Box Vox

packaging as content

March 30, 2012

Nickolas Muray’s Plastic Containers


Nickolas Muray: Plastics, Plastic Containers, 1960

1960 Carbro color still lifes of plastic packaging by Nickolas Muray.

Lately we’ve been endlessly photographing, silhouetting and retouching plastic bottles, both as props for other products and as subjects in their own right.

I ought to be sick of the sight of them, but the plastic bottles in these photographs by Nickolas Muray are lit like objects in a Vermeer painting and I like the way they’re arranged.

In the photo above, the bottles are cropped, left and right, so that the viewer imagines an extended (endless?) parade of brands.

In contrast, the same bottles (more or less) in the photograph below, are all contained within the image.


Nickolas Muray: Plastics, Plastic Containers, 1960

After the market crash, Murray turned away from celebrity and theatrical portraiture, and become a pioneering commercial photographer, famous for his creation of many of the conventions of color advertising. He was considered the master of the three-color carbro process.

from Wikipedia’s entry on Nickolas Muray

These later works were done five years before his death in 1965. (Photographs via: George Eastman House)

(Another, of his more fantastical, plastic bottle still lifes, after the fold…) (more…)

March 29, 2012

Anthropomorphic Condiment Packaging


Photo of “Mr. Ketchup” from Inha Leex Hale ’s Flickr Photostream

I remember we featured an anthropomorphic jar of Miracle Whip manning a cash register back in 2009, but these European anthro-packs were brand new to me.

Amora and Calvé are both part of “the Hellmann’s worldwide brand family.” (See also: Our Family of Products)


Via: Global Packaging Gallery (Photo by Krissy Sauter)

Does this package design infringe on Bart Simpson’s trademark hairstyle? At any rate, the Calvé character has siblings and cousin’s as shown in the Amora commerical below…

Sorry. That video has apparently been removed, but you can still see some of the siblings…

(More anthropomorphic condiment, after the fold…) (more…)

March 28, 2012

Preston Grubbs’s Spherical Wedge Juice Packs

When I first saw these pictures of Preston Grubbs’s orange-colored, orange-shaped juice box concept, it reminded of other packages, designed to resemble their contents. (Or their origins.)

We’ve seen packages shaped like whole oranges and packages shaped like half an orange and, at first, what I thought I was seeing here were juice boxes shaped like an 1/8 of an orange. But that’s not right. The net bag contains 10 pieces. As if an orange were cut into 5 longitudinal, spherical wedge shaped pieces and then cut in half along the equator.

See also: Package as Skin, Packaging and Plastic Fruit and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges

March 27, 2012

The First Really Modern Shampoo

I like the way this 1955 Life Magazine ad for “Mennen shampoo for men” (on left) touts the modernity of its bottle design.

Finally! A modern shampoo for modern man. In a slip-proof, unbreakable bottle.

The patent drawing on the right is a “combination shampoo bottle and massager.” Clearly, these two bottles were related, but I wasn’t sure how. The patent, by Charles M. Zampetti, was obtained three years after the ad, in 1958. So the design patent didn’t appear to cover the Mennen Shampoo bottle’s design. And the patent was not assigned to Mennen…

(Patent-puzzle solved, after the fold…) (more…)

March 26, 2012

Majestic Milk and Package Receiver


©2011 Ray Ludacer

I found this photo on my computer. It was from a batch of photos that my son took last year at a friend’s new (old) house.

When I was a kid growing up in Florida my parents used to have an insulated milk box in the driveway where the milkman delivered our milk, but I’d never heard of these built-in “milk and package receivers.” So I thought I should maybe look into it…

Here and there, you can find other photos of them online.


Upper left: from Kodamakitty’s Flicker Photostream; on right: from tjunedavis’s Flickr Photostream; lower left and lower right: from Albany (NY) Daily Photo

I also found the company’s 1927 product catalog…

“The Majestic Milk and Package Receiver makes it possible to receive milk, groceries and other parcels without going outside or opening a door of the house. Two cast iron frames and doors connected by an adjustable steel body are installed in the wall of the kitchen…

Both of the doors can be unlocked from the inside only. The delivery man deposits the articles in the Receiver from the outside. When he closes the outside door it locks automatically and can not be opened again until the latch is released by an extended chain on the inside, making the Receiver ready for further deliveries. The Majestic Receiver is inconspicuous, occupies no needed space and gives protection against weather, annoyance, theft and intrusion.”

Like “dumb waiters,” the Majestic Milk and Package Receiver was promoted as a replacement for people —(a “silent, automatic servant”)— in much the same way that rise of packaging also served to replace people. (See also: Fallout Shelter Packaging)

The catalog’s photo-illustrations of the milkman delivering the milk outside and the woman in the kitchen receiving it through the wall, also calls to mind the Automat, another early 20th Century concept for avoiding unwanted human interactions.

(We look further into the Majestic Milk and Package Receiver, after the fold…) (more…)

March 23, 2012

Water Designs its own Package

Xiaoli Wen’s 2009 “Water Shaped Bottles”

Rubber molds, made from discarded Gin, beer, water, Coke & whisky bottles, were filled with plaster and allowed to cure while hanging under flowing water. Porcelain bottles were then made from the “water formed” plaster casts. (See pictures of the process on Dezeen.)

“Water does not have its own shape. It is shaped by its container. Now water wants to change the container’s shape therefore to decide its shape by itself.”

–Xiaoli Wen

A nice personification of water wanting to design its own packaging. But what about the other beverages that were originally contained in these bottles? Maybe gin, beer, Coke and whisky also want to change their containers’ shapes. I know: these other beverages all mostly contain water. (…and where on earth does one find a whisky waterfall?)

Prototypes of the porcelain bottles appear to be for sale (or have once been for sale) on Wen’s website, although the prices seem to be missing.

(One more picture, after the fold…) (more…)

March 22, 2012

Plaited Polyhedra: “Stimulating and Practical”

“Not only are these shapes attractive to the eye, they provide yet another example of the way apparently dull and complex research often comes up with something stimulating and practical.”

This 1960 newsreel, about an unconventional teaching method for mathematics used by Southampton schoolmaster, Robert Pargeter, focuses on his plaiting technique for weaving polyhedral models. (via: British Pathé)

The film makes much of the fact that the models do not require gluing. Not needing glue is also seen as a good thing in package design, when it can be achieved. But here the narrator lightly suggests that glue “somehow doesn’t seem to mix with school boys” which made me wonder: why? Because it’s messy? Because 1960s school boys sniff glue?

The “19th Century doctor” mentioned as the inspiration for Pargeter’s project must have been John Gorham and his 1888 “A System for the Construction of Crystal Models on the Type of an Ordinary Plait” must be the “article” that the film briefly alludes to.

What is not mentioned is that, in 1959, Pargeter, himself, published an article in The Mathematical Gazette, entitled “Plaited Polyhedra.” A page from that article appears below…

As much as I love it when package design goes polyhedral (see examples of rhombic dodecahedron and stella octangula) packaging constructed in the manner of Pargeter’s plaiting of a great dodecahedron, is perhaps, not so practical.

Although plaited baskets are doubtless one of the earliest precursors to modern packaging. And, in fact, John Edminster’s tri-tuck closure and other overlapping flaps show that certain degree of “plaiting” is already in evidence in the construction of folding cartons.

Still, complex containers requiring this type of skill are surely more of a craft than an industry. It’s hard to imagine what sort of polyhedral loom would be needed to automate a “Pargeter’s plaited packaging” method.

And yet again, if the Jacquard loom could automate the weaving of impossibly complex fabrics in the 1800s —laying the groundwork for what would eventually become computer programing— it might be a mistake to assume that complexity makes a concept impractical.

If you’re wondering who that guy is at the very beginning, I figure they must have segued from a previous segment in a series of newsreels. That guy must be Robert Welch who designed modern, stainless steel cutlery.

(One more stimulating 1880 mathematical model from Gorham, after the fold…) (more…)

March 21, 2012

2 Anthropomorphic Heineken Bottles

Two takes on kicking back with Heineken:

1. An anthropomorphic Heineken bottle —with arms, but no legs— “kicks back” and relaxes in the retouched photo at top. I assume this image originated from some specific Heineken campaign, but I can’t find the original source. (If you see what I mean.)

2. An anthropomorphic Heineken bottle —with arms and legs— appears in a disheveled, “morning after” state in a 2007 Michael Williams painting entitled, “Cancuned.” (Detail shown above.)

(Another Williams painting with an anthro-pack, after the fold…) (more…)

March 20, 2012

The Vicious Circle

This 1964 self-parody by Kansas City industrial filmmaker, The Calvin Company, illustrates the pitfalls of making a trade film for a nested corporate hierarchy.

Package design can be a similarly disheartening business, if a new client’s true decision maker is revealed only gradually through layers of middle management.

See also: Nested Packaging

March 19, 2012

Annabelle Soucy’s Fusion Tea Pack

Annabelle Soucy’s polyhedral 6-pack for tea. A simple exterior and complex interior, make this a structural “surprise package” much in the same way that Milagros Maria Bouroncle Rodriguez’s T package offered interior surprises. Soucy’s cube-shaped “Fusion” tea package dissects into 6 space-filling pyramids—each section containing a pyramid-shaped tea bag. (via: Packaging | UQAM)

The structure is actually very close to Jessica Comin’s transforming “laranja mecánica” chocolate package. And although the pictures do not show it, I believe Soucy’s package design would be similarly capable of being turned inside out into a rhombic-dodecahedron with a cube-shaped interior.

Animated gif from Apollonius Math

Not that Soucy’s Tea package needs to transform into rhombic-dodecahedron with a cube-shaped interior. I’m just saying. It’s interesting.

(One more photo, after the fold…) (more…)