Pushing drugs

In the late 20th century, medicines became big business, with marketing budgets to match. Pharma, a new exhibition at the Herb Lubalin Study Center in New York, will look at the role of Big Pharma in the evolution of graphic design and advertising

Mailer for Geigy designed by Max Schmid, 1951; Courtesy of Display

In the late 20th century, medicines became big business, with marketing budgets to match. Pharma, a new exhibition at the Herb Lubalin Study Center in New York, will look at the role of Big Pharma in the evolution of graphic design and advertising

Ad designed for Wm. S. Merrell Company by Herb Lubalin, photo by Carl Fischer, 1954

Herb Lubalin created some of his most influential work while working for Sudler & Hennessey, an advertising agency which specialised in pharmaceutical marketing. He was not alone. Other design and advertising  luminaires, including Franco Grignani, Lester Beall, Paul Rand and Will Burstin, all worked for drugs companies. Some of the leading examples of this new marketing sector will be displayed at Pharma.

Advertisement for Geigy c. 1954-55; Courtesy of Display

 

Advertisement for Geigy, c. 1958; Courtesy of Display

 

Though these liaisons produced some memorable work, they also raised ethical questions. As the organisers (curator Alexander Tochilovsky and coordinator Emily Roz) put it, this was a time when “the marketing of brand name drugs to the consumer marked a paradigm shift in medicine away from physicians and into the hands of pliable public opinion”. Suddenly, patients were asking their doctors for particular drug brands, swayed by major ad campaigns.

Ad for Dompe by Franco Grignani, 1955; Courtesy of Display

 

Ad for Dompe by Franco Grignani, 1954; Courtesy of Display

 

The exhibition promises to “reflect and question the role of graphic design in the marketing of drugs, how that has changed over the years and, more importantly, why”.

 

 

Penicillin ad in Scope Magazine, designed by Lester Beall, 1949

Ad for Roche by Aldo Calabresi for Studio Boggeri, photo by Sergio Libis, 1959

 

Promotional mailer for Ciba, designed and illustrated by Jerome Snyder, 1950s

 

Ad for Dompe by Franco Grignani, 1954; Courtesy of Display

 

Advertising cards for Geigy; Left & Middle: c. 1958; Right: designed by Roland Aeschlimann c. 1964; Courtesy of Display

 

Pharma is at the Herb Lubalin Study Center at the Cooper Union, New York City, from November 1 to December 2, 2011. More details here

 

Related Content

Read our piece on the contemporary influence of Herb Lubalin here
CR’s Ptrick Burgoyne visited the Hurb Lubalin Study Center and its archive of beautiful work here

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