S.O.S saves the Western World

KitchenDebateFifty years ago today World War II had been over for almost 15 years, and the baby boomers had been born. At home, we were running around our kitchens hiding from our Moms. At school, we were huddled under our desks, knees pulled up to our chins, hiding from the incoming A-Bombs. The cold war was hot, hot, hot.

Nixon and Khrushchev, the guys with the red phones and secret codes, were huddled at an exhibit of the typical American kitchen at a trade show in Moscow. With the S.O.S pads right there on the counter, and front and center in the famous photo taken by William Safire, who was there that day as a young press agent for one the show’s exhibitors.

The dialogue between the two most powerful guys in the world, as reported in Safire’s column today, went something like this,

Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It’s like those of houses in California. See that built-in washing machine?”

Khrushchev: “We have such things.”

Nixon: “What we want to do is make more easy the life of our housewives.”

Khrushchev: “We do not have the capitalist attitude toward women.”

I love the juxtaposition, these guys playing house, and a box of  S.O.S pads is there (maybe its really Save Our Society), at least metaphorically, to save the day.

Anyone know who designed that S.O.S box in the late 50s?


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.
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5 Responses to S.O.S saves the Western World

  1. Dan Lewis says:

    Richard, it would be a few years before Nixon would have a red phone and be privy to launch codes — they were probably in Eisenhower’s office.

  2. Hi Richard–wow great minds think alike. (me & you, I mean–not Nixon & Khrushchev) I spent way too much time searching in vein for a color close up of that version of the S.O.S box. It’s not the usual vintage version that you see.

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