Throwback: The Handwriting Awards?

Oddities of the ADC Archive

One of the benefits of being a more than 90 year old organization is that ADC’s legacy runs deep. Part of this legacy is a richly diverse archive of historical annuals, photographs, newsletters and other Club memorabilia that we occasionally like to peruse for inspiration, edification or just plain nostalgia.

We recently came across the ADC newsletter from May 1950 and were struck both by how far we’ve come in 64 years and by how singular the original vision of the Club has remained throughout the decades.

The monthly newsletter opens with a reprinting of a talk given by John P. Cunningham of the agency Cunningham & Walsh at the annual exhibition of advertising and editorial art on “why AD’s haven’t moved into high echelon of agency power.” In addition to urging naturally introverted creatives to learn to become their own salesmen, Cunningham advocated for the power of visual communications as a solution to art directors’ difficulties. He concluded his speech:

Let’s speak up to all the vice presidents, account executives and advertising managers. Let’s never let them forget these two things:

One– Art has first call on the human mind.

Two– The more an idea is told by picture rather than words, the deeper it penetrates and the longer it is remembered.

The next article, written by former ADC President Peirce Johnson, makes the case for friendship as the greatest benefit of membership. “Deep down in the make-up of these agreeable companions,” Johnson writes of Club members, “is a strain of idealism and an almost religious faith in the power of the good in art which they have never successfully been able to rationalize; yet which, perhaps, is the greatest single asset and source of strength which the Club can boast.”

The newsletter then goes on to recount the proceedings of the 29th annual awards luncheon, held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Bradbury Thompson, having also won several awards in the 29th Annual Awards of Advertising and Editorial Art, was named Outstanding Art Director of the Year at the event. 27 years later, Thompson would be inducted into the ADC Hall of Fame (1977).

Also in attendance at the luncheon was Roy Tillotson, an art director and ADC member. Tillotson had won an award for product illustration in the Booklets & Direct Mail category for his work on a photograph for Union Carbide and Carbon. The piece also won an award for distinctive merit.

In an interview published in the 29th Annual of Advertising and Editorial Art, Tillotson remarked, “One of my easiest jobs was turning this assignment over to Vic [Keppler, the artist on the project]. He picked out what he wanted and there were no restrictions on how he did it. I think the result is one of the finest pictures ever made of stainless steel. Top management was extremely pleased with it.”

Tillotson’s achievement was celebrated at the usual gala, but he was also honored in a more unusual way: a published handwriting analysis. ADC Life Member Nathaniel Pousette-Dart, father of the famous Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, was a painter and art writer with a special interest in handwriting analysis. He claimed to be able to interpret personalities, especially those of artists, through careful “graphological” study and provided his take on Roy Tillotson’s signature as a portal into the art director’s creative mind. The blurb appeared in this same issue of the ADC newsletter:

Roy Tillotson: A Graphological Appreciation by Nathaniel Pousette-Dart  

As every movement, gesture or word tells something about one’s character to other people, so every line or stroke of one’s pen on paper is an indication of the way in which he thinks, imagines, feels or acts. Graphology today is both a scientific and an intuitive method of discerning personal ambitions, faults, bents and abilities. 

Roy Tillotson’s signature exhibits a rugged stability. This is the handwriting of a man who is not only determined, but fair, constructive, direct and well-balanced. It is interesting to note that now his signature has a definite slant to the right, which shows that he has grown in action, decision and accomplishment. Formerly, the dominance of his intellect and his tendency towards introversion, slowed up his decisions  but today he has developed the abilities of the extrovert, so that his intellectual ideas are put to work in a dynamic way. Finesse and diplomacy have added still another dimension.

ADC no longer analyzes our Cube winners’ handwriting, but the core of what we do is still to recognize when “intellectual ideas are put to work in a dynamic way.” This piece may just have inspired us to reinstate an in-house handwriting specialist.

All sorts of gems were buried May 1950 newsletter, and last but not least, we’d like to leave you with a note from The Treasurer in which he thanks the membership for the “prompt payment of their dues.” At the risk of sentimentality, we’re standing by his grand statement about ADC’s amazing community:

“The number of delinquents have been remarkably small in view of the large membership of the club.”