We’ve had a poster up in our studio since we opened and I’m saddened to say it’s acted as a barometer for how little people know their history. Emblazoned with the letters “NRA”, more people guess its identity (along with a curious look in my direction) as being affiliated with the National Rifle Association.
The poster depicts the logo of a short lived (1933-35) division of President Roosevelt’s New Deal (I’ll let you guess whether it’s Teddy or Franklin) known as the National Recovery Administration. The blue eagle design was created and designed by Charles T. Coiner, an artist/art director at the N.W. Ayer advertising agency in Philadelphia.
Designs for a logo were submitted by the ad agency to NRA administrator Hugh S. Johnson but he was dissatisfied. Coiner was asked to come to Washington and while there he sketched a layout that evidently pleased Johnson.
The National Recovery Administration was set up to eliminate “cut-throat competition” by bringing industry, labor and government together to create codes of “fair practices” and set prices, and although the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional after only two years, the NRA logo had become nothing less than ubiquitous. Starting in July of 1933, it could be found on everything from Levi’s to movie titles, magazine covers to postage stamps.
Charles Coiner’s design and art direction talents extended beyond the NRA, and he produced other work for other U.S. government agencies. . .
Coiner also designed the Civil Defense logo used from 1939 to 2006.
Charles Coiner’s most impressive contributions are those in the realm of art directing fine artists. During the 40 years he art directed at N.W. Ayer, Coiner helped pioneer the casting of artists to produce work for Ayer’s clients. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jean Carlu, Georges Roualt, Miguel Covarrubias, Edward Steichen, A.M. Cassandre and Georgia O’Keefe all contributed to ads for companies like Dole Pineapple, DeBeers, Boeing, and Container Corporation, thanks to Coiner.
It’s amazing how many designers of iconic images have gone unheralded. Coiner is hardly unknown, but I hope I’ve been able to expand the audience.
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