Hoochee Koochee, Tootsie Wootsie

This may be hard to believe, but I don’t particularly like musicals. I’m a big Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, but that’s due to brainwashing at the ranch. I’m the type of person who fast-forwards over the singing sections of a movie. Last week, Meet Me in St. Louis was on television. I could live without the singing parts, and if I were the father and had a big promotion, I’d tell everyone to shut-up and start packing. The titles, however, had that saccharine and Technicolor “Gay Nineties” style. I love that. Flourishes and fancy frames need a revival. I’ve slipped them in here and there, but nobody particularly loves them—yet. However, there is hope. Last week’s Milner Gray post was passed around all over the web. Maybe it’s that time; the time when fancy frames, Victorian pink and yellow houses, old fire trucks, and handlebar mustaches come back into fashion.

When Gray is Good


One of my favorite possessions is a Graphis magazine, No. 69 from 1956. We’ve opened it so often that it’s falling apart. I tried taping it back together since this is something you do when you get old. But now the cover has fallen off of it. There is a rather dull feature on calendars, but an incredible profile on Milner Gray. Gray (1899-1997) was a British designer who founded the Society of Industrial Artists and the Design Research Unit (not to be confused with Ellen Lupton’s Design Writing Research). His work is primarily in the realm of packaging design, although he did identity and environmental design for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Gray takes heraldry and traditional forms and treats them with a modernist bent. Simple shapes are combined with flourishes and Victorian typography. There is a contradictory sense of minimalism and ornamentation.

Unfortunately, Gray is one of those remarkable designers who have been sadly neglected in print or online. Someday, I’d like to write a book about all of these unsung heroes who changed the profession quietly.