A perfect charity shop find today. Three of my favourite things – County Shows, 1950s graphics and old cookery books – all together in one small leaflet.
That picture on the front is apparently the Stork Demonstration Van introducing people to a lot of new and interesting recipes on its visits to the country’s agricultural shows. The big supermarkets still do exactly the same thing at County Shows today.
If you spread out the whole cover, the real business of the agricultural show is going on at the back; marquees, stock judging and shiny new tractors and mowing machines.
I think that is a really wonderful piece of work. Sadly, there is not a lot more inside, only one small depiction of the Demonstration Van itself.
The rest is the usual food photography of the 1950s, with the colour saturation turned up to 11. Oh it must have been good to have colour printing back after the war. So good that they were prepared to overlook the fact that it didn’t really make the food look tasty.
The booklet is anonymous, with no one taking any credit for that wonderful cover. In a way, I find that quite pleasing, because this booklet is a great example of a particular type of British food advertising. There are line drawings, usually in black and white, more often than not there’s a sense of humour about it too (just go back and look at Mr Stork in his tweeds on that front cover). It often spills over into recipe books and pamphlets from the newspaper and magazine advertisements where it really belongs. I suspect that a great deal of it springs from the relentless Ministry of Food campaigns during World War Two.
40 million of their advertisements were printed every week throughout the war, and it was one of the most successful Home Front campaigns. So no wonder it set the style for more than a whole decade afterwards.
I did get another Stork booklet at the same time; sadly it’s not quite so exuberant.
But its little graphic inside is even more of a direct link to those wartime illustrations.
This kind of work isn’t glamorous or valuable. It probably isn’t even noticed very often (the fact that these kind of designs were produced for women, and for the home, probably doesn’t help their case either). But it is important. These graphics were everywhere for at least fifteen years, quite probably much longer than that (I have a whole heap of this kind of ephemera, but sadly it’s all in storage so I can’t dig it out for an answer). They were everyday graphic design, not something that people stepped back and pointed at, but part of the warp and weft of daily life, creating the sense of place and time even if they mostly went unsung.
Not all graphics are produced by heroic designers, and not all design has to stop you in your tracks. Everyday design can be just as important. And more often than you expect it can be as good as well.