A potted history of L&M communication

Last year, in Design Week, I noticed several references to Lippincott & Margulies – your announcement (DW 14 April 1995), Siegel’s letter (DW 5 May 1995), Arthur King’s letter (DW 19 May 1995) and David Wetherell’s letter (DW 16 June 1995).

Last year, in Design Week, I noticed several references to Lippincott & Margulies – your announcement (DW 14 April 1995), Siegel’s letter (DW 5 May 1995), Arthur King’s letter (DW 19 May 1995) and David Wetherell’s letter (DW 16 June 1995). While history is often based on the frailty of memory, I feel that the “restart” of L&M should be placed in its correct context.

I was asked by Margulies to establish its European office, which was based in London’s Grosvenor Street with a small staff of four to five, in 1966.

Arthur King – an extremely competent and experienced graphic designer who had worked for L&M in New York – had already been brought to London to handle the development of the Chrysler programme throughout Europe. David Wetherell, an equally fine designer, was also working on the programme under King. I had no direct contact with Wetherell, since, for the first year of the L&M operation, the Chrysler account was kept separate from Grosvenor Street.

My 18 months as managing director of L&M Europe was simply and accurately recorded by Jeremy Myerson (DW 7 April 1989). While achieving a “break- even” after only a year, it was not the sort of professional relationship I wished to continue, despite the success in negotiating and starting major accounts such as the Wholesale Cooperative Society (Co-op) and Italian pasta group Barilla.

There is no doubt that the intense marketing strategy of L&M, coupled with its effective and high quality graphic design at the time (the early Sixties), was unique even in the US as well as to the Loewy organisations. This said, however, we with Loewy in Paris had handled a worldwide UK petroleum account encompassing identity, packaging, product development and service station architecture since 1960, originally started by Harold Barnett, my predecessor in Paris. This was all more design orientated without the extreme marketing emphasis of L&M.

The concept and promotion established by L&M and termed “corporate communications” as a senior management imperative has provided the basis for all the UK design groups, who have subsequently profited from it.

Indeed, the now fully accepted concept of design management stemmed from corporate communications, and is not always very successful, aesthetically speaking. That is to say that often the achievement of a successful development form or structure (an administration) precludes a fresh and creative message or content.

The reported plans of L&M to simultaneously establish new design offices in three European locations sounds financially suspect in view of the current general disinterest in design, as well as the take-over of so much design activity by the agencies.

Naturally, the current lack of a design – or indeed an aesthetic criteria – by those in the profession, the media and the general public also discounts their importance by business and industry. The value and importance of aesthetics will hopefully return, however strong sociological changes, priorities and influences are against it.

Douglas Kelly

Douglas Kelly Associates

London SW1

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