Emmett McBain: The Creative Ad Visionary
Emmett McBain was an African American Graphic Designer who created a huge impact on the African American community through his work. He designed impactful ads, especially during the Civil Rights era, that highlighted themes of African American community and beauty; bringing a positive image of African Americans to the mainstream. …
Emmett McBain was an African American Graphic Designer who created a huge impact on the African American community through his work. He designed impactful ads, especially during the Civil Rights era, that highlighted themes of African American community and beauty; bringing a positive image of African Americans to the mainstream. His work changed the face of advertising because his ads spoke directly to the communities they were communicating with. He used images of everyday people in these ads, which brought an empathetic feeling to the work. This differed from ads during that era because now African Americans had a familiar voice speaking with them about the advertised products, in an empowered way. They could imagine themselves using such products because now there was someone who resembled their culture advertising to them.
One of the many advertisements McBain designed that highlighted the theme of black beauty was for Kent cigarettes. The image of an African American woman proudly rocking the afro hairstyle with a confident unapologetic facial expression coupled with copy that reads “Kent smokes…and that’s where it’s at,” prompts a bold expression of power. An example of another inspiring ad McBain created is titled “Black is Beautiful.” It highlights intangible and tangible things that are black and solidifies black as beautiful in the end, giving a sense of empowerment and confidence to the African American community.
McBain worked for various companies throughout his career. He worked for Vince Cullers and Associates, the first black-owned ad agency, Playboy and Mercury Records, Burrell-McBain Inc. (he co-founded with Tom Burrell and is now known as Burrell Communications Group), and other advertising agencies. He left the advertising world and began a successful career as an artist.
Emmett McBain was an influential designer during his career. He left a footprint in the world of design, and especially in African American designers. He was a 2017 AIGA Medalist for his amazing contribution to the world of design. You can view some more of his work in these locations: slider 1, slider 2, and slider 3.
©Copyright Vince Cullers Advertising, Burrell-McBain Inc.