Anyone with even a passing interest in mid-20th century design has heard of Charles and Ray Eames, but Otis and Dorothy Shepard were arguably the more influential designing couple. Until recently, little was known about the pair, each of whom was an accomplished artist in their own right, efficient with line, unerring with color. A gorgeous new book by Norman Hathaway and Dan Nadal titled Dorothy and Otis: Designing the American Dream corrects this gap in the design literature. Filled with never-before-published materials from the Shepard family's archives, the book is packed with both personal photos and key examples of their work from the 1930s to 1960s.
Over those decades, the Shepards created ads for such clients as Chesterfield, Chevrolet, and Pabst, but their biggest patron was P.K. Wrigley, who entrusted the couple to design packaging, billboards, and other advertisements for his family's iconic chewing gum brands—Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit. The book follows the blooming of this relationship, sending the reader to Chicago where Otis won Wrigley's lifelong trust by refusing to sell the mogul any of his designs unless Wrigley agreed to a comprehensive campaign. Later, we join the couple on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California, which Wrigley wanted to remake as an island resort, giving the Shepards free rein to design uniforms for the staff, signage for tourist shops, matchbooks for cocktail lounges, and timetables for the ferry. Catalina should have been the perfect complement to the generally sunny look of the Shepards' work, but four years on the island proved the beginning of the end of their marriage. Otis would go on to create the brand identity for Wrigley's baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. Dorothy left the advertising game, regrouping in what is now a wealthy suburb of San Francisco. Happily, though, the story doesn't precisely end there.