Box Vox

packaging as content

March 25, 2014

Sucrets in the Evidence Locker

from a recent “personal property sale” auction: Group of (84) .22 Caliber Bullets (sold for $12)


If the 1994 “Sucrets Early Retirement Package” made the public’s “reuse” of their packaging into a popular news item, the company was pretty selective about which specific uses (and misuses) that it chose to publicize.

Most newspapers were happy to mention the queen of England’s crown jewels…

“An English jeweler who reset the crown of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 once wrote the company to tell it that Her Majesty’s jewels were stored for a time in a Sucrets tin.”

NY Times, 1994

But, while their packaging has been frequently put to charming, domestic uses (ad hoc sewing kits, etc.) — there are other, less celebrated ways in which Sucrets tins have been long been re-purposed.

SmithKline Beecham may have briefly considered calling their new 1994 packaging the Sucrets “lozenge-locker,” but it’s in the police station evidence locker that plenty of Secrets tins have, themselves, been stored.

Worse still (for the brand), police blotters and court documents are not shy about mentioning the Sucrets brand name. (See also: Packaging & Moral Turpitude)

As the officer was obtaining identification from the occupants of the car, he observed on the street 15-20 feet in front of his car, as shown by his headlights, an open Sucrets tin, four hand-rolled cigarettes and a corncob pipe. The officer stated that he had been involved in at least eight arrests where Sucrets tins were used for concealing marijuana and, based on his experience, a corncob pipe was a common device for smoking marijuana. He also stated that there were several parked cars in the vicinity and he had not seen from where the objects had come.

Peolple v. Gottanborg
Circuit Court of Knox County, 1976


Officer Anderson found marijuana seeds, burned marijuana cigarettes and more amphetamines in the nightstand in the bedroom. Also found was a metal Sucrets box which when opened was found to contain two syringes and hypodermic needles. The Sucrets box was not large enough to contain a handgun.

Thompson v. Superior Court
Court of Appeals of California, Fifth Appellate District, 1977


(More from the Sucrets evidence locker, after the fold…) (more…)

March 21, 2014

The “Sucrets Showcase” pack (with porthole)


In 1994, Sucrets came out with a new version of their container for sore throat lozenges. Where, for the previous 60 some odd years, the brand had used a tin box, the company then came out with a new polypropylene box with a clear, round (porthole style) window in the lower right corner.

sucrets-groupingThis box was designed and patented by Kornick Lindsay.

As with Laura Handler’s bottle for Perry Ellis, the window is flush with the surrounding opaque surface—the porthole giving a nice, luxury-liner touch to a fast-moving-consumer-good.

The roll-out was carefully orchestrated, by Ketchum Public Relations, with contests and research into the different ways that consumers had reused their tin Sucrets containers in the past.

Announcement of the new package was framed as a “Sucrets Early Retirement Package” party for the old, tin package.

SucretsStory-1994Looking back at the news coverage of Sucrets’ packaging change, it’s apparent that, in most publications, the new plastic pack may have been overshadowed by the “retiring” tin pack.

The company estimates that between a fifth and a third of the boxes manufactured since 1932 were kept for other uses after the lozenges were consumed during at least two billion bouts with sore throats.

Uses for the tins were as varied as the customers who bought them.

Some of the British crown jewels were kept in the tins while Queen Elizabeth II’s crown was being reset during the 1950s, the company said.

In letters to the manufacturer, Vietnam veterans praised its airtightness in keeping photos of wives and girlfriends — as well as cigarettes and matches — dry during the monsoon season.

“But it’s had a lot of other uses,” Lindsay said. “It’s been used often as a coffin for goldfish and pet turtles.”

During the tin’s 60th anniversary two years ago, SmithKline asked consumers to list their post-sore throat uses for the boxes.

The favorite: a storage place for sewing items. Other favorite items put aside included office supplies such as paper clips and staples, hair accessories, small pieces of hardware, coins, jewelry — and, of course, other medicines such as antacids.

AP News Archive

Reading over all the press releases and publicity that their change in packaging received at the time, it’s surprising not be able to find more photos online of the “new” 1994 packaging being announced.

TSucretsLineArthe fact that I can’t find any Sucrets containers (with portholes) on eBay, makes me suspect that they weren’t in production for very long. Surviving examples must be very rare, indeed.

So what happened?

(Asked and answered, after the fold…)


March 20, 2014

Nail Polish Bottle with (Porthole) Window


Another “porthole bottle” — this one for Gelish brand “soak off gel polish.”

One small “porthole” window affords the only glimpse of the product’s color in an otherwise opaque white bottle. Gelish CEO, Danny Haile holds both design and functional patents. The functional part has to do with the product’s sensitivity to light.

After completing the formulation process, it was time to create the perfect packaging. Obviously it was going to be a bottle… but we had to decide on coating or labeling. Powder coating was one idea but it was hard to get an exact colour match – we didn’t want people having to second-guess the difference in colour. We also couldn’t use a regular polish bottle with a  label because, to make sure the new formula wouldn’t cure, it would have had to of been in brown bottle – so what to do? We eventually decided on a white powder coated bottle with a window in the center – as pictured above – so clients can see the exact colour

The Salon Magazine

Nice to see a porthole bottle for nail polish, but I do have some misgivings about the Gelish brand mark. By dotting the “i” with a leaf shape, they’ve made it look a bit too much like a lowercase “f.” Word looks more like “Gelfsh” which in my head I’m pronouncing like “selfish.” (Oddly, there is a “Gel Fish” nail salon in Switzerland.)

See also: Uncapped Landfill Bottle #6 and Holding on by a Fingernail: 13 Nail Polish Package Design Patents

March 19, 2014

Two Types of Porthole Packaging

Left: Old Spice Gift Set #3291 from Old Spice Collectibles; right: opium tins from CINARC


1. Packaging designed to resemble a porthole in function or appearance:

A 1972 Good Housekeeping Magazine photo caption, “Porthole package: Old Spice set is 4% ounces of after shave and cologne. About $5. By Shulton.”

(Old Spice Gift Set #3291 — after shave and cologne “packaged in a ship’s porthole”)

2. Packaging designed to fit through a porthole:

From a 1943 Life Magazine article about smuggling drugs:

The porthole package

Chinese trying to smuggle drugs into San Francisco are responsible for the porthole package. This is a six-foot, burlap-wrapped cylinder loaded with salt, and with an inner, waterproof case that holds from 5 to 2.0 pounds of raw opium. The cylinder is shoved through a porthole when a ship docks. It sinks, but bobs up when the salt has melted — an interval that can be varied by changing the amount of salt .

“Narcotics” Life Magazine, 1943

Not that it was a new thing for packages of opium to be designed to fit through portholes. A 1929 congressional hearing for “Enforcement of the Narcotic Laws” (H.R.16874) also noted the same packaging concern:

“The opium was contained in 17 packages wrapped in burlap and well roped, the packages sufficiently slender to permit passage through a porthole…”

(The images in the entirety, after the fold…) (more…)

March 18, 2014

Porthole Bottles


Friday’s post about the “See Thru” Nibb-its bag with porthole windows reminded me that I’ve been noticing other packaging with round windows. Here are two bottles offering “porthole” views of their contents….

1. Perry Ellis men’s cologne bottle

Laura Handler, whose kinetic “flirt” bottle we looked at last week, also designed this one:

Specially treated metal over shells on both the front and the back have “dot” shaped cutouts that reveal the flush glass bottle inside.

Promoted as “dots” pertaining to Perry Ellis branding, these windows are clearly portholes as much as they they are dots.



2. “The Porthole” infuser

Martin Kastner’s design for an infusing vessel alludes to Jules Verne submarine portholes…

The idea for the Porthole was born during a conversation with bar chefs preparing for the opening of the Aviary. We were discussing “fast infusions” — cocktails evolving during the course of the time it takes to serve them — and it occurred to me that what we’re really looking for is a window into another world, space, and time. An image of the submarine porthole in Karel Zeman’s 1958 movie ‘The Fabulous World of Jules Verne’ came to my mind and the design direction was set.

Kickstarter campaign


(A “Porthole” video and a Perry Ellis print ad, after the fold…) (more…)

March 17, 2014

4 packaging-related artworks by Paul Erschen

Detail from “Recipes for Mold and Sun” Salvaged jar of chicken parts, Hydrocal casting 2011

Chicago-based artist, Paul Erschen’s diverse creative output, as filtered through our more narrow, package-related lens.

1. “Recipes for Mold and Sun” was a collaborative exhibition that Erschen and Rachel Ettling held in 2011. (See also: Propo Packaging)

“Untitled”, slavaged canned goods, Hydrocal castings of canned goods.

(3 more package-related artworks, after the fold…) (more…)

March 14, 2014

The Nibb-its “See Thru” Bag

Nibb-itsLineArtFrom a 1968 issue of Potato Chipper magazine:

NEW CHIPS IN PORTHOLES: Kelly Food Products, Inc., of Decatur, 111., has just launched these cheese and. bar-b-que flavor potato “kurls” described by the maker as the only snack of its kind. The fluffy light strips with a curl are made under license from the Nibb-It Corporation of America, Los Angeles, and are sold under the name “Nibb-its.” Kelly is selling the snack in midwestern supermarkets and grocery stores in 3/4%- ounce and 3%-ounce packs. The package design, patented by Nibb-It. showcases the treat in eleven clear porthole windows that dominate the package surface.

If this package was patented, it’s one that I haven’t been able to find. Okay. I just found it. Not a design patent, but a trademark — the Nibb-its “circles & squares” design.

CA312287“Nibb-it” apparently licensed their snack and its trademark bag design to a number companies. These images happen to be “Kitty Clover” brand but there’s also evidence of the same Nibb-its logo and the same basic “portholes” package design being used by Kelly Food Products, Cain’s, etc.

While I can’t say for certain, I’m wondering if this is the same Nibb-its snack food bag that Doris Gianninoto is credited with art directing for Bell Brands Foods in the 1966 issue of Journal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Frank Gianninoto was apparently married five times, and one of those five wives was the German-born Doris who worked along side of her husband in the sixties at Frank Gianninoto and Associates.


With its inadvertent sixties sexism, the 1967 article about her above, reads like an episode of Mad Men…

The vivacious brunette gets carried away when she talks about her work.

She is “mad about it” and goes at top speed on every job. More than 40 persons are employed by the designing company, but Doris and her husband oversee major accounts…

Doris is quick to say that “American women are the luckiest women in the world!”

Her reason, from a package designer’s viewpoint: “They have more products to choose from than women anywhere. They are courted by manufacturers and the consumer is queen.”

(Some 1960s Nibb-its advertising, after the fold…) (more…)

March 12, 2014

Asli Ozcivelek’s Kinetic Packaging for Golf Ball

As with the packaging of the previous two posts, Asli Ozcivelek also uses the term “kinetic” to describe her mechanized presentation package… for a golf ball.

To me, a package that unpacks itself in this way is almost like an “automaton” — in the non-electronic-moving-machine sense of the word. Its movement is also reminiscent of the Burgopak “slider pack.”

But for such an elaborate effort to be put into the unveiling of a lowly golf ball —well, that’s something that I can certainly relate to.

(See: Gumball Cube Pack)

March 11, 2014

Intriguing new concept: kinetic packaging

On left: Tony Spina’s 1958 photo, “Motown – Man and Industry”; on right: machine gun belts

In yesterday’s post about Laura Handler’s “flirt” bottle, we characterized it as a “kinetic package” because of the spinning movement of the cap’s ornamental ball.

It turns out, that the same phrase was coined in 1958 by a packaging engineer at General Motors to mean something quite different.

Most intriguing new concept to turn up in packaging in months is Ralph A. O’Reilly’s story on parts feeding from the package. As soon as we heard what O’Reilly was up to, we hustled an editor out to see him. The result is the story in this issue. It could well mark the start of a major change in thinking about packaging.

Kinetic Packaging: Parts Feeding From The Package

A pattern for the future has been set at GMC with the debut of ‘kinetic’ packaging: automatically loading small parts and components, at their last maneuvering machine, into ‘magazine’ containers that can feed them automatically into assembly machines.

… The principle of kinetic packaging is not new. The long, looped belts that feed ammunition to machine guns are excellent examples. So, too. are the sticks of staples that you put in your stapling gun. But kinetic packaging of small parts for assembly is new. It is so new that very few examples of it exist. These few, however, are revealing. They show a pattern for the future.

Ralph A. O’Reilly
Modern Materials Handling, 1958

(And another thing, after the fold…)

“Automation began replacing workers in the plants that remained… At the depth of the 1958 recession, when Detroit really began reeling, 20% of the city’s work force was unemployed.”

Michigan: Decline in Detroit
Time Magazine, 1961

March 10, 2014

Kinetic Packaging Design


When I first saw this glass bottle on Laura Handler’s website, I assumed that its surface had a quilted pattern. (similar to 1940s Ann Page bottles and jars.)

Speaking with her over the phone and checking out the patent drawings, I realize now that the reality is more subtle. One side of the bottle has vertical indentations; the other side: horizontal.

FlirtCapPatentThis is the bottle that contained the perfume known as “flirt” — a collaborative design by Handler and James Gager, who, at that time, was Senior VP and Creative Director, Prescriptives Worldwide.

Seeing static photos of the bottle I wondered about the cap. Was it an atomizer?

Loop2No. Handler explained to me that the ball circumnavigates the top of the cap in a tightly prescribed circular path. More of a kinetic caprice than a functional feature.

A friend of Box Vox, she kindly arranged for me to borrow a bottle and see for myself.

Please do not be misled by my animated gif. The “flirt” bottle ball does not move under its own power. My hard-bitten fingernails are just not fit to be seen handling such an elegant bottle. (So I’ve edited out the part where my finger snicks the ball into motion.)

Separate design patents were obtained for the bottle and its kinetic cap, as well as for a matching “purse spray.”

See also: Interesting Found Objects