Two Pages Facing: The Curtis Publishing Company and Advertising Design
By Molly Olney-Zide
The Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1891 by Cyrus Curtis, is probably best known for its publication of magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Country Gentleman. The general public was very familiar with the finished product, but how the Curtis Publishing Company took blank pages and filled them with intricately designed advertisements may not have occurred to the magazines’ numerous subscribers. Although the companies who advertised in the pages of the various magazines can be given some credit for the design of their advertisements, the bulk of the credit may lie with the Curtis Publishing Company itself.
Some Suggestions for Advertising Display (1916) and Two Pages Facing in the Ladies’ Home Journal : Suggestions for the Effective Use of Double Pages in Color and Black and White (1921). The Company, in an effort to create appealing advertisements for their subscribers, essentially used publications such as these to advertise their own designs to potential advertisers. All suggestions in each book use generic products or services that could easily be modified to work for just about any company.
Two Pages Facing from 1916 focuses primarily on how to incorporate the “gutter” of a two-page layout (the white space between where the two pages meet in the spine) into the design of the advertisement. In many of the design suggestions, the unavoidable white space has been transformed into the trunk of a tree, a fence post, a road, and many other objects that cause the gutter to virtually disappear into the image. Other suggested techniques include shifting the optical center, strategically placing product images, and carrying motion across both pages.
Due in part to the success of the 1916 publication, the Company came out with the next installment of Two Pages Facing in 1921. Although many of the techniques suggested in the first publication are reused, this one focuses attention on how to enhance advertisement space with color. Some simple and some more detailed, the designs show how companies can draw attention to their product by fading color into black and white across the pages, displaying their product in color and in use, and by using color in combination with the popular gutter-eliminating designs from the 1916 publication.
By offering these 25+ suggestions per book to advertisers, the Curtis Publishing Company was able to produce a more consistent and more attractive publication, and the companies advertising in their magazines were able to advertise more effectively and ultimately benefit everyone involved.
Hagley Library is currently the only library in the OCLC community to own these two unique publications, which are available in physical format by visiting the library and in digital format by visiting the Hagley Digital Archives. For those looking for more information about the Curtis Publishing Company and its publications, the library has many other items available for research. Please contact the Imprints Reference Desk at 302-658-2400 x227 or send an email request using the online AskHagley form.
For more information about Hagley Library, please visit www.hagley.org/library/.
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