Box Vox

packaging as content

March 29, 2008

Partisan Politics & Package Design

RepublicankraftWhy are convention delegates like kids at a birthday party? Goody bags. Apparently, “goody bags” filled with an assortment of products are handed out at political conventions in this country. These two packages are from the collection of our foreign-journalist friend who attended the 2004 Republican National Convention here in New York.

The M&M‘s are packaged in a patriotic, yet non-partisan style—(red, white and blue with flag)—suitable for dispensing at either convention, to Democrats or to Republicans.

Kraft, on the other hand, took a very different tack, making a specifically pro-republican package to dispense at the republican convention. Did they also make a Democratic version of the package?

Digging around online, I was able to confirm that they did indeed hedge their bets and also handed out Democratic Mac & Cheese boxes at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

(comparative photos of both Dem & GOP boxes follow after the jump…) 

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March 25, 2008

Casablanca Safron (Now with Pure Air!)

Safronfrontback

I know saffron is a precious spice and all, but at $2.99, is it really such a target for shoplifters that it needs a gigantic package?

Packaged by the Brooklyn-based Spice n’ More company, we found this product at our local Top Tomato.

Seems like it’s being sold in this size container for no better reason
than to make it match the other containers in Casablanca’s product line.

Safroncloseup

March 25, 2008

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogantbastard
It wasn’t “road rage” exactly, but sometimes when my grandmother was
driving and another driver offended her in some way, she would lose her
temper and curse. Not so they could hear it, but just to express her
displeasure. If it was a male driver she would say he was a “bastard.”
If it was a female driver, my grandmother would say she was a “bitch.”
If the other driver was too far away to distinguish gender she would
angrily sputter, “Bitches and bastards!”

When a friend recently presented me with this large (1 Pt. 6Fl. Oz.) bottle of Arrogant Bastard® Ale, my first thought was of my grandmother.

Another example of provocative branding, perhaps indicative of a
broader cultural trend. In the 60’s and 70’s when my grandmother was
losing her temper behind the wheel, these were definitely curse words.
There were certainly no products with “bitch” or “bastard” on their
labels. Nowadays we have “Total Bitch” from Blue Q, “Skinny Bitch” cookbooks. South Park’s “You bastard!” (as a punch line to the perennial joke about Kenny getting killed), “Fat Bastard”, the Austin Powers character, and “Fat Bastard” the wine. (I’m sure there’s lots more… what have I missed?)

This being our current cultural milieu, I’m guessing that a huge
public outcry against against this type of “naughty language” is
unlikely. However, that Arrogant Bastard illustration looks a little demonic to me… satanic, even! (See Proctor & Gamble…)

Seems to target a male audience, inviting them to identify with the
character on the label. No reason the company could not also come out
with an “Arrogant Bitch” product, I suppose, but recent usage makes it
just as likely that anyone saying “bitch” these days is referring to a
man. (See “Hug it out, bitch”) I’ve yet to hear anyone call a woman a “bastard.” (My grandmother might have done so, but probably only by mistake.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

March 22, 2008

Victor Mouse Trap 4-Pack

Victormousetrappack(First, a little background about me & mice…) When I was a kid I used to keep pet mice. It all started when the garbage man in my neighborhood in Sarasota, Fla. (around 1964) handed me a coffee can with a lid. Inside the can was a live, tame mouse. My mother let me keep him. (Later, in college, I graduated to pet rats, but that’s another story.) I mention my first pet mouse only to acknowledge that I have a continuing affection for rodents and to fully disclose my conflicted feelings about pest control products.

At Home Depot last month I lingered for a quite a while in the pest control section thinking about the Victor® mouse traps, their logo and whether or not I wanted to blog about it. At the time I decided that, as a rodent-lover, I would not go there.

Soon afterwards our good friend and neighbor, Jacqueline had a sudden infestation of mice. This was due to some packages of bird seed and cat food that were stored in the basement, but were not mouse-proof. (Bad animals taking food from the mouths of good animals?) She went to Home Depot and purchased the entire Victor mouse trap product line—doubtless the very same mouse traps whose aesthetic properties I had been ruminating over. It was the coincidence of Jacqueline’s use of Victor mouse traps that has led me to write about this, after all.

(A shocking photo and more to read after the jump…)

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March 18, 2008

Like our plastic toys? Try our fruit snacks!

I found this box abandoned near the check-out counter at my local Waldbaum’s. A collaborative effort of Lego and Kellogg’s. I debated with myself about whether or not I needed to make an impulse purchase—(yes no yes no…)—but ultimately I succumbed to its poly-chromed allure.

Perhaps not the wisest of lateral cross-marketing moves to make an edible version of a toy that you gotta assume plenty of kids are already putting into their mouths. Maybe not such a good idea to blur the distinction between food and non-food.

(another picture and more to read after the jump…)

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March 16, 2008

Wacky Packages

Wacky Packages — Crust Toothpaste
photos from the wackypackages.org site

Before there were Garbage Pail Kids, there were Wacky Packages, a strange line of humorous trading cards & stickers for kids from Topps that first appeared in 1967.

Entirely based on existing consumer packaging, each Wacky Package satirized either the product itself, or else some other unrelated cultural subject. Each set was sold with a stick of bubble gum and packaged in a wrapper.

Wackypackaging3

photos from the wackypackages.org site

The concept was usually based on some look-alike word in the logo. Thus, Gravy Train become “Grave Train” (an oddly prescient parody about a brand of dog food that will kill your dog); Chef Boy-ar-dee becomes “Chef Girl-ar-dee Feminist Spaghetti—approved by Women’s Lib” (showing signs of its 1960′s vintage); and Duzn’t Do Nuthin’ is based on “Duz” detergent, a product that no longer exists (and really shows its age by featuring a Beatnick as the punch-line!)

(lots more images and more to read after the jump)

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March 14, 2008

Staten Island Land Fill Flavor

Landfill
Recently saw this ice cream container for the first time on a local blog discussing how wrong and offensive it was. The company that makes it is 5 Boroughs Ice Cream  and, amazingly, they’ve apparently agreed to add an ameliorating sticker to their package which will read…

It is true, Fresh Kill was once a landfill visible from
space. When the landfill became full it was closed and the city created
an ambitious plan to turn the area into a city park. Plans for the park
include a bird-nesting island, public roads, boardwalks, soccer and
baseball fields, bridle paths and a 5,000-seat stadium. Today,
freshwater and tidal wetlands, fields, birch thickets and a coastal oak
maritime forest, as well as areas dominated by non-native plant
species, are all within the boundaries of Fresh Kills. Already, many of
the landscapes of Fresh Kills possess a stark beauty, with 360 degree,
wide horizon views from the hills, over 300 acres of salt marsh and a
winding network of creeks.

Seeing the brave and provocative packaging that can be found on
store shelves in England, I have to conclude that this sort of brouhaha
about packaging deemed to be offensive is a uniquely American
phenomenon.

(more to read after the jump)

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March 8, 2008

Songs about Packaging?

Oldtimead3
Okay, maybe not all my songs are about packaging, but these two songs are: “Expiration Date” & “Pop Top Ring”—and packaging does figure into the lyrics of quite a few others… (Here’s a link to my music site.)

Maybe these two activities (music and packaging design) do not have
to be as separate as I’ve been thinking. Maybe we can be like Sybil and reintegrate our various, separate selves. What do you think?

“Expiration Date” is ©2006 Randy Ludacer. “Pop Top Ring” ©2007 Josh Weisberg & Randy Ludacer.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

March 4, 2008

Diabetic Packaging

Syringes

When I first became diabetic and learned that I would be giving myself insulin shots—(in 1976)—I envisioned a glass syringe like those used by doctors when I was a kid. I imagined a diabetic syringe to be a serious personal accessory that I would sterilize in boiling water or maybe in something like one of those units people used to sterilize contact lenses.

Little did I realize, the tide had already turned. To reduce the risk of infection, the industry had, by then, fully embraced disposable medical paraphernalia. Rather than receiving a syringe like the one pictured on the left, I was to begin using one disposable plastic syringe per day—packaged in poly-bag packs of ten, 10 poly-bags to a box.

(more photos and more to read after the jump)

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March 4, 2008

Full-Up

ArmanfullupNot to make too much of it, but—in view of recent attention paid to the role of packaging in the “waste stream”—I thought this trash filled sardine can package by Arman was worth another ironic look.

A 1960 limited edition, multiple entitled “Full-Up”—Arman made 1,500 of these—each filled with trash and an invitation to his exhibition.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design