Historical Perspective: Cataloging’s Early Years
One of our best lettering artists was Russ Morgan who taught me to see the “color” between each typeface character in the headlines in my layouts. Carl Piehl was noted for the crispness of his layouts. Everything he drew had the look of it being applied with a single stroke. Ric Benekos had the loosest layout style, with soft strokes of pencil and pastel in unfinished lines, almost like a designer’s sketch rather than a layout.
Bob Griffith was the group’s unofficial second in command. An interesting thing about his sketches: He used the same female face in his women’s fashion layouts, a tall, wide-eyed blonde with flowing hair.
Maxine Bell organized the distribution of the catalog pages. After reviewing them with Kemper, she’d give the product jackets to the artist most suited to each. She attached the layouts when completed, and she approved each jacket before sending them on.
Raised Voices Behind Closed Doors
Sometimes, Kemper would hold back certain spreads. His large desk would have about 50 fat No. 1 pencils on it along with several layout pads. Using both hands, one on each of the two pages of a spread, he’d beautifully outline the basic product-and-type arrangement, while sales managers and copywriters would sit and stare in awe.
Kemper had a fiery temper, and on several occasions raised voices could be heard behind his door. Presumably the arguments were about the graphic strategy for a major product campaign. Kemper actually left Sears three times, and was hired back each time — and this in view of a firm Sears policy not to rehire anyone who quit.
In 1952, Sears hired another layout artist, since its post-war catalog business was booming along with that of its newly launched retail store chain in major markets. Dick Bremner’s drawing style was more contemporary, almost cartoon-like; but it was a fresh look in catalog layouts. He kept busy on fashion pages, much as he did at Montgomery Ward, his previous employer.