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ChicagoDogs

Visual Branding Tools

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Hi all, 

The last few years I've been thinking about the large number of consistent, but somewhat odd, visual attributes that can be found on older Markneukirchen-area trade violins (and perhaps others), including:

  • An un-fluted patch on the back of the scroll with "Conservatory Violin" or similar text carved in
  • The typical exaggerated bulbous arching on so-called "Stainer" models 
  • The gradually evolving and mutating "Hopf" model, reaching increasing extremes of outline over the years
  • The "Ole Bull" brand near the button on a wide variety of models
  • The "fancy violin" with black/white edging or a painting on the back

At first I thought it was odd that so many of these features were so common but have no apparent value, and no consistent correlation to quality (other than that higher-quality violins may tend to exhibit none of these traits).   After thinking about it a little more, I imagine that these distinctive features came about as a marketing trait in the age of traveling salesman and mail-order catalog sales, as a way to present a variety of options to the novice buyer, provide some illusory feeling of a consistent product, and draw on word-of-mouth marketing.  For example, if the neighbor fiddler down the road plays a "Hopf," that'd be the instrument of choice for a kid (or parents) shopping from the Sears catalog.  The near-button branding in the case of "Stainers" and so forth provides a literal visual "brand" but I think all of the features might be viewed as parallels to the visual branding that designers of many goods strive for - e.g., consistent styling among different car models by a given manufacturer. 

Then, giving this a little more thought, it seems like there are other features that fall into this same category, like, for example, the development of a large number of "Guarneri model" Chinese trade violins around the 1990s time frame, all with late-period dG style f-holes (although often with few other dG-ish features), possibly designed to appeal to high school students looking to stand out from their peers.  I think there's some broad correlation there to the 1900-era trade instruments, in that the features are appealing to novice buyers looking for an identifiable visual "brand" that may be more visible to others than a label inside the instrument.

So, just wanted to put those thoughts out there for discussion and see if others have similar thoughts, have other explanations for some of those visual ornaments, or especially have other examples of this phenomenon that come to mind.  Is this off-base or something that others have already realized and written about? 

Thanks in advance and hope all are staying well; appreciate the chance to be a part of this community. 

 

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A lot of the things that you listed are only incidental (not consistent!), and don't really provide identification. A while back Jacob Saunders posted a quite good checklist of real identification features. I can't seem to locate the link right now. Perhaps someone else has the link handy and can put it up here.

 

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Thanks Doug. I wasn't trying to say that those features were diagnostic of trade instruments from a certain area, but instead was looking to explore why those features may have come about, and test my tentative thoughts on that front.  Sorry if that wasn't clear. 

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1 hour ago, ChicagoDogs said:

Hi all, 

The last few years I've been thinking about the large number of consistent, but somewhat odd, visual attributes that can be found on older Markneukirchen-area trade violins (and perhaps others), including:

  • An un-fluted patch on the back of the scroll with "Conservatory Violin" or similar text carved in
  • The typical exaggerated bulbous arching on so-called "Stainer" models 
  • The gradually evolving and mutating "Hopf" model, reaching increasing extremes of outline over the years
  • The "Ole Bull" brand near the button on a wide variety of models
  • The "fancy violin" with black/white edging or a painting on the back

At first I thought it was odd that so many of these features were so common but have no apparent value, and no consistent correlation to quality (other than that higher-quality violins may tend to exhibit none of these traits).   After thinking about it a little more, I imagine that these distinctive features came about as a marketing trait in the age of traveling salesman and mail-order catalog sales, as a way to present a variety of options to the novice buyer, provide some illusory feeling of a consistent product, and draw on word-of-mouth marketing.  For example, if the neighbor fiddler down the road plays a "Hopf," that'd be the instrument of choice for a kid (or parents) shopping from the Sears catalog.  The near-button branding in the case of "Stainers" and so forth provides a literal visual "brand" but I think all of the features might be viewed as parallels to the visual branding that designers of many goods strive for - e.g., consistent styling among different car models by a given manufacturer. 

Then, giving this a little more thought, it seems like there are other features that fall into this same category, like, for example, the development of a large number of "Guarneri model" Chinese trade violins around the 1990s time frame, all with late-period dG style f-holes (although often with few other dG-ish features), possibly designed to appeal to high school students looking to stand out from their peers.  I think there's some broad correlation there to the 1900-era trade instruments, in that the features are appealing to novice buyers looking for an identifiable visual "brand" that may be more visible to others than a label inside the instrument.

So, just wanted to put those thoughts out there for discussion and see if others have similar thoughts, have other explanations for some of those visual ornaments, or especially have other examples of this phenomenon that come to mind.  Is this off-base or something that others have already realized and written about? 

Thanks in advance and hope all are staying well; appreciate the chance to be a part of this community. 

 

This is serious stuff affecting some peoples lives.   Facing auditions, to first get into schools, and then to audition after graduation to find a  job is tough.

I heard an orchestra player saying the most unpleasant job they ever had having to vote who was being hired to fill a vacant position.  They said that unfortunately they had to pick (in blind tests)the best player and  the instrument they were playing to fill the position--they knew some really good players  may have been handicapped by hot having not so good instruments.

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Two other visual attributes that became industry standards are the double purfling and extra turn of the scroll on "Maggini" models.

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