Research is a big part of any project I acquire as an illustrator so aside from the designing of characters, I also learn the history of characters from the past.
I collect vintage pieces to add to my reference library of brand characters and advertising mascot history.
When fellow collectors ask me what I collect, it's hard to answer because I don't specifically collect pins, patches, or signs necessarily, but instead "things with characters". In essence I look for examples of excellent character design from my fellow illustrators, animations studios, and ad agencies of the past. I research the history and story behind these characters. How some ruined businesses and how some created the brand's legacy. All this exploration adds to my abilities of building backstory for the characters I create for companies.
This series of Character Profiles started on my Instagram account as a fun deep dive on some of my favorite characters. Enjoy!
Personally I participate in litter clean ups with my friends, I recycle, and try to do my best for the environment and being obsessed with characters I naturally love the Litterbug character and collectibles with it. But it’s interesting to know that the Litterbug’s history has a deceitful twist.
The name Litterbug was (arguably) coined in the mid 1940s by NYC Subway illustrator Amelia “Oppy” Opdyke Jones as a pun on the Jitterbug dance. Some say it was PENNDOT, some say NY copywriter Paul B Gioni who worked for The American Ad Council.
The problem of litter in the 1950s started to grow, especially along highways. Vermont saw how bad this could turn out and passed a law banning single use or "one way" containers, shortly after the Keep America Beautiful campaign was formed and the “Litterbug” was popularized. Lobbying against the Vermont law began.
Keep America Beautiful was created by several corporations such as the American Can Company, Owens-Illinois Glass Company, Coca-Cola, Dixie cup and more. They all got together to continue their profitable one-way disposable packaging and containers to shift blame of the disposables they produced onto the consumers of their goods instead of going refillable and reusable, altering production, or looking for more sustainable ways of making products. Focusing narrowly on litter KAB did a great job of greenwashing and diverting attention away from themselves, and onto the people.
The Raid Bugs:
Some of my favorite advertising mascots! Unlike Reddy Kilowatt, The Raid Bug is still in use after being created almost 60 years ago, quite a legacy!
Contrary to popular belief the bug characters designed for Raid were not made by Jack Davis but by Don Pegler. Pegler worked at the Foote, Cone & Belding ad agency and created the Raid Bugs in 1963. Previous to that the great Tex Avery did their commercials with some great bug characters, but when Don got a hold of the account he created the entire feel for the campaign, and that has stuck around still to this day. Co-workers of Pegler’s speak on how he always fleshed out the loose concepts ad men had.
Through my research Don Pegler seemed like a fun person who loved to draw and shared that with everyone he knew, always drawing their caricatures and making them cards. Pictured are most of my collection of Raid Bugs.
Creeated in 1926 to promote electrification in the US and other countries, Reddy was inspired by a lightning storm in Alabama. Originally created by Ashton B Collins Sr in 1926 a manager at Alabama Power Company. Collins first approached a fellow worker at APC Dan Clinton to do the initial sketch and then later Dorothea Warren a children’s book illustrator to develop Reddy a bit more. Reddy Kilowatt’s friendly face helped convince rural inhabitants, skeptical farmers, and small businesses to electrify! In 1954 Collins approached Walter Lantz of Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda fame to revamp Reddy, which is the version you see of him here. Reddy is one of my favorite characters because he’s so unique and very well drawn for how simple he is. Here’s some Reddy Kilowatts from my collection