“It would seem unlikely that a manufacturer of short-lived paperboard boxes could make the slightest cultural impact upon his time. But the facts show that if even the humblest product is designed, manufactured, and distributed with a sense of human values and with a taste for quality, the world will recognize the presence of a creative force.” – Herbert Bayer
In 1945, Walter Paepcke invited Herbert Bayer to Aspen, Colorado, to help market and promote the burgeoning resort town. Bayer and his wife, Joella, moved to Aspen in 1946, where he embraced his role in the rejuvenation of the area from a dilapidated mining town to a modern cultural hub and ski resort. Though he is considered one of Aspen’s original marketers, Bayer was already a well-known marketing innovator when he arrived in Colorado. Bayer worked for Vogue Berlin and the Dorland Studio from 1928-1938 (after studying at the Bauhaus). In 1938 he moved to the United States and designed a Bauhaus exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which attracted the attention of large corporations including Paepcke’s Container Corporation of American (CCA) as well as commissions from Atlantic Richfield and Alcoa. As a consultant at CCA, Bayer helped establish the corporation’s aesthetic vision, working primarily on advertising and graphic design. One of Bayer’s most notable legacies is the “Great Ideas of Western Man project,” a landmark advertising campaign that he helped create for CCA.
Together with people like Paepcke’s wife Elizabeth (who is rumored to have come up with the idea for the non-traditional advertising series) Bayer helped create the campaign to promote humanist thought in post-war America. Rolling out in 1950, the ads married quotes from the canon of Western thought with artists chosen by committee. The quotes were curated by Mortimer Alder, chosen from his book A Syntopicon: An Index to The Great Ideas. Alder, a Paepcke acquaintance, co-founded the Great Books discussion series and was also involved in the Goethe Bicentennial Conference in 1949 and the creation of the Aspen Institute in 1950.
The seminal campaign was widely revered in both the advertising and art worlds. Walter wanted the ads to “serve public interest as well as our own” and indeed they did, transcending traditional advertising. The series continues to serve as an important example of the intersections between intellect and creativity, and artist and corporation. They also provide a feast for thought and remain exceedingly relevant today.
The Aspen Historical Society Collection includes over 100 originals from the campaign’s first eight years, 1950 – 1958 (the campaign continued for 25 years and included close to 200 ads). In celebration of the new exhibit “bayer & bauhaus: how design changed aspen,” Aspen Historical Society will be sharing ads from the campaign each Friday on its social media channels.
The audacious and inspiring non-advertising advertising campaign is just one of Bayer’s many brilliant achievements. Aspen Historical Society will explore Bayer’s impact and legacy with “bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen,” presented as part of Bauhaus 100: Aspen. This new exhibit delves into the profound, but often unnoticed, influence of Herbert Bayer’s work on Aspen, Colorado, through never exhibited preliminary sketches, original prints, architectural drawings, graphic design works, historical photographs, artifacts, and more. Aspen Historical Society’s Bayer collection offers a unique view into his extensive works, both fine art and commercial.
Written by Eliza Greenman Burlingame, Marketing Director at the Aspen Historical Society.
For more information about the exhibit, visit www.aspenhistory.org
To see ads from the “Great Ideas of Western Man” campaign, follow Aspen Historical Society on Facebook and Instagram at @historyaspen