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Who Really Created the Red Solo Cup?

How an iconic plastic cup and indelible logo
were created by Hollywood graphic designer, Sandy Dvore.

red solo cup sandy dvore.jpg

 

A unique and simple design in front of a kick ass company can have a life of its own.

Not just as a symbol of the company, but a lifestyle, a voice and a comfort to its supporters.

Sometimes it takes decades. And sometimes, as in this case, they take on a life of their own.

Becoming so much a part of our everyday lives we often take them for granted.

But have you ever wondered, “who created that?”

Probably not.

That’s my job as a designer to wonder.

It’s not always fun.

Being an artist, we often see things differently.

To you it’s just a logo. To me it’s a series of questions.

“Wow, how did they come up with that?”
“Why that color?”
“ Isn’t the kerning a little off in that NIRVANA logo?”

It isn’t a negative process, but a necessary one so that I can better do my job.

 

Los Angeles billboard for the movie Lipstick (1976) by Sandy Dvore.

Los Angeles billboard for the movie Lipstick (1976) by Sandy Dvore.

One rainy day in early 1970’s Los Angeles…

 

Leo Hulesman, founder of the Solo cup company, stopped by the studio of Hollywood designer Sandy Dvore.

“I heard you’re the best commercial artist around.” Said Hulesman.

This was true. Dvore was the hottest designer in Hollywood. His work appeared everywhere from billboards to trade ads and most famously, every week in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety publications. At the time, these were the most important pieces of the Hollywood community. EVERYONE looked to these weekly magazines to see what their peers were doing.

Hulesman was looking for a design for his new venture, children’s records that would be a promotional giveaway on the Solo cup box. You see, Dora Hall, a singer who was also Mrs. Hulesman, had given up her career in Ziegfield Follies to raise their children. This was a chance for her to get back to performing again and do something her children could enjoy.

“I’m doing very well now” said Dvore. “I’ve got some major projects and I really don’t want to do small piece work. It would take up a lot of time.”

“What if I give you a retainer?” Said Hulesman. "He was sharp", Dvore thought.

“I could send you a chunk of money…” At the time Dvore was doing big name television projects, The Partidge Family and The Waltons.

“What kind of number are we talking?” Asked Hulseman.

“$17,500” stated Dvore.

“Why don’t we just make it a flat $25,000.” Replied Hulesman.

They shook hands and Hulesman smiled. He enjoyed the banter as he, like Dvore, was a self made man from Chicago.

“He liked that I could handle myself.” Dvore remembered. “We became friends and I enjoyed knowing him.”

Hulesman enjoyed sharing the success he had. He would pay for entire television specials for his wife Dora so she could have an opportunity perform.

Sandy-Dvore-Promo-Photo-BLOG.jpg

“Why are all your cups white?

You should have some colored cups.”

- Sandy Dvore

When it's time to change.

 

"The Solo company at the time had an old serif logo right out of a type book." Dvore remembers.

Dvore looked at the two O’s in the logo and the idea came to him, simple as that. 
He hadn’t been asked to create a new logo either. He just thought, "as a artist, we can do better."

Hulesman had his feet propped up on Dvore’s desk when he showed him what he had come up with.

“We should change your logo, this should be the logo for your company.” Dvore slid the concept to Hulesman.
Hulesman looked at it and replied, “send it to the company.”

And, one short phone call later, it became the logo you still see everywhere today. 

Sometimes, but not often, it IS that easy.

 

A relationship of trust formed between Dvore and Hulesman. Which is why Dvore felt comfortable proposing new ideas.

“Why are all your cups white? You should have some colored cups.”

With this idea Dvore took the colors from his recent Partridge Family art and applied the same blue, yellow and red to the cups.
And in another short phone call to the factory, the Solo cup company started producing color cups.
(The cup design itself is credited to Hulesman's son.)

“I even used the same color numbers from the Partridge Family logo.” Recalls Dvore.

And so, once again, a simple idea and a phone call and the rest is history, the red Solo cup was born.

 

Legacy

 

Whoever would have thought a cup would be so famous? 

It has inspired songs, drinking games, tattoo's, merchandise and created plenty of hazy memories.

 Why red became the go-to, and a cultural icon is anyone's guess. 

 

“It’s become the most well known and most seen thing I have ever done.” Dvore states today.

 

Every day, millions of people get their morning cup of coffee and before they take a sip there it is, the Solo cup logo.

Every night, people attend a party or have a game of beer pong and there it is again, the red Solo cup.