While browsing through a (virtual) pile of old Spirou magazines, I came across these advertisements by the great Raymond Savignac for the next generation Bic ballpoint pen in 1961.Â
These ads speak to me for various reasons, all somehow related to a strong sense of optimism. There actually was a time when a throwaway communication medium like the magazine ad was pretty and beautiful, and worth tearing out and keeping; a time when illustrators made a brand instead of stock photography.
But more than that the subject exhudes a type of optimism, of belief in technical progress that seems alien in our time. Indeed, for only 1 nouveau franc (or about 20 cents) everybody could buy a pen that would not need refilling, that would not leak and that you could carry around wherever you needed it. And if it ran out of ink, you simply threw it away and bought a new one.
I sometimes try to imagine the pile of empty husks that 100 billion Bic Cristals must have left since their introduction in the 1950s (to say nothing of other types of pens, lighters, razors, stockings and other single-use or throwaway products that Bic introduced over the decades).
On the one hand the introduction of the Bic ballpoint pen meant a revolution in the democratisation of writing, but it also resulted in its own complete devaluation. They were the grunts of the classroom and the office, chewed on, dismantled and in the end thrown away to pump plastic particls in the environment for decades to come. Sigh.
But thank god for the pretty Savignac ads.