Andy Warhol transformed Campbell’s soups into pop art and made them world-famous beyond any supermarket shelves with his “Campbell’s Soup Cans” in 1962. Campbell has now changed its soup design for the first time in 50 years.
By Thomas Wagner.
Andy Warhol said his Mom often opened a can of Campbell’s for lunch, “because that’s all we could afford”. He added: “I love it to this day.” He recalled eating Campbell’s soups out of habit: “I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.”
Warhol made Campbell’s soup world-famous
Warhol’s work was known on the art scene and he already had a good public reputation when Irving Blum opened the artist’s exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles on 9 July 1962. Andy did not travel to LA and there was no opening event. Instead, Blum had sent out postcards featuring a can of Campbell’s soup to announce the exhibition. Entitled “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, the exhibition presented 32 pictures in a small format, which, like their models in the supermarket, were only distinguished from each other by the names of the flavours on the label – just like the 32 different canned soups that Campbell had in its range at the time.
Warhol came from the world of advertising and took the interaction between the product, presentation and consumption seriously. This was not least evident from the fact that he did not simply hang the 32 canvases on the wall like pictures. Instead, he positioned them next to each other with uniform spacing on shelves attached to the wall, so that they were lined up next to and above each other like tins on supermarket shelves. The supermarket and gallery fused together – and the artist took on the role of creator and exemplary American consumer of an everyday object with which he was familiar.
Flavour now shown in text and image
The brand design of Campbell’s soup has remained as it was in Warhol’s pictures and been almost untouched for more than five decades. The brand logo and can labels have now been redesigned in-house. According to the company, the revised design gives the brand a contemporary look, while still respecting Campbell’s heritage. For the logotype based on the original signature of founder Joseph Campbell, the joins and transitions between the letters have been removed, as has the shading that gave the logo a three-dimensional effect. All of the product labelling has now been changed to a different font.
Its characteristic two-colour design – with red at the top and white at the bottom – has been kept, however, as has the gold medal in the centre. The can’s design with the label split into two equal blocks was awarded this medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and a picture of the medal was then added to the label. The word “Soup” (with its slanted “O”) is losing its characteristic style that blends elements of pop and art deco and is now entirely gold. Another particularly noticeable change is that the word describing the flavour – e.g. Tomato – is no longer in capitals and a picture has been added next to this. As US American culture has in the past preferred text rather than images or pictograms – take the lights at pedestrian crossings for example – this could be a concession to global markets.
Warhol is still Warhol
It is clear that the company’s logo and the iconic design of the Campbell’s soup cans have been rationalised and adapted to changing media requirements, even if it has been done gently. This does not detract from the elevation of the now historic design through Andy Warhol’s pop art – quite the opposite. It has itself long since become historic – and yet has lost none of the freshness and consumption-critical irony with which it smuggled trivial commercial products such as soup cans into the hallowed halls of art in plain view of all. What has been greatly reduced in the new design, however, is the difference from other canned soups. Who knows, perhaps Campbell’s soups will be back with a retro design in a few years. And who knows what Warhol would have thought about the company using the brand redesign to launch a limited NFT art collection?
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