Box Vox

packaging as content

April 30, 2012

Can Within a Can

Another “Sack O’Sauce” can, but this image caught my interest because of the Droste-like self-referencing. (via: Small Works in Wool)

Does this represent the product’s actual label design? Or was it a clever shorthand image from some grocery store circular to simultaneously communicate the product in its opened and closed states. (A sort of Shrödinger’s can paradox.)

The thing is: the label’s design is really only effective from a very limited point of view. From a certain perspective (centered, 3/4 view from above) it’s as if we’re peering into a can which contains a shorter opened version of itself, and which, in turn, contains a bag of sauce. Seen from the side or from a lower perspective, of course, this illusion would be lost.

The idea of actually finding a can within a can, however, is apparently not so farfetched…

April 27, 2012

Remarkable New Food Packaging Invention

Led to this topic by Dan Goodsell’s rusty can of Oscar Mayer Wieners (on left), it turned out to be a different story than the one I thought I might tell.

At first I was thinking that it would be about orthographic graphic design in canned food labels.

Or maybe I’d compare its label design to the once popular: “Crown Roast of Frankfurters,” and give it an alliterative, Spiro Agnew style title like “Fifties Phalanx of Phallic Franks.” (As Jon Stewart has pointed out about the former Vice President’s name, “Spiro Agnew” is also an anagram for “grow a penis.”)

That was more or less the plan until I read about the later development, pictured on the right…

Sack-in-Can Package

A new food package, developed by GO Mayer, vice-president of Oscar Mayer & Co., of Madison, Wis., permits two foods of separate and distinct flavors to be packed in the same can without interchange of flavors. This has been utilized in canned wieners by putting a barbecue sauce-filled Pliofilm sack into a can of wieners. Blending of two separate food flavors during the canning process is prevented. Other ready-to-eat food combinations will soon be put up this way. The Pliofilm sack is heat sealed, after which it is air- and watertight and break-proof under normal handling conditions. Housewives can open the sack with scissors or a knife. Sauce and wieners can be heated together, or they can be heated separately and the sauce poured over the wieners.

Food Engineering (Volume 19) 1947

I knew that Pliofilm had been used in margarine color-packs, but this was news to me.

As wonderful an artifact as it is, Goodsell’s can must have seemed like a plain spinster aunt in comparison to this new and potent marketing mix of canned wieners with a patented sauce packet. Still mentioned in Oscar Mayer magazine ads, the plain brine version was relegated to a footnoted “also ran” status.

The glamorous young “Composite Food Package” was patented by none other than Oscar’s own brother, Gottfried O. Mayer…

Side bar: I’m very happy to see that the patent drawings above include additional orthographic views.

(Advertising, promotion, and modern art, after the fold…) (more…)

April 26, 2012

Package Eats Logo

Sometimes an illustrated open mouth, depicted on a package, is not a window, but a graphic device containing the product logo. Caveman Cookies and Snackle Mouth packages both have stacked logotypes contained in the gaping mouths of their illustrated characters. (Kristina Sacci designed and illustrated the packaging for Caveman Cookies; Nate Dyer of Moxie Sozo designed and illustrated the Snack Mouth packages.)

Package design for Fresh & Easy kids cereals (by P&W) uses a similar device, except that, along with the Fresh & Easy logo, the mouths contain additional typography.

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

April 25, 2012

Mouth-as-window: Package Eats Product


Top: Tequechongos!; 2nd row: Dusan Čežek’s Booster Engery 4-pack box; 3rd row: Design Herynek’s Adriana Mini-Pasta; bottom: Kanikko crab-shaped candy crab packaging,/span>

The 1971 ad for two discontinued Tootsie Roll products (Tootsie Tots & Tootsie Jesters ad from Gregg Koenig’s Flickr Photostream) reminded me that I’d been seeing more mouth-shaped window on packages lately. Maybe now’s a good time for another round up.

Most of it’s food packaging, of course, but not all. As previously observed, when gaping mouths appear on packaging, they are not human mouths.

But seeing them all together, what’s really notable is that they are all illustrations. No photography.

I always liked the simplicity of seeing the product through a mouth-shaped window. As a consumer you’re invited to identify with the character (animal, monster, etc.) and imagine that product in your mouth.

There are also packages that open in mouth-like ways to dispense the product, but however clever these solutions, unless you’re a baby bird, there’s something off-putting about the idea of taking food from another mouth.


Colgate’s 2011 cross marketing effort to sell toothpaste from within a pizza box

Preston Grubbs (whose Spherical-Wedge Juice Packs we looked at last month) connects a chain of three boxes to form a puppet-like “S’mores” kit, in which the upper and lower boxes form a monster character’s mouth and the middle box serves as a sort of “serving suggestion.”

(A non-food monster pack example, after the fold…) (more…)

April 24, 2012

Candy-Colored Stripes


Fruit Stripe gum photo from MeBeMelissa’s Flickr Photostream; the other three wrappers are from Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream

With multicolored products lines, colors are often used to differentiate between fruit flavors. When candies come in assorted packages, those assortments are often represented by candy-striped, rainbow colors. Skittles, of course, also uses this idea in their tagline, but lots of candy makers do the basically same thing.


1989 Skittles wrapper with “Rainbow Machine” offer from Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream


1950s Life Savers 5-Flavors wrapper from Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream

The color stripes on a roll of assorted Life Savers make a sort of orthographic diagram of the contents. Technically not a “rainbow” since non-consecutive colors are adjacent, and yet multi-colored stripes will invariably convey the rainbow idea. Note: 5 flavors, but only 4 different colors.


Back of a 1986 box of Circus Fun cereal from Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream

The illustration for this Circus Fun cereal, “free Life Savers” offer, clearly represents a rainbow and also adds an additional lighter yellow to represent the fifth flavor.

In the 2010 “retro” package, above, Life Savers rearranged the color order, creating a bona fide rainbow striped wrapper. (Photo via: A Treasury of…)


Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe pack from a vintage ad on Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream

Similar to the the Life Saver 5-Flavor assortment, Fruit Stripe gum’s also had five flavors, but only 4 colors in their technically incorrect rainbow. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They were always more about the stripes than the rainbows. Love their ad in black and white. (See also: Trix Cereal Colors in black & white)


Beech-Nut Assorted Candy Drop wrapper from Jason Liebig’s Flickr Photostream

An earlier Beech-Nut wrapper for Assorted Candy Drops, however, does use uses a rainbow sunburst with colors in correct spectral order.

(More candy stripes, after the fold…) (more…)

April 23, 2012

Rainbow Cigarettes & Rainbow Matches

Two more unrelated “Rainbow” brands: Rainbow cigarettes and Rainbow safety matches.

I guess it’s officially “Rainbow Stripes Week” on box vox, this being the third day and all. (Tomorrow: Candy Colored Stripes)

April 20, 2012

Rainbow Striped Bottles

More spectral color branding. This time: bottles. Absolut Vodka’s 2008 limited edition bottle (marking the 30 anniversary of the LGBT gay pride flag) and a 2010 Antico Frantoio Muraglia ceramic olive oil bottle (“…made by the expert hands of skilled master ceramists and covered with rainbow stripes.”)

Earlier rainbow branded liquids include Rainbow Whiskey and Rainbow Beer …

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

April 19, 2012

The Optics of Rainbow Striped Package Design

We’ve already focused on multicolored product lines and their effectiveness in product differentiation when displayed all together, but just recently it occurred to me that there was another kind of rainbow packaging in which all the refracted colors come together in a singular package design.

Rainbow stripes as a packaging motif, probably reached their peak in the 1970s, although they really got started in 1968 with Paul Giambarba’s spectral branding for Polaroid:

“The original color stripes were to differentiate between the new Type 108 Colorpack Film and the gray color stripes that identified Type 107 black and white film.”

Apple used a similar sequence of colored stripes in spectral order for the second incarnation of their logo in 1977. Asked whether the rainbow colors were a reference to “hippy” culture, logo designer, Rob Janoff said, “Partially it was a really big influence. Both Steve and I came from that place, but the real solid reason for the stripes was that the Apple II was the first home or personal computer that could reproduce images on the monitor in color.”

So in each case (Polaroid’s color film and Apple’s color monitor) the rainbow stripes are meant to convey the color capabilities of the product. Their founders —Polaroid’s Edwin Land and Apple’s Steve Jobs— have also been compared and found to be similar in some ways. (See Forbes article: What Steve Jobs Learned From Edwin Land of Polaroid)

Giambarba’s package design for Polaroid explored the geometric possibilities of the company’s rainbow stripe motif in some depth for nearly two decades.

Most of Giambarba’s designs displayed well, and some used the trick of wrapping shapes around corners to achieve completion when displayed. (See: The Incomplete Package: Part of a Larger Whole)

While Giambarba’s rainbow striped branding may have preceded Apple’s, there were also other rainbow-striped cultural influences which may have played a role.

Frank Stella’s 1966 painting, Concentric Squares apparently preceded Polaroid’s rainbow striped packaging by two years. Like Polaroid and Apple, Stella’s fluorescent paintings introduced a new color capability whereas his previous paintings had been black (and white).

(More rainbow striped ruminations, after the fold…) (more…)

April 18, 2012

Schaedler Pinwheel

Speaking of “pinwheel” logos, I remember applying for job in the late 1970s at an interesting company called Pinwheel. My partner worked at Photo-Lettering in those days and I would have liked nothing better than to have worked at the similarly high-profile firm with the cool spiral logo.

Founded by old school New York type designer, John N. Schaedler, Pinwheel was the pre-digital precursor to color-proofing companies like Kaleidoscope.

“Pinwheel color proofing produces advertising comps, package dummies, decals, TV color corrections, rub-down transfers, art for slides, sales presentations and just about everything. It can reproduce fine type and clean solids in pinpoint register. Unbelievably versatile, the process can provide one copy or hundreds, quickly, and at reasonable prices.”

The word “Pinwheel” in the ad on the right was set in Schaedler’s font, “Paprika.” (now available as Tabasco Twin) He also designed the spiral trademark, which I remember seeing printed in red, although I can find no examples of that online.

Perhaps Schaedler’s most lasting contribution to the graphic arts has been his ultra-precise “Schaedler Rule” now manufactured by his company Shaedler Quinzel, Inc. based in Parsippany, NJ.

“Taro Yamashita, a tireless staff lettering artist and photo technician at the Schaedler studio, helped design and develop the products now known as Schaedler Precision Rules. His original drawings were done by hand although computers and design software have subsequently been utilized to achieve greater accuracy and consistency.”

While desktop computers effectively put typesetting and various other graphic arts industries out of business, there is still occasionally a need for designers to measure actual stuff.

(For more spiral graphic design, see: Pillsbury and 4 Spiral Letterform Logos)

April 17, 2012

Art & Kitty Litter

On left is one of Robert Gober’s 1989 “Fine Fare Cat Litter” sculptures. (From an edition of seven)

With Cat Litter, Gober invokes a “hand-made-ready-made”, stemming from the Duchampian tradition. While Marcel Duchamp chose everyday, industrially produced objects as his ready-made works and elevated them to the status as an art object in the act of re-producing and declaring them to be so, Gober scrupulously recreates an already existing product; Gober uses plaster-casting and then paints by hand the imagery to imitate the real object.

In speaking about the Cat Litter sculptures, Gober explains, “The kitty litter I never saw as being that far a step from the wedding dress…for me the kitty litter was to a large degree a metaphor for a couple’s intimacy – that when you make a commitment to an intimate relationship, that involved taking care of that other person’s body in sickness and in health. If I had chosen to do a box of diapers, which is an equivalent of a bag of cat litter, it would have been obvious. But because I was juxtaposing a low symbol which a high symbol and a deflated symbol with an inflated one, people had a very hard time reconciling the two, and they had a hard time, I think, seeing that I could be connecting the two with some respect”

Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, 1999 (via: Phillips de Pury & Company)

Fine Fare is a New York “Metro Area” supermarket chain. (There was also a UK “Fine Fare” but I don’t believe they are connected.) I like their multi-colored pinwheel logo on the Gober sculpture, which I think has inherent fine art associations having to do with color wheels and additive color mixing. The animated gif on the right is not from Fine Fare’s logo, but from the website of package printer, J.M. Fry Printing Inks.

(See also: Untitled Packaging Sculptures)