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August 2004

Walter Landor:

Pioneer of the Branding Phenomena

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A true pioneer of the branding phenomena was Walter Landor (1913-1995), a German expatriate who settled in San Francisco, California. He believed that design, when backed by consumer insight, could be a powerful marketing tool. Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind". For years, Americans could not drink, eat or smoke without coming into contact with his work, whether it was Kellogg's Corn Flakes for breakfast, Gallo wine with lunch or Benson & Hedges after dinner.

Landor was born in Munich, Germany, and grew up under the influence of the Bauhaus and Werkbund design movements. At age 22, after attending London University, he helped start Industrial Design Partnership (IDP), England's first industrial design consultancy. On behalf of IDP, Landor came to the United States in 1939 as part of the design team for the British Pavilio at the New York World's Fair. In an effort to familiarize himself with America's industrial design, he traveled the country and, after arriving in San Francisco, he immediately decided to live there.

In 1941, Landor founded Walter Landor & Associates (later renamed Landor Associates) in his small San Francisco flat, with his wife Josephine as his first "associate". Walter Landor & Associates would soon become on of the four leading packaging design firms working with such clients as S&W Coffee, Sapporo, Alitalia, Hills Bros., Del Monte, Levi's, Bank of America, and Lucky Lager, just to name a few.

While Landor applied established forms and symbols to his designs, his use of new, unconventional materials, such as metallic foils and cellophane, enhanced the modern effect of commercial packaging. And while design remained at the core of his work, by the late 1960s, Walter Landor & Associates offered a broad range of services that became known as corporate identity.

In Landor's view, to be truly valid, a package design solution had to satisfy more than the accepted basic needs: protection of product, shelf impact, memorability, strong communication of product and brand – to be truly consumer oriented. He led his firm above and beyond the call of duty with weekly lectures and discussions on creativity – past, present and future – not necessarily related to industrial design; intense studies of consumer response to package design before the design process ever began; and the building of a unique personality of each client's product by making sure that no designs were reminiscent of each other.

"We conceive the design problems as a problem in communication – rapid communication. We find it much, much simpler to arrive at a design solution which satisfies us aesthetically and emotionally, than to evoke a solution which is relatively satisfying to us personally, yet truly communicates to a mass audience. However, that is our responsibility."

Indeed, Walter Landor left his mark in the history and development of brands and visual identity. Year-by-year, Landor Associates offices were opened worldwide. In 1994, one year before his death, "The Walter Landor Collection of Design Records and Packaging" was permanently housed in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.

  On An Island Cover
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