Oct 31

Yes, it’s not good to smoke. I still indulge myself now and then in a good pipe and a single malt and what’s wrong with that…
But things are as they are and we have to comply with the rules.

As this site is about communication and not about giving moral advice, I dare to bring back to life some designs that were part of our graphical design environment… cigarette designs!

The other day, I fell on quite a unique book (special edition), printed some 13 years ago, sponsored by different industries and written by the excellent Christian Rommel and Hans-Georg Böcher from the German Verpackungs-Museum in Heidelberg. It’s called “Little Treasures” and retraces the era of cigarette pack design.

I doubt there is any category where the creativity was so great and that, essentially, thanks to the ‘big boys’ such as Philip Morris or Reynolds Tobacco who spent money on design.

I repeat, it’s not good to smoke, but as money was available for design during that period, the result was often stunning. Imagine all the Camel packs. Have you ever seen such interesting camels? Or imagine the Marlboro cowboy… the real Wild West ‘macho’! Lucky Strike also struck our minds and hearts with their nice girls!

Now and then the graphical quality reached heights of divine beauty… just admire the Chinese pack designs!

The selection of illustrations from the abovementioned book (copyright Rommel/Böcher) has been generously made available by the authors.

I repeat once more, smoking is not good for you, but the ‘golden’ area of cigarette smoking gave us some outstanding designs that will never be forgotten!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

When it’s ICONIC

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… you may still make it contemporary. I’ve chosen an Italian and a Japanese label in order to explain what I mean.

Some designs have, with time, become so unique that they have become icons and that they are, in principle, untouchable. You know the expression “don’t change a winning team” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

There are quite a few iconic designs like the Coca-Cola logotype, the French Herta Knacki, the red or blue gingham/vichy pattern on the Bonne Maman packs or the Swedish Kalles Kaviar tube that do not need any improvement.

However, and that is why I wish many CEO’s or brand managers would read this article, even an iconic design can be tampered with in order to stay in tune with today’s consumers. S.Pellegrino does this exceptionally well, as can be seen on a few chosen examples and so does the Kirin Ichiban beer where some typical Japanese Spring flowers have been added.

I am not speaking of promotional ideas only, but also of special editions for celebrations such as Christmas, the Chinese New Year or even the Japanese Spring. Today, famous brands such as Coca-Cola are almost expected to offer the consumers something new to look at, while maintaining, of course, the brand’s graphical identity!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

Fill it up!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The computer is no doubt a wonderful tool that speeds up the designing of an ad, a pack or a POS display. It has just one big disadvantage: the person who sits behind a screen is often far away from reality. Today, about 80% of outdoor ads are too badly designed to be read and understood from a distance! The same applies to many packages. Why is this? Because we do not use the full space given to us and we seldom check if a pack, an ad, POS, etc. communicates in reality!

The illustrations I have chosen make it very clear. Out of these three ads, only McDonald’s masters layout, text and product communication. You find these three ads in a crossing where drivers and pedestrians have more important things to do than reading ads. However, I can guarantee that the McDonald’s ad will be noticed (although busy for a McDonald’s ad this time).

So advertising should use the full space. Coca-Cola shows the same approach on their TVC’s and so do Snickers, Mars, Boddingtons, etc. in pack design!

LW/October 2016

Jul 28

YES, it’s possible

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

We all know that one of several reasons why consumers often have an aversion to packages is that so many of them are difficult to open, or reclose.

That’s a pity, as many packages are in fact very good from a practical (handling), as well as from an aesthetical and informative point of view.

Why is it so? Well, we forget very quickly something that works, while something that does not work is negative and stays longer in our brain.

When teaching as I do, with actual examples, I always carry with me the French cheese cubes Apéricubes to prove to my audience that if you really want an opening device to function EVERY TIME, it’s possible! I don’t know how many millions or billions cubes are wrapped each day, but I’m sure they ALL function!

I believe that if top management decides that their products/packs should be easy to open, it’s possible!

The reason why it is still so bad (and yes, it is!), especially with some lids, bottle caps, sliced cheese or ham sachets, etc. is that the responsibility in the company falls between two chairs: marketing (who does not have easy opening high on their priority list) and production (who wants it to be as less costly as possible).

With this article, I just hope some companies will wake up and give what the consumers want… easy openings!

LW/July 2016

Jul 27

As I go through airports and their various shops and as I discuss design with different designers, one thing strikes me more than anything else: the pack designs could be so much more efficient if the designer were more attentive to the fact that the main role of pack design is to sell a product and not a design!

In our profession dealing with art and the aesthetical side of communication, we are often tempted to put more importance on the design as such, forgetting that we are in the business of SELLING A PRODUCT. Our main task is to try to convince a consumer to buy a given product and not necessarily through high aesthetics. This means that the USP, the RTB or maximal appetite appeal must explain why this product deserves to be bought more than another.

The best way to do that is to show the product and it is here things often go wrong! I’m convinced that, if the Portuguese chocolate bar recently bought in Porto would also show chocolate (and had better expressed that it is dark), sales would increase.

I also believe that if the two Albert Ménès packs had shown small illustrations as Duc d’O, they would sell more.

This being said, there are products packed in what I would call ‘category design’ like for instance sardines where I would make an exception, as the illustration would most likely have no influence on purchase. The same can be said about certain sweets, when the type of pack (here a tin) will not allow for a high resolution illustration.

If the “Bonne Maman” tin is, in my opinion, both good communication and good art, I believe that the bag-in-box wine SMART DOG would have gained having somewhere a reference to wine.

The point I’m trying to make is: don’t sell design, sell a product, or why not both, as Italian pack designs very often do!

LW/July 2016

Jul 26


Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

When I write these lines, the EUROFOOT has started and the shops are full of promotional packs from Heineken beer to Panini stickers.

I like promotions, especially if the promotional pack is different to the standard one or when an offer looks like a bargain which is obviously the case with “lot de 2 pots”… so far so good.

However, when analysing these promotional packs, one quickly realises what is  happening today in many FMCG companies. Instead of cleaning out the packs from unnecessary information in order to make space for the promotion, the brand manager just adds the promotional copy or illustration somewhere in such a way that the design looks like a dog’s dinner!

A great opportunity has been missed and that is very clear on both the “Knacki Football” and the “Apéricube, les saveurs des supporters”.

I imagine what a great design it could have been if, on the Knacki, the footballs had been highlighted by putting the structured balls in the foreground!

Same comments for the Apéricubes where the cubes do have good questions (though no flags), but nothing highlighted to catch the shopper’s eyes.

As I love to analyse and see how ‘bad’ design can be turned into something more exciting, I did an exercise with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk €1 pack with the great idea of using the “&” sign to highlight the two flavours “fruit & nut”. As it is about taste and chocolate, why not amplify the “&” sign which

–          makes the pack look bigger
–          has more chocolate taste
–          has more fruit & nut

still maintaining a strong Dairy Milk identity!

This is just an exercise to explain how to go from bad to good… a professional designer could certainly take it to excellent. But for this exercise, one can of course not stick to hampering guidelines!

LW/July 2016

Apr 20

When 1 + 1 = 3!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

I would believe that, in today’s supermarkets, at least 30% of all products, packed or unpacked, are sold with some sort of promotion, mainly relating to price. Many books have been written about the efficiency of promotional activities. I will therefore not discuss the subject in depth. I will just quote, as an introduction, whoever said once “If you offer more than what is expected, the consumer will always come back”. It’s about a certain generosity, a word I do not often hear when I work with FMCG companies!

There are mainly 2 types of promotions involving packages:

1. On-pack promotions as a price offer or something free;
2. Combining two products that enhance each other, i.e.
–   too different packs;
–   a pack and a fresh unpacked product (mayonnaise and asparagus)
–   a packed product plus, for instance, a tool or any other gift;
–   a pack that turns into something else and can be saved, like a tin, etc.

There are numerous possibilities, all you need is a little bit of creativity!

Here is what you specially have to think about when developing a promotion involving a pack:

– Don’t forget the positioning of your brand. A promotion is a great opportunity to reinforce the positioning;
– Keep your message simple and make it engaging;
– Create an integrated campaign. On-pack promotions are mostly accompanied by off-pack campaigns to have a real impact;
– Build an in-store display that highlights your offer and don’t forget, products are here more important than brands;
– Remember who is buying… and who is consuming… not always the same person!
– Be brave! If you don’t surprise, you do nothing! Soft promotions don’t exist!
– Make it a memorable experience. Promotions are about brand building!
– Don’t waste a lot of text, so make it
brutally simple
amazingly intriguing
immediately impactful

LW/March 2016

Feb 09


Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

It’s the brand/product idea that decides the layout, not the guideline!

When designing a pack, most marketing people follow what they think is the most logical layout, i.e. NEW in the upper right corner, corporate brand upper left, product brand on top with product denomination below, etc. (see ill.).

Why is this? Most likely because many design manuals say so! That is why I always suggest that a design manual should not give fixed layouts, but only key visual properties!

This means that a design manual will have about 4 pages at most which include directions to follow rather than fixed elements to respect. I therefore promote verbs such as maximize, optimize, emphasize, simplify or prioritize. These words help to constantly improve an identity which is the main function of a manual in today’s ever-changing world.

When you design a pack, an advertisement, POS material, etc. it’s the brand/product idea that dictates the layout. As an example, if the pack is round and the product idea is a clock, it is most logical to work from the center outwards, placing the logo in the middle. Thus the brand becomes the focal point! Strong branding does not always mean a big logotype! (ill.).

Should your main message be the knitting of small hats as “innocent” has done for some years, this information must obviously come on top, thus relegating the brand to the lower part (ill.).

For a special Christmas edition of biscuits, Migros’ Créa d’Or shows the biscuits hanging like in the Christmas tree which gives an interesting layout. Imagine if there were a manual stipulating what is said in the beginning of this article.

What did we learn?

a)     manuals must be short and avoid giving fixed layouts;

b)     it is the product/brand idea that dictates the layout.

LW/January 2016

Jan 08

Once only, please, but BIG!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

When designing packages, or even advertising and POS material, there is one golden rule often ignored by designers: have the main message, i.e. mostly the brand, rather once BIG than several times small! Indeed, most great designs have as few design elements as possible.

I thought of this unwritten rule when I found the can of sardines shown below. It struck me not only because it highlights the words “sans arêtes”, but also that it has basically no brand, just a visual identity! Interesting! Now comes the question: does a pack need a brand? Well, in fact not, according to legislation. Furthermore, does a pack need to mention the net weight? Yes, but not necessarily on the front.

Another example in line with the above and basically little branding is the Citterio “taglio fresco” (fresh cut) which is obviously a better sales argument than a logotype. The English call such expressions ‘loaded words’. These two packages (sans arêtes/taglio fresco) are excellent examples of ‘once BIG rather than several times small’.

My advice to package designers: go study the legislation and discover how lucky we are in Europe! We can do great pack designs, as we don’t have to put lots of information on the front – they can be on the back or on the side panels.

The Lipton tea pack seems to have been designed following guidelines to the letter. Why repeat “Green Tea” three times? I believe that the more guidelines we have which stipulate that certain texts be in a certain position, the less we use our common sense.

Lw/December 2015

Sep 28

Use all the space and overlap!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

No doubt we see today a lot of great designs in advertising, point-of-sale or packaging, designs that are simple, interesting and communicate well as for instance McDonald.

However, I also see more and more average, even mediocre designs that do not do the job for which they stand for, i.e. selling a product.

I have found that there are mainly 5 areas where the designer (or whoever puts text and picture on a screen, paper or a wall) fails. Here they are, most likely in order of weakness:


Designers don’t use the space given to them in an appropriate way in order to highlight/increase/amplify the message which should be the most important to trigger sales. I see too many outdoor ads where you literally have to look for the brand, i.e. the advertiser, or they are too crowded with information. Always keep in mind that outdoor advertising is mainly for branding, as the purchasing situation is seldom immediate.

As each media has its role to play, I find that the product illustration/information in packaging and point-of-sale could still be largely increased, as you are here very close to the purchasing act and it is the product (and not the brand) that will be bought.


… which is in one way related to the first point: I believe that instead of ‘filling a surface’, one could let the various elements overlap a great deal more. Besides, this would give an added 3D communication and reduce the number of elements, as you ‘group’ by overlapping. When you overlap or ‘bleed over’, you also increase optically the elements in question, be it a logotype or an illustration, as the viewer will automatically fill in the missing part.


… still too much text, unless it is an advertisement in a weekly press when the viewer takes the time to read it, but of course only if an interesting headline invites to do this!


The ad/pack, etc. is often created in an office in front of a screen, not considering how and where it will be used. For an outdoor ad, a brand must be seen from a distance of 30-50 meters, while on packaging, it is the product or USP that must stand out.


Creativity is quite low, mainly due to the lack of art which would make an ad, a pack or a website unique. Most print communication consists of a typographic logotype + a photo of the product + too long text lines. Instead, it could be an artistically hand drawn logotype, possibly incorporating the icon, an illustration that could be a mixture of a photo and a drawing, plus a text with a serif typography rather than a non-serif font.

X  X  X

These are just 5 things to think about when creating good communication!

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