MODERN ART OF INDUSTRY

What was the leading lure used in a majority of the advertisements to sell GM's products built and made by – Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac – from 1930-1960?  Why it was the 'Style" and/or "Design" of the automobile. Yes, most often "the look" of GM's vehicles or Harley Earl's unique "car design" language was an all new way of touching people. That's why Earl and his new car design profession rocked the auto world and quickly became the dominant driving sales devise, at GM, to promote and market this automaker's products. Perhaps more than any other shrewd marketing exec during the influential mid-twentieth century years, Designer-Earl knew Americans were sophisticated enough to understand this more modernistic messaging system. A new language of communication, the majority of GM's ads before, during and after WW II were downright mysterious as well as alluring; millions of consumers not only grasped their meaning but embraced this wonderful new "styling" crusade that Harley Earl simply referred to as the, "modern art of industry."

Unfortunately, foreign car companies today apparently have a better grasp of the force behind "Styling Leadership."  It's obviously the reason these competitors continue stealing the march from the American automakers in gaining new market share. No wonder the ultra-hip young American generation, who have always had a good eye for buying things, seem to pay less and less attention to Detroit's products these days.

Now that a hidden side of Harley's career life is being exposed for the first time, it's easier to see him as a "Style Revolutionist" of good taste and higher engineering precepts. After moving from Hollywood to Detroit, Harley began populating GM's products with literally hundreds of unique and imaginative ways of leaving behind his artistic maker's mark. Renowned art critic, Paul Goldberger, of Architectural Digest wrote the following 1998 article titled, The Identical Sedan, Car Design At the End of the Nineties: wrote on Earl, hundreds of imaginative new ways to leave behind his artistic maker's mark. The "Automobile Lamp Cluster" patent is one. Notice how the exact design is used inside the 1956 Buick print advertisement, directly below, are more graphic evidence (we put H.J. Earl's U.S. Patent of this tail lamp in the middle below to show how this car architect's art work was often fused into GM's print ad campaigns...remember, TV ads being the leading way to advertise was still a decade away at this time in the mid-50's).

Directly below are some arresting double page ads (displaying Mr. Earl's patented "curved glass windshield" design)--these ads were featured in Colliers, LIFE and LOOK magazines. Here's what is printed in the first paragraph from the ad below:

"Dashing is truly the word for the new '56 General Motors cars--both in the sweeping verve of their fresh new styling and in the trigger-quick responsiveness of their advanced automatic transmissions."

Text from multimillion-dollar look! print ad: 

"That's one way of describing it! The bold, new, far-in-advance appearance presented by General Motors for 1954. 

For--to produce such dramatic style changes as the revolutionary new wider-vision windshield, pictured above, did cost millions. And it cost millions more to match this car-of-tomorrow styling with equally important engineering advancements."

Text from very first paragraphs of see for yourself ad above:

" 'See' is certainly the key word for General Motors cars this year.

And the new panoramic windshield offered on several GM cars supplies the driver with an important increase in vision—for safer driving, easier parking.  

In fact, all these GM style leaders are designed with expansive glass areas which give the driver more visibility from all angles—front, side and rear."

The 1950 print ad, text below, tells exactly how Harley Earl's unique "styling leadership" paradigm was directly at the heart of the matter when it came to welding the magic into GM's products. This is where the real sales-power came from that created GM's long-term success story... If GM is going to rise up again leading into their one-hundredth anniversary in 2008 and thereafter, they'd best start recreating and using this time-honored model, that was once proven to be so successful, towards selling their modern products:

"Whether in a lady or an automobile, true beauty is admired by everyone.

It’s no secret that most folks go for General Motors styling—any survey will tell you that. And there is no secret about how GM cars get their smartness.

It comes from the soaring imagination of artists, tempered by seasoned designers sensitive to the public’s likes and dislikes. It comes, too, from the sound interpretations of styling forms by engineers and production craftsmen. 

Above all, it is born of the spirit which is never content with beauty as it is, but seeks constantly to make it lovelier and better in every way. 

Treat your eyes to the sparkling spectacle you find wherever GM cars are on display and we think you will call these cars the reigning beauties of the highway. Let the dealer treat you to a ride—and we believe you will agree that GM beauty is more than metal-deep – that it is only one of many reasons why this is your key to greater value. "

The four ads grouped together below continue detailing how prolific the flow of this giant campaign truly was at moving Detroit metal during the golden years of America's auto capital. There really was no need to do any "trick in marketing or advertising" since GM, at this time in history, really did lead the way. Notice what the billboard paragraphs say from the with an eye for style: ad directly below:

"Our General Motors designers, as usual, are way out in front of the automotive style parade.

Not only with a multitude of such advanced styling features as GM's own panoramic windshield - but in the wealth of new colors and color combinations with which they've glorified our 1955 Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs."

Earl's new paradigm-busting shift was often written inside the ads, "Built by the self-same workmen who fashion the Cadillacs. It is designed by the self-same engineers."