Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 13—”Paper Is Part of the Picture”

This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.

Paper Is Part of the Picture (Strathmore Paper Co., 1921). Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Paper Is Part of the Picture (Strathmore Paper Co., 1921). Photograph by Vincent Giordano.

Strathmore’s search for a memorable slogan—see Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 7—finally succeeded in 1921. In January of that year the company announced that the new advertising campaign slogan would be “Paper Is Part of the Picture,” replacing the awkward “Paper Does Express.” In the first advertisement to use the new slogan, paper was the “wall” of a building where a turbaned figure lingered in a window. The slogan was only minimally explained: “Strathmore is more than a surface to print things on. Strathmore is a medium to say things with.” But with the following month’s advertisement, in which paper was a snowy hill, it became clear that the new slogan was a recasting of the older one:

The paper of printed matter is more than a common carrier for type. It conveys a message of its own. There are dainty feminine papers, rugged masculine papers, papers that suggest class, caste and quality—that supplement, and sometimes far transcend, the message in words.

"Paper is part of the Picture" advertisement in The Mailbag (February 1921).

“Paper is part of the Picture” advertisement in The Mailbag (February 1921).

What was different was the quality of the advertisement itself. Even though it was printed on a generic coated paper magazine stock, it managed to convey the idea that paper was a visual component of a design. The minimalism of the new Strathmore campaign was startling in 1921. Not only did it break from the company’s own advertising tendencies, but it contrasted with those of its competitors. Compare it to the advertisements below, one from the previous Strathmore campaign and the other from a competitor. (In the latter note the phrase, “Like An Artistic Frame for Your Business Picture” which awkwardly tries to suggest the same thing as Strathmore’s “Paper Is Part of the Picture.”)

"Appealing to Women in Advertising" advertisement in The Inland Printer vol. 66, no. 5 (January 1921).

“Appealing to Women in Advertising” advertisement by Strathmore Paper Co. in The Inland Printer vol. 66, no. 4 (December 1920). Illustration probably by The Reeses.

"Atmosphere" advertisement  for Sunburst Cover Paper by Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co. in The Inland Printer vol. 67, no. 4 (June 1921).

“Atmosphere” advertisement for Sunburst Cover Paper by Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co. in The Inland Printer vol. 67, no. 4 (June 1921).

The magazine advertising campaign was accompanied by a series of folders demonstrating the new slogan. The first of them simply reprinted four magazine advertisements on actual Strathmore papers (eg. the snowy hill illustration was printed on Alexandra Japan). Bryant Venable, in “Selling Paper—Plus” in the March 1921 issue of The Inland Printer, pointed out how much more effective the folder samples were than the advertisements:

The text is a scholarly appeal to the intellect of the reader, a sincere and earnest argument to demonstrate the thesis that Strathmore papers, in particular, possess definite practical values for the transmission of ideas. And here is the same picture printed on Strathmore’s Alexandra Japan. The appeal to reason has been eliminated, because the paper tells its own story, leaving to the copywriter the simple task of indicating the catalogue designation of the stock. The drawing is no longer a picture, it is only a part of the picture; the paper, instead of being merely the medium for carrying the artist’s thought, is an organic part of the artist’s equipment; the text, no longer a labored effort to create a desire through an appeal to cold reason, falls into the general scheme as a part and a decorative part of the whole, whose agreeable function it is to point the way to the satisfaction of the desire created by the eye.

Venable completely grasped the radical nature of Strathmore’s new approach to selling its papers. As the Secretary of the Whitaker Paper Company—a paper merchant with offices in eleven cities across the United States from Boston to Denver—he was able to readily compare the promotional efforts of Strathmore to those of other paper manufacturers.

Paper is part of the Picture (Strathmore Paper Co., 1921). Designer unknown.

Envelope for Paper is part of the Picture mailer (Strathmore Paper Co., 1921). Designer unknown.

The folder of repurposed advertisements was followed up later in 1921 by a series of mailers with original illustrations demonstrating even further how paper could be part of the picture. In these mailers paper was the sky for a parachutist (see the top of this post), the grass for a golfer, the ocean for a diver, a hillside near a town (see above). These mailers demonstrated the slogan through weight, color, texture and finish. They were tactile as well as visual.

Over the course of the year the Paper Is Part of the Picture campaign had matured. Strathmore had become confident in explaining what it meant and in creating promotional material to back it up. The January 1922 advertisement below (probably designed by Fred G. Cooper) is evidence that the company had reached a milestone in its history. It was truly a new day for Strathmore.

"Strathmore Is Part of the Picture" advertisement in The Inland Printer vol. 68, no. 4 (January 1922).

“Strathmore Is Part of the Picture” advertisement in The Inland Printer vol. 68, no. 4 (January 1922).

“Paper Is Part of the Picture” was solidly ensconced as Strathmore’s slogan by the end of 1921. It continued in use as a vital part of the company’s promotional efforts throughout its history as an independent paper mill; and sporadically in the decades since 1962 when it has been a subsidiary or brand of other paper companies. The phrase was perfect. It was alliterative, memorable, and apropos. It focused on paper as an element in a product not as a commodity.

Note
To fully appreciate how brilliant “Paper Is Part of the Picture” was—and is—here are a few slogans from rival paper companies in the 1920s. “BW Uppermost” (Byron Weston Co.); ”The Utility Business Paper” (Hammermill Paper Co.); ”Butler Paper is Better Paper” (Butler Paper Co.); “Better Paper, Better Printing” (S.D. Warren Co.); “Good thoughts become better through good printing” (Henry Lindenmeyer & Sons); and, post-1922, “Paper is the Background” (Hampden Glazed Paper & Card Co.)