Box Vox

packaging as content

September 26, 2014

Art in Pop

Aura-Rosenberg-QuietRock
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?

ArtInPop

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

Chichiyasu-mascot-trademark

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.

Chichiyasu-TetraBrik-pack-494

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.

Chichiyasu-TetraBrik-front-back-494

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 citymilk.net “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

Milk-Jar-on-Beverage-Packs

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: citymilk.net) 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)

naoto-fukasawa-banana-strawberry

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.

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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.”

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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.

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

JuicePeelSwatches
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.

haptic-TetraPrismaPatent

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)

3ZoomorphicTetraBriks

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…)

September 3, 2014

Box Corners

"Untitled" 1996 box corners sculpture

TomFriedmanUntitled1996Really like this 1996 untitled “box corners” sculpture by Tom Friedman: “A construction made from the corners of cardboard boxes that contained products the artist used over the course of one year.”

I like the methodical accumulation of packaging, reassembled into an artwork.  See also: One Year (in the life of George Maciunas) and, for that matter, my own Songs about Packaging CD artwork.

And I like the amorphous, concave polyhedron of brand packaging.

Its structure is related to crystal twinning and compounds of cubes. Each tetrahedral “corner” of the sculpture is a recognizable fragment of a rectangular box. While the cut-out cardboard box corners are not as symmetrically arranged as in the compound polyhedrons and the twin crystal shown below, an intersection of boxes is implied, none-the-less.

TripletPyrite-twinCubes
left: pyrite twin (triplet) crystal; right: Intersection of Two Cubes

CompoundCubes2-5
Compound polyhedrons with 2, 3, 4 and 5 cubes

CompoundCubes6-7-10
Compound polyhedrons with 6, 7 and 10 cubes (from: Wolfram Mathworld)

See also: George Hart’s website

(2 more ways of reusing cut off box corners, after the fold…) (more…)

August 31, 2014

Packaging and Pop Art Buggies

PopArtBuggy-FrostedFlakes-Blue
One of the Pop Art Buggies series: “Tony the Tiger” (sold on eBay for $5.99)

 

PopArtBuggies-1stPhotoIt was the little picture on the right that first drew my attention to what I eventually learned were called “Pop Art Buggies.” A series of toy cars, launched by Buddy L in 1971, that were designed to resemble product packaging.

For kids, seeing familiar food packages transformed into dune-buggy/go-cart toy cars probably made perfect sense, coming, as it did, a few years after the launch of Topp’s wildly popular “Wacky Packages” stickers.

Pop Art Buggies follow a similar cultural logic, although, here, there’s no product satire. More like: licensed product placement, revealing a previously hidden potential for fun. New ways of playing with your food (packaging.)

Probably the first time that the trademark name of a $1 kids toy car was ever based on a contemporary art movement. (Barring any “Op Art” brand of toy cars that I’ve yet to discover.)

PopArtBuggiesAd2

PopArtBuggies-Heinz-Kelloggs-Bazooka
Three of the Pop-Art Buggies series (for sale on eBay for $65)

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Pop Art Buggy, “Soda Pop Stop” (sold on eBay for $14.99)

How many different models of “Pop Art Buggies” were made? Well I don’t have any Buddy L product catalogs to refer to, but my research on eBay and in old newspapers seems to show that there were only six models ever made.

“Wild, whacky and positively irresistible! Tony the Tiger, Soda Pop Stop, Heinz Ketchup, Bazooka Gum, Skippy Peanut Butter and Lightn’n Bug. Six kooky carts with rugged steel bodies. “Non-Mar” oversize racing slicks. Brite plate chrome and wheel discs.”

PopArtBuggiesAnimated
The full set of Pop Art Buggies (via: Worthpoint)

The GE light-bulb shaped “Lightn’n Bug” is the outlier of the group—a product, not a package.

While the “real” products here are the toy cars, the real question is: how were these package-shaped toy cars packaged?

(Asked and answered, after the fold…) (more…)

August 19, 2014

3 Patented Multi-Packs with Trapezoidal Portions

3PatentedMultiPacks

Following the thread (or the chain of polyhedrons) of our last post, today we have patents for three, very similar, multiple packages or multi-packs with trapezoidal portions.

Their structural similarity, however, goes beyond the separable trapezoidal containers. Each is also designed to be rolled up into a polyhedral prism.

While these designs make ingenious use of space by “close-packing” their individual compartments, they also turn the backing(s) into an exterior package, which has the effect of concealing the product.

I wonder: is this concealment a feature or an unintended consequence?

(Details about each of them follow, after the fold…) (more…)