Box Vox

packaging as content

October 8, 2014

The Bart Simson / Butterfinger anthro-packet


Speaking of anthropomorphic flow wrap packets, there was one of these “anthro-packets” that Nestle put out just last year, based on Matt Groening’s “Bart Simpson” character.

The Butterfinger anthro-packet was one of three “limited edition” packages that were part of Butterfinger’s 2013 “Who Laid a finger on Bart’s BUTTERFINGER?”* promotional contest.

The figural Bart/Butterfinger packaging relies on the resemblance of Bart’s spiky hair to the serrated, zig-zag cut edge of the familiar (flow wrap) candy bar wrapper.

There was also billboard (shown below) highlighting the same similarity.

Butterfinger-BartSimpsonBillboard Photo from Daily Billboard

It isn’t the first time that this resemblance has been cited.

An earlier Butterfinger commercial, entitled “Two of a Kind” (from 2000) makes pretty much the same comparison between Bart’s spikey hairstyle and the “easy opening” serrated edge a flow wrapped Butterfinger bar.

(a video of the earlier commercial, after the fold…) (more…)

October 7, 2014

Fruttolino vs. Frudoza (2 anthro-packets)

Frudoza & Fruttolino Anthropomorphic Packets

Two anthropomorphic flow-wrap packets: different product categories—same basic idea. Frudoza ice cream and Fruttolino fruit bars, each with character illustrations that transform this familiar packaging into something figural.

(More about each of these two package designs, after the fold…) (more…)

October 3, 2014

Name Sugar (名糖) Brand

NameSugarmeito-NameSugar-MilkToday we feature another Shōwa Modan bottle —this one for Name Sugar Yogurt— featuring children’s faces with hats. (Similar to Chichiyasu’s Chi Bow character (のチー坊) and the Hosho “Warranty” milk baby)

(Photos above, below-left & below-right are from; images on right are from “Yogurt Showa”)


The “Name Sugar” brand was first established in 1953 by Japan’s Socialist Party. (Cooperative Dairy Co., Ltd.)

There was an earlier “socialist” cooperative dairy movement in the U.S. (See: Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative)

meito-10-yogNice that the “Name Sugar” brand name includes the word “name” —  like “Billy Name” or brand-as-a-brand-name.

The bottle has red illustrations of a boy with a hat on one side and a girl with a hat on the other side. Both sides have blue type spelling out: “名糖ヨーグルト” which translates to “Name Sugar Yogurt.”

NameSugarCowMarkCan’t say who did the face illustrations, but the “NS” diamond logo was replaced in 1964 with the “cow” trademark designed by Ikko Tanaka.


In the photo on the right (from: ☆牛乳グラス☆コレクション☆) you can just make out that logo through the boy’s face., which means that this yogurt bottle must be from 1964 or later.

Photo below via: Ameba



update: turns out that I have the brand name all wrong. Although Google consistently translates the product’s brand name into English as “Name sugar,” I was wrong to trust it. (See Howard’s comment below.)

September 30, 2014

Art in Pop: the Black Acoustical Tile

Randy Ludacer's "Black Acoustical Tile"
Black Acoustical Tile, a 1976–1977 artwork by Randy Ludacer, recreated for Art in Pop (original version on right)

I thought the original version might still exist. I rifled through the boxes that I euphemistically call my “basement archives” — but to no avail. No matter. I’d been invited to recreate it, if necessary.

I did find some black & white negatives and a contact sheet showing the original version installed on a wall.

I also found a typewritten page with the heading “The Black Acoustical Tile” — a document that I now find a little bit embarrassing. An excerpt:

“… My justification for painting an acoustical tile is that it’s an architectural detail, subject to interior painting.  Justifying the selection of a color is as much of a problem as the decision to use paint at all.  What basis does a painter have for choosing one color over another? Can an artist “play favorites” or must color be an all or nothing proposition? In the “Black Acoustical Tile” I justify the color by means of an analogy. The color “black” is known to absorb light. What more suitable color to paint an acoustical tile, designed to absorb sound?”

In those days, typewritten pages were often exhibited, alone or alongside objects as part of the (conceptual) art. But not it this case. The tile was just hung on the wall without any annotation.

Which is good, because, looking at it now (37 years later) that typewritten page only tells part of the story.  Yes, I was a callow art student, espousing the use of functional objects as a way of making — or avoiding having to make — “artistic” choices. Not my idea, just a trend I was all too happy to follow. But there was also something about acoustical tiles that I just liked.

“Unremarkable objects like sound meters and acoustical tiles have as much to say about the ways that people understood their world as do the paintings of Pablo Picasso…”

–Emily Thompson, “The Soundscape of Modernity


illustration from Emily Thompson’s book, “The Soundscape of Modernity

1941 Acousti-Cellotex ad — for sale on eBay; starting bid: $2.97 (shipping: $9.95)

(More about the Black Acoustical Tile, after the fold…) (more…)

September 29, 2014

Art in Pop: Footnotes as Headliners

Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood’s “Anarchy Shirt” will be on exhibit at Art in Pop

“… an extraordinary package of compressed content

See: Hiroshi Fujiwara loaning Anarchy Shirt originally owned by Jon Savage for Malcolm McLaren room at Art In Pop

(See also: Package-Shaped Compressed T-Shirts)

3 members of “The Foot Notes” playing guitars: John Miller, Randy Ludacer & JD King (1976 – 1977?)

Continuing with my explanation of how I came to be included in the upcoming Art in Pop show at France’s National Centre Of Contemporary Art space Magasin in Grenoble…

The show is curated by Yves Aupetitallot along with John Armeleder, Young Kim & Paul Gorman and John Miller.

It’s because of John Miller that I have a piece in this exhibit…

“John Miller, who was born in 1954 in Cleveland, and lives and works in New York and Berlin. His protean oeuvre (photographs, paintings, sculptures, videos), enlightened by his prolific production of critical texts, has ever questioned the values of our societies, both in the global societal sphere and in the more specific realms of media and art.

His exhibition room will present an ensemble of documents retracing his musical career… Since studying at the Rhode Island Art School, he has been the member and occasionally the founder of diverse groups…”

The first of these musical groups was “The Foot Notes,” a loose confederation of members with divergent musical agendas.

A one-hit-wonder? Not even close. The Foot Notes never recorded or released any music, whatsoever.

Its members1 included: the rock critic, Michael Bloom2 and art students, David BowesJD King, me, John MillerMargie Politzer and Seth Weinhardt.

l to r: Bowes, (Bill Komoski & Sy Ross—cool, but not Foot Notes), Miller, me, Bloom (back to the camera) & JD King

The artwork I was invited to exhibit for Art in Pop, was one that Miller had remembered — a student work: Black Acoustical Tile.  If it no longer existed, I was invited to recreate it.

Cracks me up that I (a failed artist/musician) have somehow wound up included among luminaries who have had actual careers.  Still, it’s heady stuff to be remembered. Even as a footnote.

Next post: The Black Acoustical Tile

(Some footnotes about The Foot Notes, after the fold…) (more…)

September 26, 2014

Art in Pop

Aura Rosenberg, Quiet Rock, 2013, Courtesy Aura Rosenberg and Martos Gallery

Is package design art? Don Draper would say no, but perhaps the question is moot.

The boundaries between fine art and what they used to call “the applied arts” have become porous. Fine artists are hired to create limited-edition “designer packages” and, on certain rare occasions, a package designer is invited to show work in a gallery or museum.

How else to explain my inclusion in the upcoming “Art in Pop” exhibit?


Of course, it wasn’t really my package design artistry that led to any of this. (Although, packaging did play a role in my participation in the 2012 show, As Real as It Gets)

No, the invitation, in this case, had as much to do with my (failed) music career as with my (non-existent) fine arts career:

…the “Art in Pop” exhibition, which opens October 10th, is born of a few simple, commonly shared observations.

Indeed, while it is true that up until the 1960s numerous musicians and singers practiced art as a leisure activity, as something akin to their “secret garden of creativity”, it is equally true that beginning during this same decade numerous pop musicians benefited from art school training, this being especially the case in England. Music and the fine arts became intermingled under the combined influence of the breaking down of the borders between high and low culture and the shifting of the production, identity and style codes of the former (the “high culture” of art and the scholarly disciplines) to the second (the “low culture” of television, comics and industrial cultural production in general).

Pop music would become a two-fold scene straddling art and music in which the musician was also an artist and vice versa, and from which would notably emerge figures producing not only structures but also meanings and aesthetics.

Art in Pop (exhibition)
From October 11th, 2014 to January 4th, 2015
MAGASIN, Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble

Aura Rosenberg, for example, whose “Quiet Rock” (the quartet of album covers by Chuck Berry, The Animals, Joy Division and Neil Young, shown above) is one of the artworks included in the show, has exhibited fine art all over the world, but has also played in a series of musical combos. (On keyboards with “The Cornichons” at The Kitchen just this past November)

Still, reasonable people might wonder: who-the-hell is Randy Ludacer and what’s his name doing alongside of Malcolm McLaren, Jerry Garcia & Captain Beefheart?

Next week: I’ll try and explain.

September 23, 2014

のチー坊: Chichiyasu’s recto-verso baby-faced logo


のチー坊: I’d read that Chichiyasu’s recto-verso baby-faced trademark was designed in 2007 by Yumi Yazawa and Koichi Sugiyama of Doppo, Inc.

Delving deeper into it, however, I’ve come to realize that their work on this mascot boy character for the Chichiyasu brand was more of a subtle redesign. The character, のチー坊 (whose name seems to translate into various English versions—Chi Bow, Qi Bow, Qi Fang, etc…) was actually created in 1953 and looked then very much as he does now.

Doppo may have made the lines of the hair a bit heavier and created the alternate trademark showing the back of Qi Bow’s head, but their most important contribution may have been in recognizing the quality of the original 1953 trademark, which had been replaced several times over the decades.


Doppo’s design for the lunch box Tetra Brik package is direct and appealing in a way that far exceeds the usual (and sometimes insipid) kawaii aesthetic.


Hosho-WarrantyMilkThe back of the package shows a clever use for their back-of-the-head verso symbol, using the objectness of the package to imply a three-dimensional existence for the two-dimensional character. (See also: Eye contact with packaging)

And yet Chichiyasu was not the only milk company to employ a mascot of this type.

There are numerous similar examples from Japanese dairy packaging of the 1950s and 60s, including a very similar looking baby character for Hosho “Warranty” brand milk.

According to the “drifting dairy industry” website, the bottle on the right is from “the early 1950s.”

Depending on which of those years it was manufactured, this bottle might constitute an earlier precedent for a milk logo of a round-faced child with unruly bangs beneath a peaked cap.

See also:  Shōwa Modan Packaging

September 19, 2014

Shōwa Modan Packaging: milk jar on cans & cartons


What are we to make of a Japanese milk jar on beverage packs?

It’s oddly self-referential when, rather than an image depicting the package contents or ingredients, the main product image on a package, is the package, itself. Even stranger, perhaps, is when the picture featured on a package is a different kind of package.

1962SnowBrandPineappleMilkWe’ve mostly seen this type of cross-referential packaging when a product that was traditionally sold in a bottle, comes out with the same beverage, now packaged in a can. (See: Vimto and any number of Coca-Cola bottle-on-can designs.) The idea is to use the familiar package as a product trademark on the new, unfamiliar package.

Other times, the packaging depicted is an earlier, traditional type of packaging, meant to evoke the wholesome purity of simpler times. (See: Mason Jar Stand-Up Pouches and Ersatz Plastic Barrels)

The Japanese beverage packs above, are of the latter type… vintage, Shōwa Modan packaging. Contemporary packages alluding to an earlier type of refillable dairy packaging—milk bottles and yogurt jars, fitted with a paper caps and colored, Cellophane hoods.

The 1962 poster on right (from: shows a woman holding a bottle of pineapple flavored milk in this type of packaging.

(More about each of the 3 cross-referential beverage packs, after the fold…) (more…)

September 16, 2014

Naoto Fukasawa JUICEPEEL Packaging (revisited)


If you’re like me, then you’ve probably already seen these 2004 images of the Naoto Fukasawa JUICEPEEL packaging (above) when they were appearing on various blogs in 2009.

Also known as “Juice Skin,” what I remembered reading about the project at that time, was that the packages were not only colored, but also textured to resemble specific fruits.

That’s true enough, but there’s a bit more to tell, and since we’ve been looking at Tetra Pak juice boxes lately, maybe now’s a good time for a second look.

Soymilk, banana and strawberry “juicepeel” packs from: Nina Pope’s Flickr Photostream

Some of the things that I hadn’t fully understood (or remembered correctly) about this project:

1. The packages were originally created for the Haptic exhibition, a design show sponsored for the 2004 Takeo Paper Show:

Developed for the Haptic exhibition held in Tokyo in 2004, Juice Skin consists of juice boxes that appear to be wrapped in the actual skins of the fruit whose juice they contain. When first seen, the effect of the juice boxes is immediate: audiences quickly comprehend both the contents of the objects as well as the pun Fukasawa is making, since the use of actual fruit skin would be unworkable for this application. Borrowing the precise Japanese craft of simulation developed to make fake plastic food for restaurant displays, Fukasawa creates vividly realistic surfaces that conform to the improbable geometry of disposable beverage container.

Valentina Rognoli, Materials Experience: fundamentals of materials and design

The “improbable geometry” of juice-box shaped fruits is a big part of what makes these packages so intriguing. We’re surprised by “substantially square” products that are not ordinarily rectangular. (e.g.: eggs, cigarettes, toilet paper, etc.)

2. As highlighted above, the fact that these were all simulated plastic “sampuru” was a revelation to me. The same medium is also used to manufacture plastic “play food.”

Fukasawa’s packaging for the Haptic show (photo: from HouShiDai)

3. There were more fruits involved than the frequently photographed, banana juice, strawberry and kiwi fruit juice boxes.  Fukasawa had also created containers for soy milk, green apple and peach juice, as shown on the (apparently rotating) display above.

Another installation of Fukasawa’s “Haptic” juice packaging (photo from lansdscapeiszane)

Photo of Fukasawa’s Pantone-style “JuicePeel” swatches from lansdscapeiszane

4. Fukasawa had also exhibited Pantone-style swatches (above) showing the colors and textures of each of the six proposed “Juicepeel” packaging surfaces.


5. Fukasawa had used a number of different Tetra Pak containers to contain his six proposed flavors, including Tetra Prisma packaging for the banana beverage (shown above), the familiar gable top cartons for peach juice and Tetra Brik juice boxes for the other 4 flavors.

When thinking of objects where there’s a marked contact with paper, what leapt to mind was a paper drink pack. That slight weightiness, the chill and the beads of water on the surface, and the sense of holding a liquid form a set, together with the flavour of the drink. The skin of a fruit is also part of a set, with the juice, the flavour contained within that skin, and the feel of it. I believed that a design that imparted the idea that the taste could be received tactilely would fit in with the exhibition’s theme. Amongst the typical shapes of tetra paks was an octagonal one, and since the configuration of the obtuse faces overlapped with the image of the obtuse surface of a banana, I designed a receptacle for banana-flavoured milk. Things developed from there, and I also designed paks for soymilk, kiwifruit juice, peach juice and strawberry juice. The soymilk pak’s surface was given a texture like that of firm tofu. With the kiwifruit and peach-juice paks, fuzz like that found on the skin of each fruit was applied. The strawberry juice pak had small seeds embedded in its surface. They all turned out rather strange-looking, but a lot of interesting discoveries were made along the way. We understood that the feel of things we touch unconsciously on a daily basis is committed to memory along with that thing’s taste and smell; by awakening in an over-the-top way those senses of which we’re unaware, it was possible to create a mischievous design. With these paks, which are a bit off-putting to look at, if the juice inside tastes good, then they’ll be designs that you won’t be able to forget, that you won’t be able to let go. Looking only at the shape of a fruit, you can’t always say that that fruit looks good. Sometimes it can look off-putting too.

Naoto Fukasawa, Phaidon, 2007

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

September 11, 2014

Juice Box Flap: 9 blogs reveal hidden handles

Juice Box Flaps as Handles
Ad hoc “wing” handles built-in to Tetra-Brik juice boxes (from: Baby Zone)

As long as we were just talking about how Tetra Brik side flaps are sometimes compared to ears or wings, consider this latent function for Tetra Brik side flaps: hidden handles.

Parents of toddlers have long noted a problem with this type of juice box. In the hands of young children the container is often squeezed too hard and the contents squirt out the straw like a geyser.

One solution that is practically an internet meme, is the idea of using the container’s side flaps as integral handles.

1. As Baby Zone (whose butterfly-wings/juice-box photo is shown above) puts it…

“This popular internet hack stops your kids from squirting juice everywhere by teaching them to lift their juice boxes with the side flaps!”

This same tip has been repeated on many websites, further highlighting both a drawback to the Tetra Brik juice box’s design, and a secret, built-in solution to the problem.

(See 8 more examples, after the fold…) (more…)

September 9, 2014

Tetra Brik Zoomorphic Packaging (bird & bovine)


Zoomorphic packaging: I’ve blogged a lot about anthropomorphic packages, designed to look like people. I figured that there must be a different word for packages designed to resemble animals, but I never got around to looking it up. Until now.

Turns out there are a couple of words that I could have been using to describe an animal-shaped package: “zoomorphic” is one; “theriomorphic” is another.

So today we are featuring 3 zoomorphic Tetra Brik boxes. In each of the animal-shaped packs above, the effect is achieved by unsealing the small triangular flaps of a Tetra Brik package so that they are are no longer in their default “down” position.

In two out of three of examples that we found, these upraised flaps are used to represent “ears” which is interesting since those flaps are actually called “ears” elsewhere…

In the case of Tetra Brik®, the side-seam is also covered with a strip of PE film to prevent the product from contacting the raw edge of the overlapping seam. This style results in ears formed when the horizontal heat seals are made. They are folded flat against the pack and lightly sealed.

Mark J. Kirwan
Handbook of Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, 2012

(Details about each of the package designs above, after the fold…) (more…)

September 4, 2014

10 Patented Box Corners

10  Patented Box Corners

corrugated-cornerAlso related to yesterday’s post (about Tom Friedman’s untitled “box corners” sculpture) are the folded cardboard “corner pads” used to protect the corners of boxes or furniture during shipment. (The “corrugated corner pad” on right is from Omnipak’s website)

Above are 10 different patented designs for cardboard corner pads, dating from 1942 to 1994.

Some box corners are tetrahedral, formed by making right-triangular folds. Other box corners are shaped like half of a hollow cube, formed by rectangular right angle folds. (See also: Naef Toys)

There are other patented box corners that are not include here. I thought 10 was just a nice round number for right angle box corners.  (“Top 10 Box Corners”)  But I could just as easily have gone with 9.  (“Nine 90° Box Corners”)

PentagrammicPrismAs long as we’re looking at ten different corner pads, I wondered what kind of box might require all ten. In other words: what polyhedron has 10 right-angle corners?

The one that I came up with, is this pentagrammic prism, based on a star with 90° angle points. Kinda looks like something from Powerpuff Girls, but each of the ten (convex) corners have the same 90° angles as a regular, rectangular box.  We’re not concerned with the concave angles in this thought experiment, because those concave corners are less vulnerable and shouldn’t require protection.

Are there any other 10 corner boxes that would work here? Anyone?

(Die lines diagrams of each of the 10 box corners follow, after the fold…) (more…)