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Design: Ralph Eckerstrom (USA)


The Container Corporation of America (CCA) was a specialist manufacturer of paperboard and paper-based packaging. The company was founded by Walter Paepcke in 1926. Although a tough-minded businessman with an unswerving eye for the bottom line, Paepcke believed his business would flourish if the world around him did. Such visionary notions helped forge CCA into one of the most admired corporations in America.

Paepcke’s ideals and values found resonance with the European emigrés who had fled the evils of Nazi Germany. Design luminaries such as Egbert Jacobson, Herbert Bayer, Ralph E. Eckerstrom and John Massey were all successive design directors of CCA. Well before it was common practice, design was made an organic component of the corporate culture of CCA.

In 1957, Eckerstrom, who headed CCA’s design department at the time, brought to his job the tenets of the new Swiss design movement – that emphasised cleanliness, readability and objectivity. He replaced the cluttered old logo of CCA (an illustration of a cardboard box, centred on an outline of the US, designed by Egbert Jacobson) with a much simpler and progressive design. Eckerstrom’s logo consisted of the three corporate initials in a rectangle, with two corners sheared at a forty-five degree angle to imply an isometric box. The logo has an unassuming, effortless and lucid quality which instantly conveys CCA as belonging to the ‘box business’. For nearly thirty years, the CCA logo was the cornerstone of a unique corporate design history – and is regularly touted as one of the 20th century’s finest and most memorable trademarks.

The advertising campaign Great Ideas of Western Man was the perfect embodiment of Paepcke’s philosophy. The print ads aspired to propagate the important concepts of western civilisation – a noble notion for a company that simply made boxes. The campaign was to become one of the most famous in history, running for 25 years. Although he had dismissed it at first, the late David Ogilvy, advertising legend and guru, later admitted that it was “one of the best corporate campaigns that has ever appeared.”

When CCA was bought by Mobil Oil in 1978, the entire corporate communications department was laid to rest. By 1986, another takeover by Jefferson Smurfit spelt the end of the classic CCA logo. In 1998, the CCA brand name was completely phased out.

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