My “Mad Men” Donald Draper: Uncle Bill

vintage Crisco ad printing plate

I am often asked how I first got into web design. When they do, I tell them about my Uncle Bill.

Depending on which generation you are, you may remember ads for Bisquick, Mutual of New York, Alcoa, Bell Telephone System, Crisco and Kleenex that ran in the ‘60s and ‘70s. You may also remember the many family-centered sitcoms of the ‘70s.

I grew up watching these sitcoms and seeing these ads. My sisters and I liked a particular sitcom called Family Affair that featured a character named Uncle Bill who lived in New York City. Whenever we watched it, we would point and say, “Look… it’s Uncle Bill!” Although my own Uncle Bill also lived in NYC, he was actually less like that character and more like Darrin Stephens from Bewitched. Those more familiar with more recent TV programs would know more what I am talking about if I compared him to Donald Draper from Mad Men. Both characters were New York advertising executives on Madison Avenue in the 1960s.

Mad Men Work

A few years ago, I had the privilege of going through Uncle Bill’s portfolio with him. I have so much respect for his creative genius and how much work it took to produce such quality design work in his era.

You see, in Uncle Bill’s time, the advantages a designer now enjoys just didn’t exist. It was an exhausting and time-consuming process to produce workups for clients to review. Every part of the design, including the lettering, needed to be done painstakingly by hand. A summer class in drafting gave me an idea of how much work it was to do all the lettering by hand. There were none of the thousands of font options and low-cost stock image libraries we have today.

William Shiozawa was a great illustrator, manual typographer, and master of presentation. It is my honor to be able to show you some of his work.

sample of Uncle Bill's ad comps

Not only did I enjoy seeing these outstanding designs my Uncle Bill created, but I got to hear his stories from Madison Ave.

One of my favorites he shared is the story behind a magazine ad campaign he was creating for a brand of women’s shoes that had a unique rubber sole. His innovative ad layout showed the front and bottom of the shoe on successive pages. To get the best illustrations, my uncle hired an artist who was as known for his great shoe drawings as he was for his unusual hairstyle. The artist turned out to be Andy Warhol.

Uncle Bill commercial artist at work

“Mad Men” can keep Donald Draper. I’ll take my Uncle Bill any day. William Shiozawa was kind, gentle, intelligent and talented.

William Shiozawa attended the art school in Oakland, CA where he grew up. After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, Uncle Bill returned to his passion for art and enrolled at Art Center in Los Angeles. He then landed a job with an ad agency in New York City and continued as a “Mad Man” until 1980 when he retired and moved to Los Angeles. He didn’t hang up his pencils though; he continued to enjoy drawing portraits with a community drawing club.

Every day in my business is a tribute to “my Donald Draper” who inspired me with his work in commercial art.

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