Box Vox

packaging as content

May 31, 2012

Discarded Containers in Modernist Arrangements


On left: “Black Oil Bottles” ; on right: “Oil, Alcohol and Drugs”  (Collected on the beach. Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, NY. Jamacia Bay, New York Harbor)

Recently learned of these photographs by Barry Rosenthal. (via: “Object Whisperer” Rob Walker’s MKTG site)

Discarded containers in modernist arrangements. Or at least that’s how the arrangements strike me. Because they are arranged on a flat surface and photographed from above, these container collections read more as pattern and graphic design than as objects in space. And from a certain perspective, flat and 2D = “modern.”

Although, these groupings are also reminiscent of how objects might be organized in a museum, so maybe they’re really “old school.”


On left: “Green Bottles and containers” (Collected on the beach. Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, NY. Jamacia Bay, New York Harbor); on right: “Clear Glass Jars and Bottles”(location Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn, NY. Jamacia Bay, New York Harbor)

Creating a decorative “order” from the “disorder” of litter & landfill, Rosenthal’s photographs seem to serve various constituencies. Clearly part of the Significant Objects meme, but equally at home in Austin Radcliffe’s Things Organized Neatly collection.

What is it about patterns of equally spaced objects that appeals to us? I reckon there’s some science behind it. Or maybe math.

(Another photograph, after the fold…) (more…)

May 30, 2012

Butter & Belief

As long as we’re talking about super-long brand names, consider the extended philosophical discussion between trademarked brands debating the existence of butter. (At least within the confines of their own packaging.)

Not a complete catalog. There are more copy-cat store-brands and knock-off butter-substitutes than you can shake a stick at.

(See also: Margarine Penalties)

May 29, 2012

Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific Brand

And speaking of “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific”…

Jergens believed that Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific filled a unique niche within the congested fragrance hair product category. According to Jergens, its product was the only brand that boasted lasting fragrance as the primary benefit. Competing products, in contrast, focused on enjoying the scents while using the shampoos and conditioners. The company believed that its brand’s catchy, descriptive name created a strong personality for the product while clearly conveying its intent and benefit. Gee was packaged in brightly colored bottles with the logo in modern bubble letters to catch the eye of the teen consumer.

Thomas Riggs, Encyclopedia of Major Marketing Campaigns

Because of its super-long product name, discussion of the “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific” brand necessitated a nickname. Called “Gee” for short or sometimes: GYHST, the brand was trademarked in 1975.

In the United States, Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo and conditioner are sold through the Vermont Country Store, which has licensed the trademark rights.

The product’s unusually long name was satirized on The Simpsons. A sports venue on the show had been named “The Gee your Hair Smells Terrific Arena.”

Wikipedia’s entry on Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific

(Photo from Vermont Country Store site, after the fold…) (more…)

May 28, 2012

Declarative Branding


Top row left: Baxter scented candle packaging by Marc Atlan; on right: a water bottle designed by Manic Design; 2nd row: Dependable automotive product containers designed by TAXI West; 3rd row left: “This Water” branding by Pearlfisher; on right: Provenance product packaging designed by Jog; bottom row left: ”This is Origami” packaging by Magdalena Czarnecki; on right: This is Spinal Tape

This is a trend that’s been around for a while now: to include declarative statements in product brand names. Similar in a way to the 1970 exclamatory brands names that were complete sentences ending in exclamation points. (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!)

Here, however, there are no exclamation points and the style is more dry and understated, almost to the most of impartiality. Similar to the effect you’d achieve if you went around your home and labeling each object with a label maker—except that it’s done with a complete sentence, usually starting with the words “This is…”

I think the source of this “declarative” package design style is actually 1960s conceptual art.


Upper left: René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) 1928–29; upper right: Joseph Kosuth, Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) The Word “Definition” 1966-68; lower left: John Baldessari, “Everything is purged from this painting but art, no ideas have entered this work.” 1966–68; lower right: Luis Camnitzer, This is a mirror. You are a written sentence., 1966

OK, I know Magritte is generally considered a surrealist, rather than a conceptual artist, but his paradoxical painted sentence “This is not a pipe” is perhaps the earliest and most influential example of an artwork referring to itself as “this.”

There are other variations involving personal pronouns…

(More declarative package design, after the fold…) (more…)

May 25, 2012

Florida’s Natural: Droste Effect Package Design

During breakfast last week, I suddenly noticed that the package design for the Florida’s Natural orange juice carton now includes a prominent picture the carton itself. (And that the smaller carton in the picture also includes a picture of itself…)

Making this yet another Droste effect package for our infinitely recursive collection.

Even the television commercial by Imaginary Forces (which mainly focuses on a self-assembling juice carton materializing in a grower’s gloved hands) highlights the carton’s Droste effect.

Note at the end of this ad, when their trademark “hand off” from grower to consumer takes place, how closely it matches the image printed on the carton they’re holding.

May 24, 2012

Budweiser Cigarettes

“Budweiser Fine Arts Week” is over. This post is a not part of that. (The eight day, 8-pack of artworks featuring the Budweiser beer brand that ended yesterday.) Although it does follow the Budweiser thread a bit longer…

You know, it’s risky to pursue a single subject here for too long. These week-long digressions inevitably lead to a certain package-design-blog “consumer confusion.”

Someone tuning in midweek might understandably get the impression that box vox was more about contemporary art & Budweiser beer, than, say, package design. I know of at least one person who visited this site in February of 2010 and concluded that box vox was a blog all about egg-shaped stuff.

Probably it would be safer to adhere to a steady diet of brand & design-related sound-bites, but maybe I am not as risk averse as I thought…

Meanwhile: why has Budweiser been the pervasive choice for so many artists? Because the ubiquitous brand becomes the generic, default choice.

The photos the cigarette pack & beer bottle above relate both to brand extension and to this idea of brand prominence as a generic, default choice… as suggested in Budweiser’s 2005 trademark tagline, “This is Budweiser. This is beer.” (Now abandoned)

In 2010, when I found photos of a test-marketed Marlboro Beer, the first thing I wondered was whether there might also be Budweiser cigarettes. By rights I should have been looking for Miller Beer cigarettes, since it was Phillip Morris’s purchase of Miller Brewing in the early 1970s that had led to the Marlboro Beer experiment. In my mind, however, Budweiser was the generic, default choice for beer. Just as Marlboro was the generic, default choice for cigarettes. I therefore felt that Budweiser cigarettes and Marlboro beer would make a perfect couple.

Then last week, I happened to find these pictures of some promotional “Budweiser cigarettes” on Worthpoint. I would have preferred a full-color red, white & blue pack in the classic 1886 style, rather than the 1896 Anheuser-Busch “Eagle” or the 1960 “Budweiser Bowtie.” More of an advertising promotion that a full-on brand extension, but still… close enough.

(More Budweiser tobacco, after the fold…)

Not an Anheuser-Busch product, this cut-plug tobacco tin was made by the Lovell & Buffington Tobacco Company in the early 1900s. I’m guessing this product did not figure into the 1907 “Budweiser trademark dispute” between competing Budweiser beer companies.

May 23, 2012

This Piece Has No Title Yet

“This Piece Has No Title Yet” is the title of Cady Noland’s 1989 installation with boxes, flags and hundreds of stacked Budweiser six-packs.

In the late 1980s Noland began a series of sculptures and installations examining the masculine underpinnings of the American dream, embodied in men’s beer consumption. Crate of Beer (1989) is a wire-mesh basket full of empty Budweiser cans. In her 1989 untitled installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Noland stacked six-packs of Budweiser atop one another. Metal scaffolding transformed these mountains of alcohol into a construction site. For the artist, Bud cans are as potent an American symbol as Old Glory, both being red, white, and blue.

Guggenheim Collection Online

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Noland stacks hundreds of Budweiser six-packs along the walls, erecting sheer cliffs at the base of which shorter rows and pyramids of beer cans are ordered. Presented here is an image of overwhelming intoxication and, at the same time, incredible waste, the whole mighty edifice destined to be chugged and pissed away…

Lane Relyea, Hi-yo silver: Cady Noland’s America, ArtForum, 1993

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Then, about a decade ago, for whatever reason, she absented herself. Noland hasn’t had a gallery or museum exhibition in more than 10 years. When her work turns up in group shows it is said that she tries to have it removed.

Jerry Saltz, Invasion of the Sculpture Snatchers, Village Voice, 2006

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Cady Noland… who holds the record for the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a living woman ($6.6m), is a reclusive figurative sculptor whose work explores the sordid underbelly of the American dream. It has been over a decade since she has publicly exhibited her work, leading some to wonder whether she has stopped making art.

The price of being female, The Economist, May 20th, 2012

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Marc Jancou, of the gallery by that name on West 24th Street, has sued both Sotheby’s and Cady Noland after the auction house withdrew a work that he had consigned by the artist, Cowboys Milking (1990), from its contemporary day sale this past fall. Another work by the artist, Oozewald (1989), sold for $6.6 million with premium, a new artist’s record, at the Sotheby’s fall evening sale (over a high estimate at $3 million), just one day before Mr. Jancou’s Noland was to have been sold. Mr. Jancou now claims that the auction house owes him $6 million in damages and that Ms. Noland owes him $20 million.

News of the lawsuit broke in the art world newsletter the Baer Faxt, which reported that the sometimes fickle Ms. Noland “apparently disavowed the work,” so Sotheby’s yanked the consignment. The lawsuit’s complaint doesn’t mention this, but says Ms. Noland “tortuously interfered with the consignment agreement by persuading Sotheby’s to breach the agreement.”

Dan Duray, Dealer Marc Jancou Sues Sotheby’s, Cady Noland for $26 M., GalleristNY, May 10, 2012

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If nothing else comes from dealer Marc Jancou’s ongoing legal battle with legendarily reclusive artist Cady Noland, it at least has offered a bit of window into how difficult it is to get ahold of her. In fresh court documents filed in the last few days, a representative says he had to visit her New York apartment no less than four times in an attempt to serve her legal papers. The first time, he wrote in an affidavit, the artist “refused to come down or let me in the building to serve the papers.” Finally, after three further unsuccessful attempts, he was let in by another tenant, sliding the papers under Noland’s door.

Julia Halperin, Disgruntled Dealer Doubles Down, Adding $20 Million to His Claim Against Cady Noland and Sotheby’s, ARTINFO, May 23, 2012


Klaus Baum’s photograph of Cady Noland at Documenta IX in 2006

May 22, 2012

“I Just Wanted You To Be Proud of Me”

Above, a 2011 sculpture by Cayla Lewis: 22 empty Budweiser bottles on a hand-made shelf with brass plaque reading “I JUST WANTED YOU TO BE PROUD OF ME.”

I like the title’s implication of an untold story contained in these 22 Budweiser empties.

Below, a 1986 sculpture by Bill Schwarz, entitled 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, but whose five shelves actually contain 100 bottles. (via: Tom Moody)

Personally, I had always envisioned the “99 bottles of beer on the wall” from the song being lined up on the top of an outdoor brick wall. If the bottles in the song were meant to be on wall-mounted shelves, I think the song would be called “99 Bottles of Beer on the Shelf.”

That said, here are two more brand-specific artworks for Budweiser-Fine-Arts week. Like the Fleming Twins, “100 Cans of Tilted Beer” from yesterday’s post, both of these sculptures above reference that song, but do not illustrate it.

Although 11 is a factor both of the 22 bottles in Lewis’s sculpture and in the 99 bottles Schwartz’s title. (See also: Birthday Mathematics)

May 21, 2012

Another Budweiser Triptych

Alan & Michael Fleming: Balancing, Levitating, Opening (two cans of beer), 2010, 3-channel video [excerpt]

Part of a 2010 group show at SIAC’s Sullivan Galleries entitled The Joke is Irresistible, this “video triptych” by Fleming twins, Alan and Michael, is interesting to compare with the Budweiser Triptych by Banks Violette that we looked at last Wednesday.

Whereas Violette’s redacted, black and white Budweiser label spelled out “die” and contained a certain gravitas, the three Fleming videos are more about gravity…

“In this video triptych two ordinary cans of beer are transformed into ephemeral sculptures through the act of drinking. The result is a series of poignant and playful studies of everyday objects imbued with a new life and form of their own. This piece reflects on the studio as a site for games, trials and tricks.” -via

In their show at threewalls last month, they expanded on the balancing beer can trick, demonstrated in the first video.


100 Tilted Cans of Beer, 2012, cans of Budweiser, 6″ x 8′ x 8′

I never knew about this particular bar trick, but I like how it relies on the beveled edge of the beverage can, and I love the idea of 100 half-full cans of beer remaining precariously balanced on the floor of the gallery for two months.

I guess it also adds to the whole “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” thing.

May 18, 2012

Peter Cuba’s New Art

These were new to me: Peter Cuba’s 2010 photographs of Budweiser labels applied to an assortment of products other than beer.

Regarding his unauthorized brand extensions, the Chicago-based illustrator/designer says simply:

My new art is putting Budweiser labels onto other things. Goodbye painting, hello drinking.”

(Diluting the brand, but never the beer.)


Beer Family

I hadn’t realized at first that last Wednesday was the start of “Budweiser Fine Arts Week,” but I see now that’s where we’ve been heading. Please stay tuned.

(See also: Marlboro Beer and The Brand Dilution of Duff Beer)

May 17, 2012

Nigel Sense’s Annotated Label Paintings


Budweiser, Stella Artois, Toohey’s Blue

Another annotated Budweiser label (on left) led me to the paintings of Nigel Sense.

As with Wacky Packs, the beer labels here provide a loose framework for satirical commentary, but in Sense’s paintings the content is nearly always about artists. (And sometimes about the economics of his art career choices—fine arts versus commercial art, graphic design, etc.)

Hence a Budweiser label becomes Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Stella Artois label is about Marcel Duchamp, and an Australian Toohey’s Beer label is revised as a comment on Australian artist Brett Whiteley. (I had to look that one up.)

Interesting to compare this video with the video in the previous post: two tattooed artists who created artworks changing the Budweiser beer label, each of whom emphasizes the role that personal experience has played in their work.

(A few more package-related Nigel Sense paintings, after the fold…) (more…)

May 16, 2012

Redacted Budweiser Label

Banks Violette’s 2011 “Budweiser Triptych” features a redacted Budweiser beer label design spelling out the word “die.”

Origins of the concept are explained in the video below…