Box Vox

packaging as content

January 3, 2013

Post-Op Packaging: Op Art Redux


Top: packaging for Jonathan Adler “Stripe” salt & pepper shakers; middle: Toni Hall’s “Neverclear” grain alcohol bottles; bottom: Stride’s “Tropical Trance” gum package (brand extension by Davis Design)

Some recent examples of the trend we noted three years ago. (See: The Bridget Riley Look)

It was a 1960s art movement that some people dismissed as a fad. The influence of “op art” on package design, however, has shown surprising longevity. Certainly not what was predicted at the time…

Dangers of design faddism

“Op art” — the use of graphic techniques to bedazzle the eye with the illusion of motion and to create a “different” and exciting shelf image — has been translated to package design with good effect in the U.S. and in England. But it carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction as a lasting tool of package design, according to an article in in Packaging Review.

The publication makes four cases in favor of “op-art” design, then shows how they become self-defeating in the long run, as follows:

Op-art design is economical because it generally uses only one or two colors, but it may be excessively costly to develop an outstanding design concept.

Op art is effectively topical, but there is a double danger that the fad may be short-lived and may antagonize older customers.

Op art has powerful visual impact, but the impact may be so powerful that it overshadows the product message and communicates nothing to the shopper.

Op-art packages attract shoppers’ eyes and stand out vividly from competing packages, but this is true only so long as few packagers use the design technique. Over-use results in visual confusion and diluted impact.

Modern Packaging Magazine, 1966

(See also: Pre-Op Packaging, The Bridget Riley Sound and Bridget Riley’s Rolling Papers)