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Polaroid Swinger camera box

Even better than a nice piece of vintage industrial design is a nice piece of vintage industrial design in it’s original box.  Such as this great Polaroid Swinger II manufactured circa March 1969 (the box printers used a little auto date mechanism on the bottom) which was passed on to me recently. The box is actually a lot snazzier than the camera itself, which is made of white plastic rather than the bright colours that the box suggests. Each face of the box has the same design but with a different background colour. The Swinger II was so-named being a cheaper variant of the original Swinger model without the built-in flash (there was also a Big Swinger that took a larger film size.)
The Swinger camera was designed by Henry Dreyfuss and is now admired as an industrial design classic, and thanks also to the relatively low price compared to other Polaroid cameras ($19.95), became one of the best selling cameras of all time; Polaroid collector sites suggest sales into the millions.

Paul Giambarba

Polaroid’s art director at the time was designer Paul Giambarba who began working on the firm’s packaging in the late Fifties on into the Seventies. The box itself was designed by Bill Field, who worked for Paul (and later became Polaroid’s art director when Paul left to work in his own studio.) The design was common to the boxes for the entire range, and carried through from the first Swinger in 1965, with some colour changes for the Swinger 2. Swinger 2 was actually the European name and the camera was manufactured in the UK.  We used to be able to do that sort of thing.
With the flat colours and strong italic lettering, the box does look ahead of it’s time, more like an Eighties design.  They also sold a bigger model (The Big Shot) which has similar packaging (and was Andy Warhol’s camera of choice.) The film for the range was supplied in matching boxes with block colours .
Bill Field also designed some other packaging for Polaroid, including that for the Zip Electric camera series launched in 1975 (see photo at bottom of page), which was available in several different colours. I’ve never seen one of these, maybe they were more common in the US. Bill also later left to set up his own studio.

SONY DSC

The Swinger sold so many that they can be picked up fairly readily on the second hand market. Paul Giambarba has published what looks like a fascinating book about his work, The Branding of Polaroid. He developed the pastel coloured rainbow stripe look which adorned most of the classic Polaroid products, many of which remain packaging masterpieces.  He has also written a heart-felt article entitled “How Polaroid went to hell visually” which is very easy to sympathise with, especially for anyone who has worked in graphic design! “It took us 20 years to build an image and just a few years for some bozos to tear it down…”

http://giam.typepad.com/the_branding_of_polaroid_/2009/10/how-polaroid-went-to-hell-visually.html

Polaroid Zip cameras

Ironically the current owners of the Polaroid brand are selling official t-shirts using the original graphics…

There is a post about a Kodak Brownie box set on the site.

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