Decorative Arms and Armour


When one asks the question “what is graphic design?” It may be hard to give a definitive answer because graphic design has changed over time to fit its purpose. Through the course of history graphic design has been, the creation of websites, designing layouts for graphics during football games, illustrating and designing the look of pages in bibles and many more roles throughout history. without graphic design these things would still exist, you would still have bibles, text on screen telling you which team is winning in a football match and words on a webpage in an almost incomprehensible order. The difference between these things, between raw information and visually pleasing design is graphic design.

One could argue that where this is first explored to the depths that can be described as graphic design is the medieval ages (1500s) during this period weapons and armour stopped being exclusively tools of war and also became works of graphic design started to constrict around these forms. A great example of this is Sir George Clifford’s armour for tournaments comparable to modern-day sports Jerseys, it includes the fleur de Lis and queen Elizabeth’s initials. Decorative armour served as an important symbol representing the wearer’s status and character.
These custom engraved armour sets are important to graphic design history because they embody the spirit of graphic design’s ability to turn something brute and rugged into something beautiful. One of the tenants of good graphic design for websites is that the design of the website should be an extension of the content of the website. This is equally true with custom engraved suits of armours as they act as an extension of the dueler’s character. The bloodline of these trends live on as custom engraved firearms, sports jerseys, ceremonial maces, and possibly the inspiration for many articles of many modern clothing articles as many modern tracksuits mimic this.

Chevron daisy velvet harem style pant
Chevron daisy velvet harem style pant
Armor Garniture of George Clifford (1558–1605), Third Earl of Cumberland METMuseum
Armor Garniture of George Clifford (1558–1605), Third Earl of Cumberland

A chapter on this would benefit the book greatly as the book seems to focus too much on modern-day graphic design and not cover why we hold the current belief in graphic design that we do and, where they came from. In the end, this crucial part of graphic design history needs to be remembered as they serve as an early and important example of why graphic design exists, to turn brute unorganized elements into something beautiful.

Works Cited:

“Armor Garniture of George Clifford (1558–1605), Third Earl of Cumberland.” Accessed April 3, 2020.

The unmistakable Generic brand

The No name brand was originally launched after Loblaws was on the brink of bankruptcy. The No name brand was a success ever since its 1978 launch, helping turn Loblaws into the largest grocery retailer in Canada ”Canadian encyclopedia”. The genius behind the iconic yellow packaging with bold, black Helvetica font is Don Watt, a marketing mastermind most remembered for his work making no name, president’s choice, and home depot the behemoth brands they are today.

When one looks at food and grocery packaging in the 1970s and even packaging today, it’s not hard to see that Don Watt’s no name branding is a radical choice. Leading many to ask, why did Don Watt design his packaging in this way? And what was it about this simple design that made it so successful? 

In Don Watt’s unpublished book “Fast Forward: the changing face of retail” he explains how he first saw a similar concept working for the French retailer “Le Carrefour”. Their products were packaged in white containers with simple black text describing the product and very little ornamentation. 

Le Carrefour advertisement from 1976 (Carrefour twitter account)
Le Carrefour advertisement from 1976
(Carrefour twitter account)

Don Watt took this idea then pushed it further by replacing the bright white boxes with one even brighter neon yellow. The neon yellow boxes and bags interact with each other when on the store shelf like no other product does. Instead of simply being multiple products sitting side by side on a shelf, they become a swarm of yellow making each product almost indistinguishable from its neighbouring clone. This effect is made through the packaging’s complete lack of ornamentation and removal of all non-essential elements, making most packages almost completely yellow. This sea of yellow instantly dominates and separates itself from all other packaging in the aisle through its extreme lack of ornamentation and luminosity.

A shelf full of no name chips (
A shelf full of no name chips

Don watt recognized how powerful this lack of ornamentation was and that it worked because it created a stark contrast between his products and everything else on the shelf. In his unpublished book Don Watt explains how no name’s lack of branding was actually a form of branding used to separate no name’s products from all others: “This “anti-brand,” commodity image flew in the face of conventional wisdom, but recognized that packaging was actually part of the architecture. It served to differentiate the line from all other brands in the store.” ”no name necessary”.

No name’s current advertising strategy is unlike that of any other, creating a humorous postmodern dystopian feeling wherever their advertisements lay. No name does this by branding objects the same as their products, with a bland description in Helvetica on their iconic neon yellow backgrounds. Billboards saying “billboard”, Buildings saying “building”, and taxi’s saying “taxi” are all just a part of this wildly different marketing campaign. Whether you love their low-cost products or not, it is hard to see their wildly blunt advertisements and not smile at their postmodern bluntness.

A no name billboard (Loblaw)
A no name billboard



Works Cited:

Yusufali, Sahsa, and Derrick Clements. “George Weston Limited.” Edited by Eli Yarhi, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, 9 Aug. 2010,

Wexler, Emily. “No Name Necessary.” Strategy Online, Brunico Communications Ltd, 1 Mar. 2010,   (top image) (middle image) (bottom image)