I'm re-reading Regina Lee Blaszczyk's excellent The Color Revolution, a gorgeously illustrated history of how twentieth-century commodities got their colors, and how those colors were managed -- foretold, masterminded, coordinated -- by a new set of experts: men and women working for chemical companies like DuPont, across the fashion industries, or for manufacturers of products ranging from sedans to dinnerware. Building on the work of World War I camouflage experts and early-twentieth-century color systems, expert color managers drew together scientific theories of color, consumer statistics, psychology, French couture, modern art (see, for instance, Georgia O'Keeffe's ads for Cheney Brothers' textiles), and considerable savvy about design -- to produce color palettes that enhanced the contentment of workers and stimulated the appetites of consumers.
No account of the backstage rigging and scrims of mass consumption would be complete without an appearance by Edward Bernays, Freud's nephew, founding genius of PR, and subject of this earlier post. Blaszczyk offers this incredible anecdote:
"Women wouldn't buy Lucky Strike cigarettes because they thought the dark green package clashed with their wardrobes. The chief executive refused to redesign the package, having spent millions of dollars advertising it. Enlisting the support of New York high society ladies, Bernays launched the Green Ball, a spectacular charity event at the Waldorf-Astoria, which made dark green the fashion sensation of 1934. His staff worked behind the scenes getting stores to promote green, mills to make green, and prominent women to wear green. The Green Ball evoked color as a status symbol, a fashion trend, and a money generator." (p. 160)
And all of this for Lucky Strike, which now, of course, has Op-Art red and white packages!
Here's an old ad for Luckies, pre-redesign, as reference: