Woolmark press ad
Woolmark press ad
Agency: Davidson Pearce. Year: 1987.
Art Director: Kit Marr. Copywriter: Neil Fazakerley.
Typographer: Ray Rann. Photographer: Brian Griffin.
Illustrator: Tony McSweeney.
Agency: Davidson Pearce. Year: 1987. Art Director: Kit Marr. Copywriter: Neil Fazakerley. Typographer: Ray Rann. Photographer: Brian Griffin. Illustrator: Tony McSweeney.
This post is about fashion. And the lack of it in the best art direction. Take this magazine spread for Woolmark from 1987 for instance. Timeless. (Unlike the shirt.)

Part of a menswear brand campaign, with the great line ‘Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing’. It was designed to keep wool at the forefront of fashion, emphasising its superiority over cheaper man-made fibres.

So why is this ad good?

Perhaps we should begin with what isn’t there. Yes, the liberal use of white space. Imagine these ads whispering loudly amongst the screaming, ugly clutter of beer ads, car ads, hi-fi ads, computer launches and utility sell-offs. It’s incredibly rare to find quite so much white space. And even rarer to find photography uncontaminated by copy.

It’s also pretty rare to find one of the best logos ever created nestling at the bottom the page. But there it is, expertly positioned, just the right distance from the edge. In fact such was the attention to detail with this ad, that the client was persuaded to pay the extra cost of full-bleed ads for every insertion even though nothing bleeds off the page. This is because the framing of the elements went critical millimetres beyond the magazine’s recommended type area.

And to further demonstrate the strength of the client relationship, this campaign ran across an incredible twelve fashion seasons. But it never won a D&AD Pencil. Crazy. The closest it came was a nomination for photography for this very ad. It’s a great image. Created entirely in camera, by photographer Brian Griffin. There are countless interesting details for the eye to dwell on. We seem to be looking at some kind of dandy safecracker. Brian Griffin was certainly aware of the drama of welding through his series of construction workers entitled ‘Work’. And both photographer and art director doubtless possessed Andreas Feininger’s monograph featuring a famous 1955 shot called ‘Welder’ showing the head and shoulders of a masked welder plus sparks.

You have to feel for the model though, with a flood of hot metal aimed at his head. And it can’t be a coincidence that the stream of amber sparks match the flecks of wool in the Paul Costello tweed jacket. The sparks were actually produced by an assistant armed with an angle-grinder cutting through a locked-off scaffold pole, all just out of shot, top right. (Luckily wool is a natural fire-retardant.)

And notice that the peacock feathers in the background match the colours and pattern on the wool shirt. What better symbol of male fashion than peacock feathers? In fact every single detail in this photograph seems to have been carefully considered. Even the tubes feeding the oxyacetylene welding torch are colour matched to the garments.

But the detail that really gets me is the way in which the light penetrating the welder’s mask highlights the model’s eyes. And it’s in the same shape as the eye section of the identikit illustration on the facing page. Genius.

And what an illustration. By Tony McSweeney. A great way to illustrate the notion of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rendered in ink and gouache after studying the ID apparatus at his local police station.

But hang on a minute. There are two visuals here. A photograph and an illustration. Radical. Works perfectly though. So why not? And we haven’t even mentioned the typography yet. A simple justified block of text in a perfect choice of typeface.

Okay, that’s logo, photography, illustration and typography covered. What about layout? The photograph is on the right-hand side because that’s the first thing the viewer sees when they turn the page. So the striking image grabs our attention. It’s glued to the rest of the ad by the white border. And if we have a big picture on the right, it makes sense to have a small picture on the left. For balance. Perfect.

Great art direction. It never goes out of fashion.