Name that decade!

Orange gradients! Text on paths! Don’t you need computers for those? You may have been born yesterday, but a lot of great stuff has been around since dirt was new, and how it looks now is because of how it looked then. So the question is, in what decade was this Tide design (on the left) on store shelves? Extra credit if you know its debut year. We’ll answer next week.

(Those of you with the Before & After Master Collection will find the answer in issue 34, page 6.)


May 23, 2011

The first really successful household detergent, Tide was invented in 1943 and came to market in 1946. This is its original box. Barely changed in nearly 60 years, Tide’s whirlpool is a textbook study in design excellence. Orange gradients (Hey! Don’t those require computers?) circle around a center (text on a path!), pulling your eye in and pushing it out at the same time, mimicking — with no animation at all — the mesmerizing action of that new washday miracle, the automatic washing machine. As fresh today as it was then, its look has been widely imitated. Photos courtesy of Proctor & Gamble.

P.S.: The responses below were posted before this answer was revealed.

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20 Responses to Name that decade!

  1. G Carr says:

    1947 — a year before I was born.

  2. Tina Wood says:

    I’ll say 1952. That big dot over the “I” speaks to me.

  3. Sonya says:

    I wager 1946.

    I find it interesting that they’re marketing it as making cleaner clothes and sparkling dishes. I don’t think any of us would consider using our laundry detergent to clean our dishes, or vice-versa.

    Odd how things change . . .

  4. lychnos says:

    1946 it was already available in New York stores.

  5. Tim W says:

    Yeah, looks very 50s . . . I’ll say ’53 (to play the Price is Right strategy over Tina!)

  6. Ernst, that wasn’t quite playing fair in a guessing game.

    FWIW, I was going to say 1950. Great branding to maintain essentially the same logo for more than 60 years

  7. Someguy says:

    1945 — out with the washboards and the dishwashing gloves, in with the automatic washing appliance machines!

  8. Luberto says:

    Oh, you’re such a “party pooper,” Ernst. But you’re right.

  9. Jayne Kettner says:

    My guess was ’46. Way before computers could help with any of those wonderful tricks! Now I’ll go check out your Master Collection.

  10. Bob says:

    Orange was big in the ’70s. About 1972, to be more exact.

    That plastic bottle is obviously the current package. So, I’ll stick with 1972.

  11. Dodie Catlett says:

    It was just after WWII.

  12. Maria says:

    I’d say October 1946.

  13. Elise Bush says:

    I’m guessing 40s or earlier. Sparkling dishes?

  14. Rosa says:


  15. Tim D says:

    I would have guessed the early 40s, since I remember seeing that exact box at my aunt’s house. That was way before I knew what graphic design was. I always loved it because it zapped my eye right to the name, and the gradient circles were so curious and cool. Really cool for no computer help. Talk about withstanding the test of time!

  16. Jason H says:

    Something about the font shouts “Art Deco!” to me . . . so I think it was created in the 1930s. Random year guess: 1939.

    What type of extra credit does Before & After give out?? An opportunity to hang out with John McWade and company for a day to pick their brains . . . eh?? How ’bout it John! :^)

  17. meta antolin says:

    The Soap Wars! Proctor & Gamble vs. Lever Bros. and Colgate.

    P&G cleaned up with the rollout of a new detergent. They took risks jumping out of their tried-and-true methods of introducing a product into the market, forgoing blind tests for product development. But their orange bullseye came out in October ’46.

    (Funny, I know this because my oldest brother’s first job out of University was as a soap salesman for Lever Bros. He was 21 and I was 10. I was dazzled by his company car and all the sample soap packets. Soap men know their business)

  18. Kent Olinger says:

    And Voila! Birth of the Soap Operas!

    (Re: Meta and “The Soap Wars”)

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