Paint By Numbers

Charger Billboard S

One of the best field trips our design class took in 1969 was to the Foster & Kleiser Outdoor Advertising production facility on the south side of Chicago. There we learned that Foster & Kleiser’s billboards began life in-house where advertising agency art was transformed into full-sized billboards. The art was transferred to strips of Kraft paper where the shapes and forms were delineated by pounce wheels. The Kraft paper strips were then arranged on the full-size media where workers would “trace” the pounce shapes with bags of blue chalk. This gave the painters the direction they needed to apply the correct color in the correct area. The finished display would then be transported to the billboard location and installed.

The above photo is one that I took on the Outer Drive in Chicago. I was amazed to find that the rendering that we design students would have created in chalk and Prismacolor pencils was actually composed with one-inch brush strokes. Very much like the Seurat “Grande Jatte” on display at the Chicago Art Institute, the work became a coherent whole when appreciated from a distance.

Foster & Kleiser is now part of Clear Channel Communications. I don’t know if they use the same techniques today.