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kottke.org posts about Seymour Chwast

Ford Motor Company’s “Utopian Turtletop”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2023

a booklet with a drawing of a car called 'Uptopian Turtletop'

a drawing of a car called 'The Intelligent Whale'

In 1955, the Ford Motor Company hired poet Marianne Moore to come up with some names for their revolutionary new car. Moore ended up submitting some amazing names, including “Silver Sword”, “Intelligent Whale”, “Angel Astro”, and “Utopian Turtletop”.

What Moore lacked in corporate nomenclature experience, she made up for in enthusiasm and imagination: she submitted over two dozen names for consideration, each one more delightful — and unlikely — than the last. In the end, the poet’s suggestions were rejected and the company’s chairman himself named the vehicle. Thus was born the notorious car known as the Edsel.

Ford realized perhaps too late that they shouldn’t have, in fact, sent a poet — but we’re sure glad they did.

Back here in the present day, Pentagram commissioned the legendary Seymour Chwast to turn Moore’s amazing collection of names into a booklet of illustrations that imagine what these cars might look like.