February 16, 2010
Have hardly touched the guitar since my much-ballyhooed landfill gig last September. The WXPR radio appearance —(video above, from Rich Russo’s Anything, Anything)— was part of the big promotional juggernaut.
Of course, “juggernauts” are supposed to be unstoppable, and stopping was the very first thing I did after the landfill gig was over. Just could not multi-task to the degree necessary to maintain any momentum. (Musically speaking: a rest.)
There was, however, some very nice feedback that I meant to eventually follow up on. Maybe the time is now.
- I was so honored to have Marijke Rijsberman of Interfacility attend. On her blog, The Landfill Diaries, she posted her review of my musical efforts—as well as some funny commentary about a few of the products that we’ve designed packaging for. (i.e.: “… spangles for underage females.”)
- Artists, Tattfoo & Enze Tan also attended and wrote about it: here.
- Covering the Staten Island landfill beat, was Staten Island Advance reporter, Jamie Lee whose story was entitled, A concert stage rises atop the landfill.
- Photographer, Andrew Gardner came and took some great photos which he posted to his Flickr site.
- And the the Freshkills Park folks who did so much work to make such an event even possible, also posted a “recap” about my performance—(on their capped garbage mound)—here.
Because there was limited seating on the bus, only a finite number of people could attend that day, but everyone who did went home with a free and uniquely packaged copy of “Songs About Packaging.”
There are still some of those left. My mom bought one. Why not you?
(Song lyrics, after the fold…)
February 15, 2010
In a sense, all barcodes* are “packaging barcodes.” It would be tough to find a consumer package that did not have a UPC. The four examples above, however, are also “packaging barcodes” in the sense that each one illustrates the type of the package that it would likely appear on. (Which raises the specter of a Droste effect vanity barcode!)
Beach Packaging Design
*Footnoted digression: “UPC” or “Barcode” ? I tend to call these UPCs, but I’m glad, in a way, that they went with “barcodes.” Why? Because with “UPC” (as with “IRA”) we tend to forget what it is that the initials stand for. As a result, people will say redundant stuff like ”UPC code” (Universal Price Code code)—or “IRA account” (Individual Retirement Account account). Not that Yael & Reuben would ever do that, but—you know—people who blog about it might.
February 12, 2010
From our previous post about Nutella’s half-jar pack to various “half-an-orange” packs. Cut in half, the orange becomes a hemisphere with one flat side. The better for printing cross-section graphics of the orange’s separate sections.
Alberto Ghirardello (in Italy) and Marcel Buerkle (in South Africa) have each envisioned hemispherical plastic tubs with peel-off lids, made to resemble oranges—cut-in-half. Ghirardello’s concept (lower left) is for liquid and powder samples of Salvo:
Citrus is a packaging concept for free samples of Salvo dish detergent. The idea consists on two hemispheres in plastic material (HDPE or other) orange-skin texturized; pasted on a 1mm thick plastic sheet. The two sides are joined with removable glue, so you can separate them without damaging the packaging. Once they're separated you can open them by pulling the small flap on the side. Since the product is sold in liquid or powder form, the two parts are filled respectively with 50 ml of liquid product and 50 mg of powder, so you can try at your home both forms!
Marcel Buerkle’s idea (upper right) is for a “Quick Fruit” orange-flavored fruit jelly snack. (He also envisions kiwi and guava varieties.)
Upper left, is Arnell’s Tropicana juice cap. Half of a miniature orange, face down on the container, so that, in twisting it open or closed, it’s as if you’re your using a tiny juicer. (It also makes a nice guitar knob.)
Oranges (and other fruits) serve as wholesome symbols of ‘nature’s packaging.’ —And
the idea that nature also designs packaging, sort of makes the whole
package-design-thing seem a bit more wholesome, right?
Beach Packaging Design
February 11, 2010
A little like one of those fake buildings from an early Hollywood western—propped up from behind with scaffolding: the Nutella & GO! pack looks like a jar—or a portion of a jar—but is actually more akin to the bottle & jar shaped packets that we covered last week. (Note how the chamber containing the actual Nutella does not extend all the way to the base of the package.)
(Counter-display/case-pack & video, after the fold…)
February 10, 2010
Artist, Christian Faur makes—(among other things)—pointillistic pixel-related images out of crayons and at least one crayon-related, packaging-related artwork: the “Crayonettes” pack, on left. (via: Rungy Chungy Cheese Bees)
I like these conceptual packaging-mashups.
I wondered if anyone had done it the other way round. Sure enough, searching on Google for “Crayola + cigarettes” I soon found Emily-Kate’s “Crayola Cigarettes” pack, on right.
(Also: in William Missouri Downs’ play, entitled “Dead White Males: A Year in the Trenches of Teaching,” in the “art cart” of roving art teacher, Ms. Woods, there is a prop box of Crayola crayons in which she secretes cigarettes.)
By combining their packs, we confront a stark contrast between the innocent childhood connotations of crayons, and the more adult connotations of a cigarette habit. This irony is not lost on the artists above or on the others who have employed the same idea.
(Multi-color cigarettes and crayon-based anti-tobacco campaigns, after the fold…)
February 9, 2010
While Cream-Nut was never a full-on example of the “u-bet” effect, it was the subject of an earlier post about the modest and comforting charms of its existing label (despite less-than-optimal typography) and the potential hazards of changing it.
Well it now appears, that they have changed it and its fine. Potential hazards avoided. The same basic colors, rearranged a bit. [Update: Thanks to Jeff Koeze, who commented below, we now know that only the crunchy label has been given the black background to help differentiate between crunchy & smooth] Maybe the new dominant black background gives it—[the new crunchy label]—more of that high-end artisanal peanut-butter thing. (That, at least, is the theory of black food packaging.) A bit more metallic gold than before. Not a problem. (See: Gold Bar Packaging) I don’t know who did the redesign, Koeze’s creative director, Martin Andree and Michigan-based designer, Dan Murdock handled the redesign and I, for one, think they did an excellent job maintaining that essential Cream-Nut feeling.
I thought his take on marketing firms was pretty brilliant. (And funny.) Excerpt below:
The thing I hate most is being asked “What is your budget for this project?” Or, worse yet, “What is your marketing budget overall?”
I always answer the same way: “My budget is unlimited. If you can generate (and measure) positive ROI on this project and any future projects there is literally no limit to what I will spend. As long as your ideas keep making me money, the budget just keeps growing.”
What Wrong with Marketing Firms
(Some earlier Cream-Nut packaging, after the fold…)
February 8, 2010
Cruel father that I am, a couple of months ago I acquired two foods that are quite popular around here, but instead of putting them into general circulation in the family cupboard, I kept them on my desk. After an interminable 2-month consumption-embargo, I finally got around to photographing them this weekend.
One of these foods was Fox’s U-bet Original Chocolate Flavor Syrup. Popular, because you can use it to make chocolate egg creams, but what is there to say about its package? There were other chocolate (flavored) syrups on the shelf, that doubtless would make fine egg creams. Why was this the brand I purchased? Clunky and typographically awkward. Some unidentified Shirley Temple-ish child featured in the logo—(the Wendy of her day?)
There would seem to be little here for a contemporary package designer to love. Why would I—why would any consumer buy a package like that?
In groping towards a working theory to explain its apparent sales success, I asked myself, “if a product has packaging that looks like it hasn’t been changed in 50 years and is still being produced and sold, what does that say about the product?”
Maybe it says: this product is very good and—despite the packaging—there are a great many loyal customers who know it.
I think that may come close to it. A graphically unsophisticated package will sometimes be given not just the benefit of the doubt, but an assumption of quality and ‘authenticity’, not generally afforded to the slicker, more mainstream corporate packaging efforts. Am I over-thinking it?
There’s a Flickr group devoted to hand painted “folk typography.” Is the u-bet bottle folk packaging? The DIY ethos of an earlier era—Mom & Pop cottage industry packaging? Or Is it merely kitsch packaging?
In a post on BoingBoing—(See: Hyperbolic Bronnerianism in Graphic Design)—Xeni Jardin focused on the typographic overkill of certain packages: “… crazy mushed up text with LOTS OF ALL CAPS! BOLD! I-T-A-L-I-C ! Nnnnnooooo negative space! on product labels.”
“Hyperbolic Bronnerianism” might be a subset of the category I’m attempting to describe, but not all of my examples would be so overblown. U-bet may be typographically unsophisticated, but it’s certainly not the cacophony of styles that Jardin is talking about.
Perhaps it’s naïve packaging? There’s a book out called Naive: Modernism and Folklore in Contemporary Graphic Design. The examples contained are charming and vintage, but, to my eye, not unsophisticated.
Regarding vintage graphic design and “naïveté” Michael Bierut writes,
It is tempting to call designs of this era naïve. But I don’t think so. Not these designs. It would be, I think, incorrect to call Paul Rand’s Bab-o cleanser container naïve. It had a kind of knowing beatnik look… The main differences between those old packages and the one we have today is style… Technology is style.
via: The Package Unseen
Sometimes, it’s the small regional products that have this “u-bet” characteristic. I know it may sound culturally arrogant, perhaps imperialistic, but, here in the U.S.A., if I stroll with my cart down the “international aisle” of my super market, I can usually find quite few packages with that u-bet je ne se qua.
Says Durban-based photographer/graphic designer, Garth Walker (about the orange bag of Nyala Super Maize Meal, on right):
This remains the best example of South African packaging that I’ve yet seen and it should be enshrined in bronze above every designer’s Mac. It falls into that “lost” category of local graphic design in which, like so many local brands we love and adore, the designer is unknown. Probably a “lowly designer” (in the days of Magic Markers and Letraset) working in the studio of one of our über packaging or printing companies. “Creative” was probably not mentioned in the brief nor in the presentation to client. However, it’s truly local, relevant, striking, unique and long-lived—a lesson to all of us trying to be “local is lekker” and build a brand through packaging. Oh, and I do have it on permanent display in our studio.
via: Design Indaba
At first, I was thinking of u-bet’s bottle as a sort of “outsider” packaging. Like outsider art: the work of some untrained packaging genius who follows none of the established design principles, but somehow gets it right, anyway. Perhaps done many years ago by the company’s founder (or an unschooled relative) and then left unchanged. Benign neglect packaging?
The thing is, while I don’t really know how long the U-bet Chocolate Syrup label has looked like this, I do know that it didn’t come in this type of bottle when it first came out in 1942.
(See the earlier U-bet bottle, after the fold…)
February 6, 2010
I’m interested in how he manages to “raise the bar” on the perceived quality of this jewelry—(made from recycled bottle caps, after all).
On the one hand, his “Precious Metal” collection exploits the pop branding of the source product—(and gains some of the commercial appeal, inherent in the colors and logos of beverage packaging)—on the other hand, his jewelry seems somehow classier and more tasteful. This may be partly due to the photography and the use of precious metal settings, but there’s also evidence here of an artistic sensibility above and beyond the idea of consumers electing to wear brand-name badges (ironic or otherwise).
Some of the logos are cropped and truncated, making them almost abstract. The red ring, above (top, center) has no logo at all—just “100% Pure” and some incomplete “product use” instructions. While this still conflates our sense of ourselves with the products we use—(what does it mean for the wearer to be “100% Pure”?)—it’s not so brand-specific in this case. Not like saying: “I’m a Diet Coke girl,” which is, in effect, the message of a lot of the other pieces.
(Earrings and necklaces, after the fold…)
February 5, 2010
I noticed these jar-shaped Nutella packets—(top photo via: Notchet’s Flickr Photostream)—at a grocery store in Rome. (Did I mention I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago?)
Then today I saw this bottle-shaped Heinz Ketchup packet. (Photo via: Heinz Ketchup press release)
Makes sense that packets should reference whatever form of packaging is most associated with the product. As if to say, “Within this packet: the same trusted product you know from the bottle.” Or jar.
(More Nutella & Heinz packet pictures and video after the fold…)
February 4, 2010
Photo by Kieran Dodds via: The New York Times
Paralleling Russia’s battles with alcoholism—(see: Soviet Anti-Alcohol Campaign)—Scotland’s drinking problems are prompting legislation to try and curb alcohol consumption and its attendant bad behavior.
Unfortunately for Buckfast, the popularity of its caffeine-fortified “tonic wine” (with consumers in this market) also makes it a prominent symbol of a social problem.
…the police in the depressed industrial district of Strathclyde recently told a BBC program that the drink had been mentioned in 5,638 crime reports between 2006 and 2009 (the bottle was used as a weapon in 114 of them)…
Legislation to curb drinking is of particular interest here in Scotland’s old industrial heartland, or the “Buckfast Belt,” where Buckfast is considered a regional favorite. The drink is so ubiquitous in this working-class town, not far from Glasgow, that some people call it Coatbridge Table Wine (others call it “loopy juice,” or, adding their own twist as they channel Travis Bickle, “Who’re you lookin’ at?” wine.) Buckfast is no newcomer to the market, having become popular in the first half of the 20th century, when it was prescribed by doctors for down-in-the-dumps miners and sold in drugstores.
One person’s helpful mood improver, though, is another’s worryingly effective stimulant. The drink is 15 percent alcohol by volume, a bit stronger than most wines. Also, each 750 milliliter bottle contains as much caffeine as eight cans of Coke.
For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle
By Sarah Lyall, NY Times, February 3, 2010
Interesting that—(like Vimto)—Buckfast began life as a health tonic. Sometime (when there’s time) boxvox must do a round-up of other contemporary products that began as Victorian patent medicines. (Like Coke, for instance.)
Beach Packaging Design