Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Morning Funny—Prince Albert in a Can

Dateline: 1907
Customer to Store Clerk: Do you have Prince Albert in a can?
Store Clerk: Yes, sir, we do.
Customer: Well, you better let him out!

B T W : 
A short note on the design/typography of this very well-known early 20th century tobacco brand:

Color—The red and yellow of this can was very effectively used. Red is one of the best colors to use for items that sit on shelves in stores—just check out any car magazine of today. The majority of the cars will be bright red, even if they don't come in that color. Bright yellow is pretty much the second choice, also highly visible on shelves. The yellow type really stands out on this red can, and that's exactly its mission here. I adore the way the colors have aged—I frequently use this mellow red and yellow combination in my painted striped pieces.
Type—Notice the H&J on the back of the tin. This is shorthand in type circles for "Hyphenation and Justification." Hyphenation of course refers to the way a word that doesn't fit in total on a line, is broken or hyphenated to the next line. Hyphens are usually inserted between emphasized syllables and non-emphasized syllables. The designer will choose a minimum amount of letters before the hyphenation occurs, usually three, and a minimum number of characters carried over to the next line, usually three or four although I prefer five. Justification refers to the way letters align themselves in text blocks, the intercharacter spacing as well as the space between full words. It also refers to the way a paragraph is aligned: flush left means the right side of the column is "ragged" which means each line is its own length, ending wherever the word ends, within parameters. Justified or Flush columns end in a strict line, always ending at the same column width.

It might seem like a small point, but a well-done H&J will allow the words to be read with ease and it will prevent "rivers" of white space from forming between the lines of type when the spacing is awkward. "Ragged" type will always give the words the same spacing between letters, and "flush" type will subtly change the intercharacter spacing to make the lines all the same width. Awkwardly set type will give large spaces between letters on some lines and very tight spacing between letters on some lines.

Why this dissertation of type today, lol? Check out the back of the Prince Albert tin. The main paragraph of text, set in all capitals, has three words hyphenated at the bottom, carrying over to the next line. One word is hyphenated after only two letters. I can guarantee you that on a package designed today, none of that would be done. The type would be "massaged" until the hyphenation didn't occur. or the text would be rewritten to prevent it. No word would be hyphenated after two letters either. This tin was designed in an earlier age, and it's really all the more charming because of it.

The lack of TINY type, everything that is required by law these days, is refreshingly absent as well, but I'm not advocating we go back to these simpler rules. I'm a HUGE "package reader" at the store, literally reading every word of ingredients before I buy a single item and for that, I'm glad our government has required full disclosure.

17 comments:

  1. Ha! Finally got you Casey! I actually have one of these. My Uncle Albert (my Dad's older brother) had one in his basement work area when we cleaned it out - you can certainly understand why I kept it! The can was about 3/4's full - I remember him smoking a pipe, but the last time was probably in the sixties. After that he was a tobacco chewer. Whether he used any tobacco from this can or simply inherited it from my grandfather will never be known, but he did hold on to it.

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  2. Mine is empty, although I've used it as a container for other stuff occasionally. And just like the Teabaggers these days, there is a whole 'nother connotation to a Prince Albert these days too, lol.

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  3. The typography geek in me just had an orgasm.

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  4. lol. I really like writing about typography. I would talk about it to coworkers on a daily basis when I worked full time, but now it just builds up inside. I've spent my career 'messaging' type, so I'm happy to write about it in the blog! I'm also fascinated by vintage typography, all that done before paging program software was used. There is a lot of awkwardness in it, but there is also a lot of elegance in it too.

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  5. Good Morning you Princes of....

    I don't know about package design, but I always liked to have one red item in any room, I called it "punch", sometimes black would work the same way.
    Now for last night and Goldfinger -
    OK I followed the Phantom, Aston Martin, the Mustang some MB's and a lonly VW during the hill chace, then pow! a whole bunch of Ford Motor Cars, I mean a whole bunch, then one very alone VW parked on the street. Every FOMOCO product must have made it into Goldfinger.

    I was rofl when the gas attacks came at Fort Knox no matter the scene they all fell the same way, I was howling.

    Fun flick and I enjoyed watching it this time looking for all the cars.

    One thing conjured up a memory...how much I hated those "pointy" bras. lol

    Oh X - "prince albert doesn't bite the tongue" - that's no fun.

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  6. Annie, your too much, in an very endearing kind of way!
    I do the same with red, at least one piece in every room.
    I'm glad you FINALLY saw Goldfinger, you can close your chapter on the 20th century now, lol.
    The thing I love about the Bond films is how they reflect the times of that period. The sixties, at least the first half, had a formality and optimism that we'll probably never see again. And of course the cars!
    I never grow weary of watching the early Bond films with Sean Connery - like Casey I've seen them so many times I can recite the dialog.
    Oh, Mr. Bond, I don't want you to talk, I want you to die!

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  7. There is a scene at the end where one of the soldiers is shot and falls 3-4 stories down inside Fort Knox. Instead of falling like a dead guy would, he does a perfect 'arms out' stunt fall, gently rolling to his back to land safely, lol. Period touches abound. Another "discrepancy" in my view, is when the Lincoln is crushed. Yes, it's small enough to fit in the Falcon Ranchero pickup, but it would still WEIGHT the same, more than 5,000 lbs, which I believe was about two or three times the weight limit of that little truck and it doesn't even ride low in the back! Overall though, a great, great Bond flick!

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  8. WHEN I WAS A KID WE USED TO MAKE PRANK PHONE CALLS TO DRUG STORES AND ASKED IF THEY HAD PRINCE ALBERT IN A CAN. IF THEY SAID YES, WE WOULD SCREAM, LET HIM OUT, LET HIM OUT. I KNOW DUMB BUT AT THE TIME WE THOUGHT IT WAS FUN. I SEE YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT IT WAS A PRANK THING KIDS DID AT THE TIME BUT I DON'T REMEMBER 1907. I WAS JUST A TWINKLE IN MY MOTHERS EYE THAT YEAR.

    MY DAD SMOKED A PIPE AND BOUGHT PRINCE ALBERT. I WISH I HAD ONE OF THOSE CANS.

    GRANNY

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  9. Pussy Galore has to be one of the best names in a Bond movie, although Plenty O'Toole (from Diamonds Are Forever) is right up there too.

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  10. And then Bond says to Plenty "named after your father, no doubt"
    I STILL crack up over that line, I can barely type this!

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  11. I love that line too! What I didn't realize for the longest time was that Plenty was olayed by Lana Wood, Natalie's sister. Diamonds is one of my favorite Bond movies.

    G'Morning, Granny!

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  12. And, Diamonds has The 71 Thunderbird in it - in my eyes, the best part, lol

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  13. In the beginning of Goldfinger when Bond is at the pool in Miami, he puts on his blue terry "cover-up" [lol it really wasn't a robe] when he finishes the inside part of the front of the collar on both side is up kind of, not turned in. A situation were I in the room with the man, would walk over and smooth out. Bond continues chatting and then in the next scene back from a quick cut-away to Goldfinger the neckline is perfect. Usually I don't notice something like that though, but last night I was afraid to blink that I would miss a car. lol

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  14. Love the can! I think "let him out" has been a tag line for kids from a LOT of generations!! :)
    I started college in 2002 (never having gone before) and took classes from a wonderful professor who was an STICKLER for all things print (of course, the class was ON that subject, however, she was a BEAR about it and had a great eye for it!) I also love print and type, justification, kerning, etc although I am NOT good at it! Also had another instructor who could proof anything like nobody else! Definitely an eagle eye..I don't have that ability, but do so appreciate it! Love the subject matter on this post (but when don't I love your posts?? ha!)
    Have a great day folks..
    mare

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  15. Mare: that's really awesome you went back to school! I almost would like to do it all again because this time I'd pay attention to the CLASSES and not everything else young people have to deal with from 18-22.

    Annie: There are websites and websites devoted to film anomalies like you mention. I found one for the original I Love Lucy shows, and there were so many "mistakes' people found in continuity that it's a wonder the show ever made sense!

    When I was about 10, there was a show on TV called "The Name of the Game." In one seen there is a car chase with new cars. When one of them goes over the cliff, it was a much older version of the car, probably a junker already. I wrote to the TV Guide (!) to tell them about the mistake. I guess I had no idea who else to send it to. They actually wrote me back, told me they forwarded my letter to the studio and then sent our family 6 months of the TV Guide for free. I was a HERO at home, lol.

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  16. Wow, at ten you were quite a kid. But how nice of TV Guide to not only forward your letter but to reward you with a free subscription.

    You got me going with red and yellow and posted an homage to the two colors, also giving your blog a little plug.

    I think I will make the dough for the cut out cookies the grand-kids are going to decorate, then I will be ready when they are.

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