Matchbook from the original Hard Rock Café

My first introduction to graphic design, like many in my generation, was through the simple matchbook. It was a small advertisement usually consisting of a brand’s identity, logo, word mark, or some other representation to convey their brand proposition in this small (2”X1.875”) package of potassium chlorate and sulfur. 

As a child, we didn’t really travel much until the second grade when my family relocated to London for my father’s work. From that point forward we began to travel quite significantly as a family. There was not always the chance or money for trinkets and souvenirs so I began picking up matchbooks wherever we traveled. Hotels, restaurants, pubs – you name it, and I would grab a few of these little postcards.

Over the ensuing decades, as my parents traveled they would bring me back a handful of matchbooks from their journeys that I would stash away in a big punch bowl and this collection grew extensively. Fast forward to a move cross-country for a new job and the moving company would not transport a packed ball of combustible material – who knew? So I handed off this collection to a friend of my wife’s, thinking I would never see these mementos ever again. 

Matchbook from The Great American Disaster in London.

Over a dozen years later we returned from our wanderings around the country to our beloved Central Florida. That same friend of my wife’s was downsizing some items from her home and gave them to my us. As part of this collection was that same said large box of matchbooks that were kept safe and sound all of these years. To say I was happy to see them is an understatement. 

Much like snapshots and Polaroids, these matchbooks bring back a flood of memories from my childhood. And as I look at them from a design professional’s perspective I still wonder at the design aesthetics of this small canvas. These branded utilitarian artifacts, that have become mostly extinct across society, have always interested me as markers of time and place as well as evidence of great design should be approachable from the smallest canvas to the largest billboard. 

I always thought they would make a great subject as a book; an art books. So I am going to begin experimenting with these subjects as I begin working on a book about these small interactive pieces of design. Please, follow along…

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