"Undivided Responsibility": R.R. Donnelley Advertising

Advertising samples form an important part of the RR Donnelley Archive, reflecting the major role that direct advertising played in promoting the company's products and services. "Demonstration of quality has been our long suit from the beginning," wrote Harry Owens, head of RR Donnelley's advertising department from 1945 to 1962.

Starting in 1921 with its first multiyear, direct-mail advertising effort, RR Donnelley sent examples of products enclosed in special wrappers to its advertising list as a demonstration of the quality of its work. The first such mailings were a series of fifteen promotional booklets, issued over a period of eight years. The objective, wrote T. E. Donnelley, was for customers to see and feel for themselves "the quality and diversity of the product."

Each booklet showed off the capabilities of the company's presses, art department, and designers. Some were illustrated by Chicago's best-known illustrators; some featured a single process such as offset or rotary printing. Others focused on the importance of typography, the elements of good bookmaking, or RR Donnelley's philosophy of "undivided responsibility."

The designs were the work of William A. Kittredge, who was hired in 1922 and given the extraordinary free rein (and budget) to elevate RR Donnelley's reputation for quality typography and graphic design. He was convinced that while phone books and encyclopedias were enormous commercial projects, there was no reason why they should not be well designed. Kittredge became one of the most influential graphic designers in the United States.

Another early notable effort targeted the publishers of cookbooks and other products for women. Launched in 1934, "Lemon Pies or Wash Tubs," included ten mailings over five years. The pieces featured the company's work for customers such as Libby, McNeill & Libby, Standard Brands, Carnation Milk Company, Land O'Lakes, and Quaker Oats Company. Over these printed booklets, RR Donnelley added decorative wrappers, enthusiastic testimonials from the publishers, and clever advertising prose.

Design staff at work

[ca. 1940s].
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

The Lakeside Press, vol. 3 no. 3.

Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company
[ca. 1925].
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive

The Lakeside Press, vol. 3 no. 3.

Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company
[ca. 1925].
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

Lemon Pies or Wash Tubs, no. 10

Chicago:  R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company.
1939
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

Lemon Pies or Wash Tubs, no. 10

Chicago:  R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company.
1939
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

"Jacob Wrestled with an Angel."
Booklet, 1949.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.

This award-winning piece was conceived and written by Harry J. Owens, RR Donnelley's advertising and sales promotion manager.