Box Vox

packaging as content

July 29, 2014

Apropos: Propo Packaging 2




Returning to some of the “propo” props that artist, Paul McCarthy has used in performances — namely, the props which are also consumer packaged goods.  (See: Propo Packaging: Besmirched and Befould)

Hard to imagine a product use, more at odds with a food manufacturer’s intended brand image…

Ketchup has been a pivotal motif through all of McCarthy’s work. He has frequently used ketchup in his performances and installations,  along with other kitchen table foodstuffs such as mayonnaise and chocolate,  as stand-ins for bodily fluids and excretions. These grocery staples of domestic family life are transformed in McCarthy’s work into representations of violence, sex and defecation.

Tate Modern

 (See also: Packaging & Moral Turpitude)

July 26, 2014

Androgyny & Bow-Tie Shaped Fragrance Bottles


Are “bow tie” shaped perfume bottles sexually ambiguous? This idea has been asserted about each of the bottles shown above.

1. Guerlain’s bow tie shaped bottle (made by Baccarat) for the perfume known as “Coque d’Or” was first introduced in 1937…

mdietrich_tieThe public’s thirst for luxury, novelty, and modernity was relentless and was captured perfectly in one of the most decadent bottles ever made — Guerlain’s iconic Papillon bottle for Coque d’Or (shell of gold). This bottle, inspired by the androgyny of the likes of Marlene Dietrich, comprised a bow tie made from cobalt crystal totally covered in a fine shell of pure gold leaving just the shoulders exposed to reveal the luxurious crystal within; the whole encased in a silk lined box created by Jean-Michel Frank.

Nathalie Grainger, Quintessentially Perfume


2. Viktor & Rolf’s more recent bow tie shaped bottle (made by Pochet du Courval) for V&R’s “Bonbon” perfume…

“It is is housed within a sheer pink and purple glass bottle in the shape of a bow tie, reflecting the androgynous design aesthetic of the famous brand.”

Viktor & Rolf introduces the Bonbon fragrance, April 2014

Some manufacturers will use the term “androgynous” to mean the same thing as “unisex.” Used this way, “androgynous bottles” are simply bottles that are equally suitable for a man’s or a woman’s product. That’s not what they’re saying about these two bottles. They’re saying they can’t tell for certain what gender these bottle are!

To the extent that we anthropomorphize objects (and packaging, in particular), it’s no surprise, perhaps, that bottles may be thought of as also possessing gender. The French give their objects male & female pronouns, after all.

I would argue, however, that the meaning of the “bow tie” shape (and whether it’s even interpreted as a bow tie) depends very much on context.  Take it out of its familiar (male) context (the collar of a man-tailored shirt) and a bow tie ain’t necessarily a bow tie anymore. It might be some other type kind of bow. Perhaps the real ambiguity here is that you can’t say for certain whether these bottle are bow ties or hair bows.

One thing that seems to make the “Bonbon” bottle skew in a non-masculine direction, is the bright pink color, of course. (This color choice is also a significant feature of our third “bonus” example of a bow-tie shaped perfume bottle.)

(More photos of each, and a 3rd, not-so-androgynous bow-tie shaped perfume bottle, after the fold…) (more…)

July 24, 2014

Anya Hindmarch’s Cereal Box Clutches


Among the Pop-Art-influenced leather handbags included in Anya Hindmarch’s Fall 2014 collection were these 3 snakeskin “clutch bags.”


A licensee for Kellogg’s branded “luxury goods,” Hindmarch used printed snakeskin to simulate 3 vintage Kellogg’s cereal boxes.

No coincidence, perhaps, that all 3 of these vintage cereal box designs were basically the same versions as those included in Kellogg’s 2012 limited edition UK “Diamond Jubilee” packs.


(Another photo of the Hindmarch “Coco Pops” clutch, after the fold…) (more…)

July 23, 2014

Matchbook-style Package Design


Patented “matchbook style” packaging for a variety of products that are not matches…

Adhesive bandages, cosmetics, bookmark/page tabs, dental floss, condoms and mini CDs…

this vintage “lipstick sampler” (via: SoutheastByMidwest) appears to “match up” with one of the patents above

(More examples from the real world, follow after the fold…) (more…)

July 21, 2014

Cigarette Pack Shaped Matchboxes

“Vintage Mini Marlboro Box 25′s Filter Wood Stick Matches & Matchbox” (sold on eBay for $6.99)

While we’ve looked at an number of cigarette pack-shaped objects in the past—(radios, amplifier, doll case, flash diffuser, charms, crayons, playing cards, tasers, ashtrays & cigarette lighters)— for some reason we’d never considered matches.

While Marlboro appears to be the brand that has utilized this particular advertising medium the most, plenty of other big tobacco brands have also put out promotional cigarette-pack shaped matchboxes.

Top photo from the Secret Blog of a Mad Matchbox Collector; L&M and Camel pack matchboxes from CACDIVI Found Again Art Studio; Lucky Strike matchbox from Hazel & Wren

My preference is for cigarette-pack/matchbox mash-ups to be matchboxes of the classic “slide tray” variety. There are, however, other cigarette pack shaped matchboxes that go a bit further and imitate the “flip top” structure of the Marlboro flip-top box.

(Some of those “flip top” Marlboro matchboxes, after the fold…) (more…)

July 18, 2014

Ben Vautier’s Total Art Match-Box

Ben Vautier “Total Art Match-Box” 1965, multiple (photo via: MoMA)


We’ve featured other packaging-related artwork by Ben Vautier in the past. (See: Flux Mystery Food)

For our “Matchbox/Matchbook Week” he provides us with a nice early example of conceptual art’s declarative branding


Like Abby Hoffman’s Steal this Book, “Total Art Match-Box” is subversive to the institutions that supported its own existance. Self-referential and self-defeating, maybe, but whatever else a match might burn, it cannot avoid burning itself up, as well. Self-annihilation is just part of the package.


Vautier’s matchbox was actually contained in a larger box, “Flux Year Box 2,” a multiple put out by Fluxus in 1967. An edition of 100 copies was said to have been “planned.”  If things went as planned, we’d assume that 100 “Total Art Matchboxes” were made.



In addition to his edition of matchboxes, Vautier also made some matchbooks

(More about the matchbooks, after the fold…) (more…)

July 17, 2014

Ford Ranger Matchbox | Matchbox® Ford Ranger


Continuing with Matchbox/Matchbook week, we have two things…

1. A promotional matchbox, designed in 2006 by J. Walter Thompson, Malaysia.

Here, a matchbox’s sliding tray serves as a metaphor for the truck’s extendable cargo bed feature, with wooden matchsticks serving as a miniature load of lumber.

According to JWT, 5,000 of these matchboxes were distributed to potential “blue collar” consumers…

“While introducing it’s Limited Edition Ranger Extreme, a model with an extended cargo space that allowed for 30% more loading space, Ford decided it would be a good idea to highlight this feature. Question is, where would you reach the right audience? Research showed that many truck buyers are in blue-collar industries such as auto repair, construction and plumbing and that they tend to gather in specific after-work pubs. Opting for a medium like matchboxes could give the opportunity to both illustrate the product benefit and be useful to the target audience.

5,000 matchboxes were distributed amongst potential buyers at these pubs. On the box, Ford’s website address was printed so the curious could see what the truck looked like and book a test-drive. Over 1600 people visited the website, of which 450 booked a test-drive. 300 finally test-drove the car. The Limited Edition Ranger extreme was sold out a month ahead of schedule.”


a drawing from Horst Leitner’s 1997 patent for a “Truck Bed Extender”

(And since you can’t combine “matchbox” and “cars” without also suggesting Matchbox Cars….) (more…)

July 16, 2014

Faux Matchbook Safety Glasses Packaging


From Taylor Box: a promotional pack for Uvex “Ignite” safety glasses in the form of an over-sized matchbook.

“A perfect packaging metaphor, the Uvex Ignite Matchbox promo is really a deep tray holding safety glasses in a Printed SBS Folder that looks like a big matchbook!”

While the perfection of the packaging metaphor might be debatable (safety matches = safety glasses?) I like the faux strike plate flap and the larger-than-life photos of wooden matches on the side panels. (I was also wondering whether wooden matches in a matchbook were an anachronism, but as it turns out: no.)


(The box’s contents revealed, after the fold…) (more…)

July 15, 2014

Matchbox Pairing

Top photo from: AIGA Design Archives; lower photo from: The Secret Blog of a Mad Matchbox Collector


A matched pair of matchboxes:

1. Saul Bass & Clarence Sato’s 1965 design for Ohio Blue Tip Matches in a king sized slide box.

2. A more recent matchbox from China with similar design elements (photo of a burning match and “stencil” style typography).

(More about each, after the fold…) (more…)

July 10, 2014

Packaging Decoded


A (vintage) “programmed instruction manual” from the Marketing Training Department of Falstaff Brewing Corp.

The booklet, recently for sale on eBay, appears to have been set up as a quiz with right-side-up/upside down pages for questions and answers.

(Photos of inside pages, after the fold…) (more…)