A New Take On Old Motivation

For Axiom employees, it’s not difficult to find creative inspiration, whether it be in the city of Houston or our home in the beautifully renovated Fire Station No. 6, located in the heart of Houston’s Sixth Ward. But Axiom’s external surroundings are not the only contributing forces to our CreativeEnergy™— Axiom President and founder Tom Hair designed the interior of the Fire Station No. 6 to be just as inspiring, using unique workplace motivational posters from the 1920s.

These posters, printed in Chicago between 1923 and 1929, were produced by Charles Mather to increase workplace productivity and minimize turnover during America’s economic expansion. In their time, these posters were viewed as visual representations of the national values and an optimistic outlook on the expanding opportunities in the nation. While these posters were produced over 80 years ago, their message remains relevant today through their depiction of workplace idealism and American virtues.

The inspiration behind these vintage posters was the movement known as Welfare Capitalism, where employers would provide workplace incentives, including increased wages, paid vacations and health insurance to garner increased employee loyalty and greater productivity. Mather capitalized on this revolutionary movement in the workplace by selling yearly subscriptions of workplace posters to factory owners. This campaign became the first widespread employer-sponsored program aimed to increase employee development and corporate success. Not only does Axiom look to this unique era of advertising as a source of creative motivation, but we value the idea of working smarter, rather than working harder.

Mather commissioned many influential American artists of his time, including Willard Frederic Elmes and Hal Depuy, to create these dynamic images. Through seven annual campaigns with more than 350 different graphics, these posters paired direct headlines and metaphors with minimalist designs and bold color pallets. With an array of posters on hand, employers would rotate the motivational images weekly according to current events or issues occurring in their factory. A catalogue divided the motivational posters by theme, offering a range of cautionary messages on responsibility and avoidable mistakes in the workplace, allowing employers to adapt their environment to the issues on factory floors and within the company.

The posters became increasingly popular over the lifespan of the campaign and, at one time, were featured in workplaces across the nation. Despite the popularity of these posters, the stock market crash in October of 1929 had a profound effect on employers’ ability to fund these posters, causing the campaigns to fall out of style. While these workplace incentive posters are less frequently seen today, Axiom has cultivated over twenty of these vintage designs and proudly displays them throughout Fire Station No. 6.

These motivational posters were created during the same time that Axiom’s building functioned as a Fire Station, and by displaying these posters within the renovated Fire Station No. 6, Axiom has established a visual reminder to the shared era of these two entities. While times have changed since the 1920s, as well as the landscape of the modern workplace, the message of these posters is still applicable today: do great work and great results will follow.

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