This past week I was able to visit the LeMay Automotive Museum in Tacoma, Washington during my family vacation. It is home to the world’s largest individual collection of cars in the U.S. and was started way back in 1946 by Harold LeMay, an entrepreneur and business man.
For those of us that are into things automotive and automotive-related, it is an interesting and quirky collection of more than 3,500 cars and memorabilia.
Anything from signs, gas pumps, busses, taxi cabs and fire trucks, to even train cars. Part of the charm of LeMay’s collection is that along with a lot of the classics, like Buick Roadmasters, Cadillacs and Packards, there are just as many everyday drivers. Nothing that you’ll get top dollar for at Barrett-Jackson, but a little slice of regular, old American iron. Just seeing these cars bring back memories of your own.
When many of these cars were designed, I am sure none of the designers ever thought their work would ever end up in someone’s private collection, let alone a museum. That wasn’t the focus. The assignment was to make a car that got you from point A to point B, in however the means of which you needed and could afford at the time. Some were opulent, some were fast and many were just plain basic.
So, it got me thinking. This is just like the world of advertising and design. How is that, you say? Well, look at how we, as designers and clients, go about conjuring and creating our standard marketing materials. Although many of us would love to work on design for Apple and Coca-Cola, most of us do not. Most of us just get to do the regular work that is needed by our clients and companies every day, like brochures, ads, packaging and websites. Not the uber-glamorous multi-faceted piece of American pop-culture that was the “Got Milk” campaign – just the regular stuff.
It is not like creating the now timeless classic Packard hood ornament. It is more like designing a better fire truck, school bus or dashboard. Not any less important to the client or the consumer, just a lot less glitzy and many times overlooked.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We have the ability to take the ‘uninteresting or commonplace’ and make it extraordinary. All it takes is a little effort, hard work and just taking a moment to think about it differently.
So you got dealt a two-color print job with a minimal budget. Are you gonna just sit there and whine about it or are you going to rise to the challenge? Make it cool.
How about that teeny tiny banner ad they need tomorrow? ‘Not much to work with’, they said. Are you going to just take that? Or are you going to show them what you can create? Make it interesting.
I think the driving force for me in my work is that challenge to make something out of nothing. Taking a piece of communication that someone thinks very little of and make it get noticed. Kick it up a notch and let it get a second look. That’s what keeps me going back to the studio every day.
It all goes back to the designer that got the task of creating a typeface for that Buick Roadmaster that’s now on display at LeMay’s. Give it your best shot. You never know, it just might end up in a museum. Somebody may think what you designed was pretty special.
To see the other photos I took of the cars at the LeMay Automotive Museum, check out my Posterous collection here.