Today something alarming but also brilliant, the Sainsbury’s Own Label book by Jonny Trunk.
It’s alarming because I’m now old enough for people to be digging up forgotten bits of my past and selling it as retro. In this case, supermarket packaging.
We always shopped at Sainsbury’s when I was small, so these designs do have a Proustian whiff of being six years old for me.
As for brilliance, the design speaks for itself, even if I wouldn’t fancy eating too many of the contents. But in a way, that’s a further compliment to the vision of the design. Who would feel today that a lard wrapper was worth spending good design time on? Not many people I suspect. (If you want to follow this thought further, there’s an interesting Creative Review article which compares the designs in the book to what’s on offer today, even if it does wimp out of the conclusion that most design now isn’t half as good.)
The book is also an interesting portal into a moment in design which doesn’t get spoken about as much as it ought to, particularly in terms of graphic design.
I’ve always thought of the period between about 1962 and 1967 as the brief moment when ‘proper’ modernism was finally taken on board by British designers, even if it was only an interlude between Scandewegian light wood and psychedelic curliques. This book is a reminder that while it might not have lasted for long, the takeover was total. What’s more, it wasn’t just high end manufacturers and poncey magazines embracing the style; instead it was part of the design of everyday life, just as good modernism should be.
Imagine a whole supermarket full of design of this force and ambition. It’s something I will probably never see again, and never properly appreciated when it was in front of me either.
The Sainsbury’s designs in the book start in 1962 but go all the way through to 1977, although I imagine that the most striking designs here date from the earlier period of the studio’s work (somewhere I have an early 1970s Party Dip package which is definitely more psychedelic than anything on show here). But I haven’t read the book yet, so will doubtless have more to say when it does arrive. Here’s a preview of just a few of the delights inside.
I thought I’d mention it in advance though because it is a limited edition print run. A few copies are available from the designers, Fuel, or you can wait until Amazon get their copies in. But once they’re gone, they’re gone.
While you wait for your copy to arrive, it’s also worth reading Jonny Trunk’s account of how the book came to be. I tend to believe that the most interesting ideas come out of people following their own eccentric enthusiasms rather than making a calculated decision about what other people are interested in, and this is a classic example of that happening. Well done that man.