03 Sep

A new Penney

George Tscherny Collection: MG2009.8 D9 P39M. JCPenney. Direction 70 (poster), 30 × 46, 1979.

George Tscherny was one of the heraldic “here comes modernism” designers of the ’70s: along with Chermayeff & Geismar, his name seemed to be high on the shortlist when design became a hot item in the boardroom—though the bigwigs did not necessarily always follow through with a whole, or lasting, campaign. A lot of work may have come out of this when it happened at Pan Am, but it too was a painfully limited effort—but more about that in a later post. This poster was a one-off for JCPenney. In the late-1970s, the company was transitioning from an American general merchandiser (in the mode of Sears) to a streamlined department store with a closely integrated catalog business. It was a long transition: the current logo, set in Helvetica Light, had been adopted in 1971, but it wasn’t until the end of the decade that the packaging received a comprehensive modernist remodeling. That year their design director, Bill Bonnell, felicitously met Bart Crosby and the partnership resulted in a sharp uptick in the quality of their packaging.

JCPenney packaging, 1979. Designed by Marsha C. Adou. Manufactured by Rexham. Image from AIGA Design Archives.

JCPenney packaging, 1979. Designed by Lawrence Wolfson, with art director David Law. Manufactured by Container Corporation of America. Image from AIGA Design Archives.

But it didn’t stick, I guess. JCPenney won nine AIGA awards, but all of them originated in 1979.

This post also appears on our Picturebox blog.

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03 September 2010
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George Tscherny
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