Behind the Awards: RDA, 1982 and the Truth

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I recently found one of Print’s first Regional Design Annuals from 1982 online and snatched it up. You might think you remember the early 1980s, but nothing quite characterizes an era as much as its advertising. More importantly, I was curious as to what ads so captured the passion of our judges at that time, that they earned a spot in RDA 1982.

First, the cover speaks volumes and could easily serve an entire quarter of an art history class somewhere. Illustrated by William Scahill (Bill) Purdom, a graduate (1975) of Auburn University with a degree in Visual Design, the cover reflects not only the styles of the era, but also the culture and attitudes. Each is meant to depict the different regions of the Regional Design Annual – the Far West, the Southwest, the Midwest, the South and the East. I’ll let you figure out what goes where, but here’s a hint – the hard hat and lab coat with paint depicts the Midwest. I am especially intrigued by the Confederate uniform depicting the South. Would that create an uproar today? Yes, I’m sure it would.


Purdom is now, one of the sports’ and entertainment’s world most prolific illustrators. After this cover appeared, he went on to do movie posters and album covers as well as advertising campaigns. His work has been seen in major publications including The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.

Beyond the fabulous cover are entries that prove to define an era. Take a look at this page:


The Midwest – RDA 1982

The eighties were one of the most difficult times for domestic car giants. The energy crisis had taken its toll and people were looking for smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Still, ads from the giant automakers focused on luxury and status. Ironically, the Ford Escort earned the top selling spot for sales in the U.S. in 1982, albeit the slowest selling bestseller of all time.

The East – RDA 1982

In the East, Baltimore Magazine earned a spot for suggesting that women were invading men’s clubs, businesses and the board rooms in its story “High Heels Among the Wing Tips.” To the left is an ad for Mall Management Associates with a great caption, “You can’t run 6,000,000 square feet without a great track record.” The image on the top right is the cover of the Farm Credit Banks annual report. In 1982, the Farm Credit System owned more than a third of the U.S. agriculture debt – over 64 billion dollars. Legislation would eventually come in the form of a cash infusion from Congress and Farm Aid (1985).


The South – RDA 1982

Before there was the Internet, there was Playboy and conservative writer, William F. Buckley, Jr. was a famous contributor, although his interest in providing the written word to the magazine was in large part due to its 5 million circulation list. The story above, “Marco Polo, if You Can,” is a fiction spy thriller he penned that appeared in the magazine. Today, Playboy’s subscriber list has declined by more than half of its once influential base. Below Buckley’s story,is Texas Monthly’s spread “I Have a Scheme: How two civil rights leaders learned to love money and power.” Hurt chronicles the downfall of Andrew Jefferson and Larry Cager. Still, I have to wonder if today’s headline for the same story would mock Martin Luther King, Jr.’s well-known speech.

In three weeks, on April 1, this year’s Regional Design Annual design (RDA) competition will be closed. RDA is not simply a competition. It is a record, a story communicated in ads and brands that define our time. The cost is just $85 for a single entry AND $110 for a campaign and series fee.** I hope you will consider participating in this year’s Regional Design Annual. There are some things that should never be forgotten and often, the best way to tell a story is in images.


** Ad campaigns, book cover series, corporate brochure series, or poster series will allbe considered campaigns. Any packaging entry, whether a single package or a familyof packages, will be considered a single entry. Any letterhead entry that consists ofstationery, envelope, and business card will be considered a single entry.

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