Why collect seatback safety procedure cards?

September 2, 2020

As a professional designer, it can be valuable to contemplate how practitioners solved the same problem over time with different fashions and different tools.  

Seatback Safety cards have been used since the dawn of commercial flight. While their pamphlet form has remained largely the same for a century, they have significantly evolved in ways that reflected broader social and technological trends.

For example, the introduction of pictographs emerged to accommodate International flight in the 1970s and the application of branding elements came to fore in the 1960s, when corporations started to recognize the importance of consumer marketing.

Examining continuities and discontinuities of this commercial art can expose the limitations of past thinking, as well as its virtues. By collecting & curating seatback safety cards, I get to watch a creative process play out over generations.

Thinking in this time scale tempers my work, reminding me that the current zeitgeist is just a phase in a multigenerational conversation.

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