How Thinking Small Influenced An Entire Industry

The average American in the 1950’s had an unwavering love for spacious, long, and stylish vehicles. As the 60’s rolled around, imported cars became a more frequent sight; and Volkswagen had set out to establish their own American classic. The problem was that the Volkswagen Beetle wasn’t what Americans had been fawning after in previous decades. This left Helmut Krone with a significant challenge; how do you advertise something so unique and make it appealing? Krone’s original idea was to use the caption “Willkommen” with a picture of the vehicle and his standard “Olgivy” layout [1]. The idea was knocked down and the team settled on “Think Small” (supposedly due to the idea that they thought they were failing as a result of thinking too big).

It was Krone’s genius that came up with the idea to make the car appear small in the left hand corner. In marketing, the left hand corner is said to be where the eye goes first. Krone insisted that the copy be done in something other than a serif typeface to give it a “natural” quality. After the words “Think Small” a period was added with the intention of getting the reader to stop and think about what the ad was portraying. The success of the ad relied almost solely on its simplicity, honesty, and cleverness. The ad went on to become Helmut’s claim to fame and is often regarded as his best work.  It is sometimes referred to as the “ad that changed advertising”. After its publication, advertisers began to push their limits – establishing simplicity as one of the new defining trends in print design.