Robert L. Peters

18 April 2009

Eastern Bloc matchboxes…








Eastern Europe (a half century ago)

Jane (Maraid) McDevitt has compiled a remarkable Flickr collection of matchbox labels predominantly from 1950s and 1960s Eastern Europe. “Why did this area of the world embrace modern design and imagery when many countries, including Britain, still preferred the Victorian aesthetic?” she ponders. “As with advertisers, governments were quick to realise the potential of these far reaching messages. Propaganda was popular but so too were public service announcements including fire safety, hygiene, money saving, alcohol abuse and road safety—this combination of subject and design has left behind an invaluable archive of its time.”

I’ve posted on matchbooks, matchibako, and vintage matchbox labels before (here and here). What I find particularly compelling about this medium is its inherent viral quality—small images that communicated to a very large number of people, while also delivering an appropriate, value-added aesthetic quality (a vivid example of how design both shapes, and is shaped by, culture). Designers and illustrators today would do well to learn from the distilled palette (tiny canvas, bold line art, flat colours) that reproduction processes of the day imposed on the graphic artists of yore.

Images shown above: Matchbox covers from the Czech Republic, East Germany, Poland, and Russia. See over a thousand others here.

17 April 2009

Electrocution vigilance…




Vienna, Austria

Dr. Stefan Jellinek (1871-1968) produced numerous publications warning about the ill-considered and foolhardy use of electricity in the home, at work, and in leisure activities. Original illustrations by well-known graphic artists such as Josef Danilowatz, Franz Wacik, and Eduard Stella helped conveyed the (mostly hidden) dangers of electricity effectively. These drawings are from a 1931 book entitled Elektroschutz in Bildern (Electrical Protection in Pictures).

Above images: Electrocution as the result of urinating on power lines (while barefoot), multi-tasking with a hairdryer, and attempting to read outdoors at night (while barefoot)—who knew? Find many more shocking ways to off one’s self in a Flickr collection here compiled by Bre Pettis.

(thanks, Gregor)

Vintage Vespa…




Pontedera, Italy

Remember Vespa? I sure do… first rode one during driver training and then tested on it for my German motorcycle license back in 1972. Recognized as the epitome of Italian design, manufactured in the tens of millions, and distributed to almost every corner of the earth, this iconic little scooter from the 1940s really is the cat’s pyjamas. Enjoy a fine selection of vintage Vespa images here.

16 April 2009

Why men shouldn’t take messages…


Selkirk, Manitoba

This just in from Evelin, from friend Lauraine (via her main squeeze, Gord).

(Original source of image unknown).

15 April 2009

If soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the army…


Frederick the Great (aka ‘der alte Fritz’)

This bit of obviated profundity is a direct quote (as relevant today as in days of yore) from the man often admired as one of the greatest tactical geniuses of all time (go figure), of whom the Austrian co-ruler Emperor Joseph II (aka Holy Roman Emperor, 1765-1790) wrote: “When the King of Prussia speaks on problems connected with the art of war, which he has studied intensively and on which he has read every conceivable book, then everything is taut, solid and uncommonly instructive. There are no circumlocutions, he gives factual and historical proof of the assertions he makes, for he is well versed in history… A genius and a man who talks admirably. But everything he says betrays the knave.”

Image: Bodies of Confederate soldiers, killed on 1 July 1863, collected near the McPherson woods, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; photographer: Timothy H. O’Sullivan, (1840-1882).

13 April 2009

Saving water…


Los Angeles, California

Good magazine has produced a chart showing how many small choices during the day can add up to a per person saving of 8600 L  (2270 U.S. Gallons) of water in a single day(!).

(thanks, Gregor)

12 April 2009



11 April 2009

Chernobyl today…




Prypiat, Ukraine

Haunting images taken several decades after the 26 April 1986 blast at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in what is today a radioactive ghost town in the “zone of alienation.” More images and their backstory here. (thanks for the link, Adrian)

I posted in December about my friend, former army officer (and poster artist) Lieutenant Oleg Veklenko, who was among thousands of reservists mobilized by the Chemical Defense army forces to “clean up” the remains of the reactor. In the disturbing days that followed (he was stationed at Chernobyl for two months), he took many photographs of the reactor and the people affected by radiation, capturing viewpoints not accessible to the international media at the time (especially hard-hit were those within 30 km of the plant).

The hard experiences learned from the Chernobyl incident formed a leitmotif of moral responsibility that became central to Oleg’s subsequent life (as an artist and teacher at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts). In 1991 he organized an international poster exhibition entitled «4th Block» and every third year since, Kharkiv has been the site of the international triennial of the eco-poster, eco-graphics, and youth-oriented eco-projects. Exhibits “touch the most painful ecological problems; pollution of the environment, global warming, genetic engineering, etc.” View the «4th Block» web site (with a sampling of hundreds of works from previous triennial events) here.

Images shown above: Road sign for Prypiat (where the workers at the nuclear plant lived); Prypiat funfair, scheduled to open on 1 May (five days after the nuclear reactor’s melt-down); the hospital, where Reactor 4’s victims went for immediate treatment after the blast.

10 April 2009

<< stop war >>


From Filip Spagnoli’s content-rich blog on Human Rights, here.

9 April 2009

Thinking about… Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


San Francisco, California

Hats off to you, Lawrence… and may you stay Forever Young! (Lawrence just turned 90… and still going strong).

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