This post introduces an ongoing series of featured lomo matchbooks to be called, “Matchbook Delight!” Last year I bought a large collection of matchbooks at a yard sale, kept the ones I liked, and gave away the rest. Most of those I kept are from the 1960s and 1970s and are Lower Modernist in style; many of these advertise lomo businesses. I will photograph these and share them here regularly. (What an easy way to fill up space and hit my informal posting quota here on the blog!)
The idea for this series came from the “Philately Fridays” series on Mike Davis’s blog, “So Much Pileup: Graphic design artifacts and inspiration from the 1960s – 1980s.” Davis regularly posts images from his collection of Modernist stamps. His stamps are so cool that at first I had an urge to start a stamp collection. But then I realized I didn’t need to, because all the good stamps already belong to Davis and he is generous to share them with us; and then I remembered that I already have a collection, of awesome matchbooks.
Matchbooks present to the graphic designer a perfectly self-contained design problem. The small and standardized size quite literally constrains the designer’s scope, and presents a level playing field – when it comes to designing nice matchbooks, the biggest corporation with all its money has no intrinsic advantage over the mom-and-pop coffee shop. By studying these matchbooks closely, we can enjoy them as well as tease out what techniques the designers used to impart that characteristic lomo style.
Today’s matchbook is from a 24-hour family restaurant called “Curly Jones.” The front features the Curly Jones logo in orange with black outline. The shape of the logo seems at first to be a representation of a wooden sign shape with some traditional curlicues, but it is slightly asymmetrical, giving it an uncharacteristic jauntiness, and evoking the true inspiration for this shape – it’s a cowhide! The international orange is striking against a field of black and white stripes. The black stripes are about twice as wide as the white stripes in the field – I don’t know why it is better this way, but I have faith that the designer knew what he or she was doing.
On the reverse, we learn that steaks are the specialty at Curly Jones – hence the cowhide-inspired logo. Here the color scheme is inverted, with a black-and-white log on a field of orange. The designer appears to have been obliged to print in two colors only, black and orange on a white card stock, and worked within this constraint. The Starburst-Pincushion shape on the reverse recalls the cowhide-wood sign shape on the front, but conveys a completely different tone – the shape conveys a sense of bursting, of eye-catching and attention-grabbing. The all-caps, slanted “STEAKS OUR SPECIALTY” contrasts with the title-case “Family Dinners”. The effect on the message’s tone of this contrast is hard to describe, but the “STEAKS” conveys masculinity and expediency, while the “Family Dinners” is more accommodating and respectful.
I did some quick research to find out whether Curly Jones is still there. The Norwalk location appears to have been replaced with strip malls long ago, but the Bellflower location (as of current 6 February 2011 Google Maps imagery) has been bulldozed, but its site remains undeveloped, the asphalt parking lot surrounding the extant concrete floor slabs still visible in the satellite photo. The pole sign advertising Curly Jones remains, but its messages are whited out. You can clearly make out the now-familiar cowhide-wood sign shape, as well as the ellipse above it that surely once contained the legend “OPEN 24 HOURS.” Seeing this image and knowing what I now know about Curly Jones gives me a feeling of nostalgia and poignant loss. See for yourself here: http://goo.gl/qMU6B