You know one of the things I love most about old car brochures? It when there’s some incredibly minor feature – perhaps even so minor that describing it as a “feature” at all is an act of wild hyperbole – is called out in the text and it’s clear some poor copywriter had to strain to describe it in ways that makes it seem important, or at least interesting. There’s a great example of just this sort of thing in this 1956 Renault 4CV brochure. Hold still, I’ll show you what I mean.
It’s this bit here:
It’s the description of the spare wheel being placed “skillfully.” Skillfully! It’s just shoved there, vertically, in the front! I mean, it’s absolutely fine, but “skillfully?” I think perhaps someone was actually proud of the placement, because the year before it was placed here:
See, they used to have it clamped to the underside of the hood. That must have made the hood feel pretty heavy, and made that support spring really earn its keep there, lest that triangular hood klonk you on the head, but good. Is that less skillful than shoving the tire down in the nose? Is the space more usable with it up there? Maybe not. Maybe it was a better place to shove it up front. But I’m still not sold on “skillful.”
Oh you know what else is fun in that brochure? See the disembodied gloves? They were used to, I guess, show where one’s hand could go, in case you were confused about how your hands work. I also think of that sort of visual language as a predecessor to this, which we all know so well:
The hand cursor! If you had a modern interactive 4CV manual on your computer, you’d be moving around a little hand/glove just like what was painted in there 70-ish years ago! Renault was a UX pioneer! Eat it, Xerox!