you did with Debbie Millman and you discussed the points I usually miss when designing. Its really not that important so don’t be scared to take it there, thats what I got from it anyway. thanks