Art for TV: "Good art and selling are not incompatible in TV"

While researching last week's posts on cartooning, animation, and how the early days of television affected both, I kept coming across this handsome gentleman's image.


There's an awful lot that's interesting about Georg Olden. His biography at the AIGA website is a fascinating read. For our purposes however, Olden is noteworthy because he was such a singularly passionate advocate for the use of illustration on television during those early days. Among his credits, Georg Olden supervised the visual identities of programs such as "I Love Lucy", "Lassie" and "Gunsmoke."

Although known principally as a designer and art director, Olden was also a pretty terrific illustrator, as you can see below. (Maybe that's why he was so supportive of the idea of using illustration on tv)


The article below describes how, in his role as director of graphic arts for the CBS Television network, Olden convinced skeptical show producers to budget for the commission of title cards illustrated by both well-known illustrators...


... and notable new comers.


Whether Olden was successful in his mission is hard to say from my limited understanding of this esoteric niche market. If other television networks were convinced to follow Olden's lead, their efforts are not much in evidence in the industry publications of the day (at least not any publications that I have access to).


In the 1952 NY Art Directors Annual for instance, nearly every piece presented has Olden's name attached to it as either illustrator or art director.


Read the introduction to this 1955 article from Art Director & Studio News and it sure seems like Olden was a one man band in this regard.


But I'm fascinated by the thought of someone like Georg Olden, who clearly loved illustration, being in a position to incorporate it into this emerging new medium...


It brings to mind these times we live in - and the (relatively) recent emergence of another new medium - the Internet - and those of us who have lived through the transition from print to web. Its been a long strange trip...


... and I'm not sure we've arrived at a destination.


Maybe Georg Olden's fervent belief that illustration had a place on television was misguided. As a child of the '60s I don't recall ever seeing much in the way of illustrated title cards. I would guess that by the time my generation started watching television, Olden's experiment had ended in failure.

Maybe there really never was a place for the static image in a medium of constant motion.


But as a community we illustrators owe George Olden a debt of gratitude for his unwavering belief in our chosen discipline. And we ought to think seriously about what we ought to be doing to remain relevant in a post-print era.

* my Art for TV Flickr set.

Blog Archive