April 25, 2012

Morton Salt Umbrella Girl

Selected by Debbie Millman

Author: Steven Heller

Joy Morton started the Morton Salt Company in 1910 with a novel idea: By adding magnesium carbonate to salt crystals, moisture would not affect the granules and lumps and clumps could be avoided in damp, humid weather. This allowed for a uniquely consistent, smooth pour. In 1911, after a number of clunky iterations, a clever advertising slogan touting the brand's benefit was created, and "When It Rains, It Pours" has been in use ever since.

In 1914, design history was made in the form of an illustration that graced Morton's cylindrical package. It featured an image of a mop-headed little girl rendered in yellow and blue; she carried an oversize umbrella warding off rain in one hand and a canister of pouring salt in the other. But what made this illustration so remarkable was neither the style nor the craft; rather, this was the first time a logo was developed as a telegraphic metaphor to describe a product's innovative benefit. The image of the Morton umbrella girl was a puzzle to be figured out, and her enigmatic stance has since influenced marks such as I (Heart) NY, FedEx, and

Rumors have long abounded about the umbrella girl's origin, but executive sat the Morton Salt Company insist that she is simply a figment of a long-forgotten artist's imagination. She's been redrawn numerous times over her long career, but her iconic attributes remain: the skip in her step, her joyful expression, and the fact that after nearly a century of selling salt, Morton has never given the umbrella girl a name.

Source: I Heart Design

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