You don't survive as a company for 70 years without learning to deal with some adversity. In the summer of 2001, Obata suffered its second major fire in company history. Most paper files (and one goldfish) were lost, but all computers and digital files were saved. Though the building was uninhabitable for nine months, the company was back serving clients from temporary locations within three days.
Now it looks like we've survived a pandemic. A client once said the best thing about Obata was our perseverance. We'll take that compliment. We're here today thanks to the efforts of 400 employees over 70 years who have dedicated themselves to serving client needs. Learn more at: obata.com
Terri Brimmer the more i hear and read about Obata the more I think of how proud you must be of your father. I had never heard of it before and now I am seeing Ads on TV about it saving you money on the products you buy. It has grown a lot and been through some tough times. I am glad you are in my family. Love reading your posts. ❤🐧😘
Essential tools of the design trade in 1985: drafting table and T-square, swing-arm lamp with warm and cool light settings, metal rulers, clock radio, masking tape, scissors, rubber cement, bestine to remove rubber cement, spray mount, every kind of pencil imaginable, pencil sharpener, kneaded eraser, x-acto knife and replacement blades, compass, circle guide, triangles in multiple sizes, oil paints, at least three dozen markers, toilet paper and a hair dryer, sandpaper, case of Letraset transfer lettering, rubylith film, Rapidograph pen set, design books, desk calendar, well-worn Pantone color book, a coffee cup and a tie in case you had to go to a meeting.
The only design tools that had not been replaced by computers by the late 1990s were the coffee cup and the spare tie.
Obata's origins are in advertising art. In the 1940s and 1950s, small studios and freelancers did creative work for larger advertising firms...work that included design, illustration, hand-lettering, photography, and just about anything else a large ad agency didn't have the resources to do internally. Obata was built on a close working relationship with Gardner Advertising...and with Gardner clients like Ralston Purina. A playful series of 1954 magazine and newspaper ads for Ralston's BITE SIZE CHEX cereals is typical of the times and may have included the creative skills of several independent studios and freelancers.
The Obata of today is a creative agency providing strategy-driven design for corporate and marketing communications. We offer many of the same services as we did over 70 years ago, including "just about anything else" that our clients need for corporate and marketing communications.
Learn more about Obata's past and present at: obata.com
The Emerson product display, housed in the company's HOK-designed world headquarters in St. Louis, was designed by Obata in the early 1980's to feature Emerson's divisions, brands, products and markets. The focal point was a multi-laminate hardwood globe covered by wooden tiles indicating Emerson's locations around the world. Products and company descriptions radiated out in concentric rings, with floor-to-ceiling murals representing Emerson's markets forming the back walls. The display filled Emerson's reception lobby, providing visitors with a dramatic introduction to the global company.
Obata has a long history of producing corporate displays, trade show exhibits and environmental graphics for companies big and small. And we're still creating displays for Emerson. The company's current lobby features a recently-designed display by Obata.
In 1948, the advertising art firm of Cassell, Watkins, Stevens set up shop on a paddle boat on the St. Louis riverfront. In addition to the firm's production staff on the main deck, a variety of creative freelancers rented office space on the upper deck including Obata co-founders Kimio Obata, Alice Hausner and Rich Haley. Several other future Obata employees also worked on the boat, including calligrapher and future partner Dick Juenger and salesman Bob Reinert.
Watercolor artists like Alice Hausner and hand-letterers like Dick Juenger never got used to the rocking of the boat when barges would pass by. The grand experiment on the riverfront lasted a little over a year before the two-dozen designers, illustrators and production artists headed back to dry land.
Brands are constantly evolving, but Obata's identity work for national and global companies remains familiar and recognizable. From the mountains of Busch to breakfast cereals, snack foods and corporate identity, Obata helps companies both big and small build brand identities that last. You know us through the work we do for others. That's OK with us.
Our company exists today thanks to the welcoming spirit of St. Louis. Co-founder Kimio Obata and his family spent parts of two years in Japanese American internment camps, but with brother Gyo Obata attending Washington University, the remaining Obata family was able to leave the camps in 1943 to come to St. Louis through the sponsorship of a Webster Groves church. Kimio and both his parents found jobs at the Garrison-Wagner display company, where he soon met illustrator and Obata co-founder Alice Hauser. By 1945, the two had left the display company and started a business that has lasted over 70 years.
"The Golden Spoon Guide to a Richer Way of Cooking", produced in 1962, included over 40 recipes incorporating Pet Evaporated Milk. The Golden Spoon branding and marketing materials included extensive use of Obata's illustration and hand-drawn lettering skills. Obata founders Alice Hausner and Kimio Obata started out doing advertising art for Gardner Advertising back in 1946 and the relationship continued for over two decades. Gardner's accounts included Pet Milk, Emerson Electric, Anheuser-Busch, Southwestern Bell, and Ralston Purina -- all well-known St. Louis companies that grew into significant, long-term clients of Obata.
Obata co-founder Rich Haley retired in 1985 after 37 years with the company, outlasting both Kimio Obata and Alice Hausner. A candid photo from Rich's retirement party captured four generations of Obata ownership, with Russell Hughes at left, John Vandover at right, and a young Chris Haller hiding in the shadows. Chris and Rich Murphy are Obata's current owners, carrying the company forward while celebrating a 70-year legacy of creative communications in St. Louis.
Obata's four decades of package design and advertising work for Ralston Purina wasn't limited to Chex cereals and dog chow. In the early 1960s, Purina offered a line of "Groom-Aides" for dogs featuring humorous illustrations for each of the three grooming products. The creative marketing included sequential newspaper ads with a photo of a real dog "turning the page" and the entire ad copy written in rhyme.
From dog cartoons to financial reports, and beer bottles to children's books, Obata's history is long and deep. Learn more about our past and present at: obata.com
The Imperialites line of futuristic residential lighting from the Emerson-Imperial Lighting Company brought space-age style to the mid-century lighting market. Starting in the late-1950s, Obata designers worked with Emerson industrial engineers to create leading-edge products and award-winning catalogs. Photo shoots featuring the Imperialites line in ultramodern interiors with contemporary furnishings helped promote and define mid-century style for homeowners.
Learn more about Obata's 70 year history bringing innovation and modernism to St. Louis businesses: obata.com/obata-history
Emerson's award-winning annual report covers in the 1980s were recognized throughout the industry. Obata's goal was to communicate Emerson's brand in a single, powerful image. Our concept was to feature Emerson's high-tech manufacturing capabilities by having the company fabricate the company logo in innovative ways. Techniques and materials included CNC milling, laser etching, microchips, silicon wafers and motor laminations.
John Vandover, Obata's future president, was the creative director and resident genius. Photographer Scott Smith faced the challenge of capturing the best images on 4"x5" sheet film. Lighting of the microchip required a homemade fiber-optic light kit. Exposures were over 5 minutes long. As always, creative challenges require innovative solutions.
Learn more about Obata's creativity and innovation at: obata.com
Good design and beautiful illustrations are timeless. Alice Hausner's stylish watercolor renderings for the pages of Concordia Publishing's Arch Books from the 1960s-1970s brought biblical stories to life with bright colors and a modern flair. But sometimes pop culture sneaks in where it is least expected. "The Little Sleeping Beauty", published in 1969, was based on the biblical story of Jesus restoring life to a 12-year-old girl. The creative inspiration for the Little Sleeping Beauty seems to have come directly from "That Girl" starring Marlo Thomas, with a little bit of "I Dream of Jeannie" thrown in for good measure. Both TV shows were prime-time sensations in the late 1960s.
A modern look and contemporary references can often help connect with an audience. Obata's illustrations and creative work on children's books and textbooks in the past fits our mission of simplifying complex communication to maximize audience understanding. Learn more at: obata.com
Welcome to the typical design firm of the 1980s, where knit ties and Sony Walkmans ruled and smoking at your desk was common. The disruptive technology of the age was the fax machine, a time-saving device that made snail mail and couriers practically obsolete.
Today's Obata looks a little bit different, but our commitment to innovative ideas and creative communication solutions remains. For more than 70 years, Obata has been simplifying complex communications to maximize understanding and inspire meaningful audience-driven action.
Seventy-five years ago, Obata co-founder Alice Hausner decided it was time to start over. In December of 1945, she quit her job at a display company, rented a one-room office downtown and opened shop as a freelance illustrator. Alice, at age 25, did not fit the stereotype of the typical "Mad Men" in the advertising business at the time, but she had the guts, the drive and the perseverance needed to become a success.
As we reach the end of 2020, we understand the desire to start over. Seventy-five years after Alice struck out on her own, Obata is still known for our drive and perseverance. We're ready to put 2020 behind us and build a better 2021.
We’re eager to meet you, learn your business, and help you in any way we can. Come by the office, meet us for coffee, or conference us in — no matter how we connect, we’re always up for new partnerships.