The Daily Heller: Can You Get High on Medicinal Packaging?

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One does not buy pharmaceuticals based on the aesthetics of their packaging, the shape of their bottles or their advertising. But the Midcentury Modern era was arguably the golden age of pharma marketing, a time when abstract and conceptual designs were common jobs among the design elite. Drug companies were aggressively promoting medicines designed for ailments that were difficult to portray without resorting to surreal imagery and bright color palettes.

Before this period graphic design was used to hawk a wide range of medications (both legit and bogus) using a different—though no less effective—stylistic strategy. Designers shined a spotlight on drugs with art moderne flair.

These French promotional ad cards were distributed to physicians (as similar material is today) to ultimately remind patients of the miracle potions they represent.

In the 1930s over-the-counter cures were often packaged in vintage bottles, but promoted using the typography, airbrush color applique and popular typefaces of the day.

Who wouldn’t feel safe and protected by the soothing type, color and ornament of this mysteriously packaged curative?

Phosoforme is an early example of how classical figures where introduced in ads (as they were in Midcentury Modern ads) to underscore the essence of the medication to eliminate excess calcium.

For an otherwise vexing medication, the designer suggests it is hard-working by presenting the packages as going to do their job on a scaffold.

Simplified art deco is employed in this narrative illustration of a sick woman who is unmistakably suffering and requires the soothing cold and flu remedy being promoted.

Although less symbolic, this ad ensures that the medicine has an agreeable taste. It soothes the body—and the taste buds.

Posted inHistory The Daily Heller