MDSC 200 visual remix of archival texts (2015)

“In Plato’s Republic, Socrates presents the argument that everything in this world is an imitation, because it is an echo or reproduction of an idea that exists beyond the realm of sensible forms. A Louis Vuitton bag is the imitation of an idea, in leather and other materials, while a photograph of such a bag is an imitation of an imitation.” (“What is a Copy?” Marcus Boon,18)

Today’s exercise will ask you to design a paper bag which reflects American Advertising from the pre-20th Century era. As you recall from our class discussions this past week, two of the fundamental changes brought to American manufacturing and advertising at the end of the 19th Century were: the introduction of coherent advertising campaigns, and the introduction of individual packaging to the consumer economy. The paper bag package project will allow you to make inventive creative decisions that reflect historical trends.


Choose a particular commodity category for today’s work (housewares, dry goods, personal products, &tc). Your examples should be drawn from that category. Then, use the following archives to search for two examples of advertisements from the era between 1850-1900.

University of Washington: Early Advertising of the West, 1867-1918

Duke University Library Collections: Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920

Ad* Access: John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

Remix and Reproduce

Each group will receive a set of markers, some scissors, glue, two sheets of paper, and a paper bag. For the creative reproduction part of this exercise, you will create two different products.

The first product should be a deliberate remix of the two advertisements that you researched. Cut and paste different elements from the two ads into one remixed print ad that literally incorporates text and images from the two ads you researched. Your end product should reflect the trends, themes, and ideas that arose from your research. It does not have to make complete sense: what is most important is that it thoughtfully incorporates elements from the copies into a new ad that reflects the aesthetics and commodity category of the ads you researched. Write your names and the date on the back of the ad.

The second product should be a paper bag package for a snake oil medicine. You have complete creative control over the brand name and the promise of the product. The design of the package should be explicitly informed by the historical examples you have researched. Write your names and the date on the back of the bag.

Turn the remixes, bags, markers, scissors and glue back in to me at the end of class.

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