The UPC is 35 today

PrintOn the morning of June 26, 1974 a UPC symbol, on the back of a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum, was scanned at a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio.

Thus ushering in a technology that would change the face of retailing and make life forever more difficult for package designers. Today, according to a piece in the New York Times, bar codes are scanned 10 billion times a day around the world.

That was also a summer I remember well. I moved to New York and began my first job with George Lois and Clive Chajet, at the Lois Chajet Design Group. Clive would later go on to purchase Lippincott & Margulies, but that’s another story.

Art directors ruled. George’s office was half the 28th floor of 745 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street. An infamous space with a Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass window for the pocket door separating his office from the bar, and a marble pedestal desk overlooking 5th Avenue, Grand Army Plaza, and Central Park.

MaypoThe other half of the floor he shared with just 4 other people, his assistant and his 3 art directors. Kurt Weihs, a quiet gracious holocaust survivor from Poland who had done some ground breaking work at CBS in the 1950s, including the design of the original CBS eye logo, when he worked there for William Golden. Dennis Mazella the surfer dude in love with franklin gothic, (who among other classics did the Maypo package shown at left from the 1969 AIGA archives) and Tom Courtos, a crazy Greek from Brooklyn, who went nuts with our first color copier.

Everybody else in the agency was on other floors. Amazing

And little did I know that the drafting table at my first job, on the 36th penthouse floor of the same building, again overlooking Central Park, would have the best view of my career. I can remember doing traditional mechanicals, at that desk, and trying to find space on the package for this strange new computer technology called UPC.

It was a great summer.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
This entry was posted in Design Practice, Packages Yesterday and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The UPC is 35 today

  1. Pingback: Our Top 10 List of Packaging Stories for 2009 « The Package Unseen

  2. Pingback: Richard Shear’s Top 10 List of Package Design Stories for 2009 :Mobilizy

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