28
ANATOMY OF DESIGN
Since its auspicious launch in 1981, the ad campaign of Absolut vodka has
consistently produced innovative marketing concepts augmented by clever
graphic design and strong typography. By building its fundamental identity on
the foundation of its austere yet (at the time) distinctively squat rounded bottle
with a short neck (now other distilleries have followed suit), the original series
of advertisements focused, as they do today, on the bottle and the familiar logo
printed on the glass, accompanied by the pricelessly durable slogan “Absolut
Perfection.” The early ads also showed the bottle interpreted in iconic ways by
a slew of contemporary artists from Andy Warhol to Keith Haring, which
decidedly contributed to the urbanity and stylish aura of the spirit.
As Absolut continued through the years, its ads stuck to a basic
conceptual formula that has positioned the bottle amid various enticing images
and a few memorable slogans. By frequently introducing new stylistic
mannerisms, the brand astutely taps into the zeitgeist. Each time, for instance,
Absolut rolled out new flavored vodka, a tasty new visual concept was added to
its revolving repertoire.
A 2000 series promoting Absolut’s Peppar, Citron, Mandrin, Kurant, Vanilla,
and Raspberry is one of many instances in advertising history where the
advertising helped trigger an emerging trend—what can be termed the
“new ornamentalism”. This amalgam of influences includes hints of Art Deco,
psychedelia, Op-Art, and Pop-Art seen through a post-postmodern distortion lens.
Each vibrantly fluorescent rendering, featuring stylized clouds, starbursts, flowers,
mountains, and geometric dingbats galore, is like a tiara in which the Absolut
bottle is the crown jewel. For added drama, an explosion or rainbow forms a
halo around the bottle top. The result is a stunning display of form and color
that alternately suggests a raucous club, sun-drenched island, or fabled strip.
The brilliance of the design is its ability to tap into an existing graphic
language while somehow taking ownership of it as well. With purism and
simplicity on the wane, the decorative mannerisms of this campaign, inspired by
more complex and chaotic graphic periods, contrasts with the elegantly austere
bottle. But just as the bottle is carefully proportioned, so too are the graphic
motifs. In fact, the symmetry of each vignette owes a debt to the classic
Rohrshach inkblot. Although not perfectly symmetrical, certain elements of the
design are flip-flop repetitions created for dramatic impact.
Perhaps even more directly of-the-moment is the attractive use of
decorative neo-rococo, neo-baroque, and retro Art Nouveau–silhouetted fleurons
and dingbats rooted in flora such as leaves, vines, tendrils, and roots, and
fauna too. The recent appliqué of such ornamentation appears at first glance to
rebel against modernist asceticism but, in fact, it represents a predictable return
to passé styles that surface at regular intervals, this time made easy by
computer graphics programs.
Despite the widespread use of the new ornamentalism, Absolut wears
the style well. It furthermore appropriates ownership because this ornament is
applied with enough subtlety to avoid overpowering its brand object, yet frames
it in a distinctive way.
Absolut Campaign
Designer: TBWA/Chiat/Day
2000 Absolut, ad campaign
ad: Megan Williamson i: Ray Smith p: Steve Bronstein s: TBWA/Chiat/Day
A series promoting Absolut’s Peppar, Citron, Mandrin, Kurant, Vanilla, and Raspberry is one
of many instances in advertising history where the advertising helped trigger an emerging
trend—what can be termed the “new ornamentalism”.
Drawing around photography
Symmetry
Fake dripping spray paint
Vector art and dingbats
1967 Hapshash & The Coloured Coat
featuring the Human Host and the Heavy
Metal Kids album cover
d:Hapshash & The Coloured Coat
p:Ekim Adis c:Minit/Liberty
1898 F. Champenois poster
d:Alphonse Mucha
1997 Post No Bills magazine cover
a:Dale Yarger d:Art Chantry
c:The Stranger
2004 Jay-Z/Linkin Park: Collision Course
CD cover
ad,d:Lawrence Azerrad a:Flem
i:David Choe c:Warner Bros/Wea
2005 Lady Sovereign: Vertically
Challenged CD cover
c:Chocolate Industries
2004 Los Amigos Invisibles: The Venezu
Zinga Son, Vol.1 CD cover
d,i:MASA c:Luaka Bop
2004 Semi-Permanent 04
program cover
s:Lifelong Friendship Society
2003 Flaunt magazine cover/poster
ad:Dimitri Jeurissen d:Natasha Jen,
Philippe Galovich p:Max Yawney
2003 Sprite Slim Can product design
d:Brian Collins s:Ogilvy & Mather
1893 The Peacock Skirt illustration
i:Aubrey Beardsley
One of the illustrations for the English
edition of Oscar Wilde's “Salome.”
2003 Get Born CD cover
d:Greg Gigengad i:June
c:Elektra Records
2002 This Is a Magazine—Love, The
Universe and Everything… magazine cover
d,i:Andy Simionato p:Karen Ann Donnachie
cw:This ia a Magazine
1967 Disraeli Gears record cover for Cream
a:Martin Sharp p:Bob Whitaker
1967 Bee Gees 1st record cover
d:Klaus Voorman
1966 Revolver record cover for the Beatles
d:Klaus Voorman

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