Aug 25

Yes, it’s possible!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… but only with a clear briefing, conceptual thinking, stepwise designing, an open-minded client and last, but not least, the right hierarchy of information… It took only 3 months from briefing to printing!

No guidelines to follow, no corporate branding (which, by the way, I find wrong), no rigid hierarchy to obtain decisions during the progress of the study.

Why do I say this? Because I find the result just great! A front panel concentrating on a creative, i.e. unique illustration with lots of appetite appeal, although the product samples were not yet up to standard. This can happen, as package design work is often paralleled with the finalisation of a product. A descriptive product brand name (logotype) and a key message to the consumer: 100% fruit.

The back panel is divided into two clearly different messages. A lower part containing all legal information (which most consumers will not even look at) and a top part underlining the fruitiness of the product in just a few well chosen words and pictures.

X  X  X

Many readers would now say that this and that could be better and they are right! But this brings me back to what I learnt from Mr Peter Brabeck, one of my mentors at Nestlé. He used to say “don’t look for the last 20%, it will cost you too much in time and money”!

LW/July 2015

Aug 25

Be close to your target!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The other day, I fell on two goblets standing side by side in the rather new product category of chilled ready-to-drink coffee beverages. As I love to analyse communication, this is what I found:

One design speaks the language of the young consumer who drinks on the go, while the other design most likely follows the company guidelines which, in my opinion, are complicated and have the wrong hierarchy. Furthermore, the design is loaded with information on the front that belongs rather on the side or the back of the goblet.

Let us play the consumer, for a moment, who buys a caffè latte:

  1. What am I looking for? Well, a caffè latte macchiato… where do I find it? fastest on the Emmi pack.
  2. What brand will I choose? If I’m a fervent Nescafé consumer, I’ll take Nescafé. Now, coming to the brand name, Nescafé has chosen Shakissimo (written with rather small letters) which has little or no ‘taste’ while Emmi chose Caffè Latte which has taste! So here I am sure Emmi is a clear winner.
  3. Do I care about GDA for this type of product? I doubt! So let’s not print it in front, or not at all, as no legislation stipulates its mention at this moment in time. The light blue consumer promotion “win 1 iPhone 6…” is no doubt more interesting as a message in terms of positioning, even if I do not participate in the promotion. It signals that the brand is contemporary.
  4. What sells more today? Information such as “shake me” which is already in the product brand or communication as for instance “it’s the HMMM to your OHHH”, i.e. the language of young people? The reader knows the answer.
  5. Which gives you the strongest shelf impact? … a solid black sharp bull’s eye or a trial to communicate a coffee splash? The reader can certainly find it out!
  6. Is the back panel communication of interest? Yes, on the Emmi goblet, as the light blue colour catches the eye. As the Nescafé cup is a bit smaller, it may not be fair to compare, but why is the barcode smaller on the larger size? Of course to give space for the Rainforest Alliance logotype!

X  X  X

So what did we learn from this comparison? Mainly three things:

  1. Increase shelf impact as much as you can.
  2. Speak the language of the target audience.
  3. Make the denomination of the product as clear as possible – in this case the consumer is looking for “Caffè latte”. I often repeat: “Consumers drink products, not logotypes”!

X  X  X

PS: Comparing the two corrugated display trays, the Emmi product is even more convincing! You can read about POS material elsewhere on

LW/August 2015

Jul 29

I believe there is no other category in a supermarket that has more creative design solutions than the potato chip sachets!

Some years ago, I would have put breakfast cereals first, but these designs have lately become overloaded and complicated, as they try to look ‘healthier’ and at the same time often carry a promotion.

The chips category has not fallen into this trap. This product is and will always be a snack, just as a bar of chocolate. In this category, the designer and the brand manager are often concentrating on being different which is what creativity is all about.

Of course it helps that the sachet surface is usually quite large, though I think it has more to do with the fact that the more we have to do with pleasure food, the more effort is put into the design to make it attractive.

The Anglo-Saxon markets have obviously the best designs. They are so good that we see them now in the big department stores all over Europe. Tyrrell’s, REAL and John & John are three good examples. The most distributed brand is obviously Pringles, here in a highly creative variation.

I am normally not a fan of human faces on pack designs, but as always, there are exceptions. Some time ago, I found Chipsters’ Lastu in Finland, a design that looked at me in the shop!

Go local is today obviously a strong design trend. Hand Made Yorkshire Crisps are no doubt a typical example.

The number of ‘Handcooked’ chips grows for each day and so do the ‘natural’, as well as the ‘sea salted’ ones (Tesco, Roger’s, Cape Cod).

The Taffel chips pack I found in Finland presents an interesting graphical solution, very 3D!

The Swiss MIGROS Farm Chips is an excellent example of useful market research. The consumer will tell them which of the two “A vs. B”  will sell most. Congratulations MIGROS!

It goes without saying that the back panels of almost all of the abovementioned packages are good examples of ‘service panel designs’, amplifying freshness, naturalness, crispiness, etc. I have chosen the Swiss Zweifel KEZZ Chips as an example which could of course have been better structured. More about that in other articles. The back panel communication is still not good enough!

LW/July 2015

Jan 06

Food and drink packages should basically do 4 things:

  1. protect the product;
  2. sell the product, i.e. be attractive;
  3. inform about the content;
  4. be ergonomic.

Today’s package designers do quite a good job when it comes to protection. Themes like new materials, recyclability, etc. are on the checklist of every packaging engineer and most packaging designer. So basically, no problem.

The second criteria is also handled quite well today. Just look at the winners of the Pentawards, quite remarkable designs!

The fourth criteria, i.e. easy to handle, to open, reclose, etc. could no doubt be better, but here also, there is constant progress among the ‘Big Boys’ like Combibloc, Tetra Pak, Doypack, Ecolean, etc.

It’s the third criteria, i.e. communication, where the industry falls short. Today, we actually go backwards, as we want to tell the consumer everything at the same time which results in too small, illegible texts.

Why do I bring up this question today? Because I just read that, effective 2015, the US will have a new legislation on calorie data to hopefully reduce obesity! In this connection, my question to the FDA is the following: “Have you designed the information so that it is effective?” My 50 years in the business have taught me that you do not change habits with just rational information. You will not change people’s attitudes when you just inform. Will it help to fight obesity if you just add calories on beer and other alcoholic beverages? I don’t think so.

By the way, the word ‘design’ is more a verb than a noun. With great designing, we, i.e. the industry and the designers, could do far better than we do today, especially if we were freed from pointless legislation as for instance in the US, where the height of letters (i.e. size) has priority over readability. And why have net weight on the front, when practically no consumer buys a product according to weight or volume, but to servings or numbers.

To print the GDA in front on food and drink packages is equally useless, as these packs have the same information in another layout on the back.

Now that we have QR codes, websites, etc., it’s time to rethink the communication on the pack in order to have fewer, thus bigger texts that are readable which then puts emphasis on what is really important. Furthermore, back panels must have a layout as in the daily newspapers to STIMULATE reading. Not many back or side panels do this, apart from some exceptions such as Special K, innocent, Michel & Augustin or Tropicana (see special articles on this site).

So here’s my advice to brand managers and package designers: please also DESIGN the service panel(s). Use more of your common sense when you design information. Guidelines and best practice are seldom of much use when designing information, as the importance of what needs to be communicated constantly changes.


January, 2015

Dec 03

Is it a new trend?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

There are two brands I’ve followed closely during the last 2-3 years, as both seem to have understood how to connect with a younger generation. They are Michel et Augustin in France, and soon all over Europe and Emmi in Switzerland, starting to export as well.

Yes, their packages and POS material are busy and do not follow my basic idea which is to simplify in order to amplify, but who said there are no exceptions to the rule…?

Yes, some of the texts on the “trublions du goût” packages and POS material are almost illegible, but so what, if it amplifies the style they have chosen as part of their visual and verbal identity? If Michel et Augustin are very interesting thanks to their texts (“4 petits carrés à la queue leu leu!”), I have a tendency to prefer Emmi, as many of their texts are more action-oriented, i.e. they have a real call-to-action which no doubt has a stronger effect on sales.

The following illustrations show some examples of how these two brands connect with young mind consumers. How else could I have noticed how Emmi and Michel et Augustin constantly increase their presence in my local supermarket?


Oct 22

It can be better !

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Today’s packages are being improved constantly, be it on the logistic, technical, material or ecological side. We also see more unique designs and highly innovative solutions due to creative package design agencies.

However, if we look at the way packages communicate, i.e. which selling messages one can find or how convincing the back- and side panel texts and illustrations are, we see little or no progress and this is due to the following ten reasons:

  1. The companies are too much rule-bound;
  2. Young brand managers have difficulties to understand that “less is more”;
  3. Package designers are not particularly good in typography;
  4. We do not work stepwise towards a solution and therefore just fill the pack with information;
  5. Designers and brand managers do not think “total communication”, i.e. maximize communication according to the various media used;
  6. We have too much information and too little communication;
  7. Most designers forget the selling role of packages, i.e. how to maximize the RTB (Reason to believe) or USP (Unique Selling Proposition);
  8. Brand managers do not believe in constant change in order to stay top-of-mind;
  9. Do we store-check enough? I doubt. We must learn from other product categories;

10.  Brand managers seem too much bound to what their legal colleagues say without questioning the interpretation of the legislation.

Some of the above points need a few explanations:

What do I mean by “rule-bound”? I feel that FMCG copanies follow guidelines and best practice by the word and forget that a guideline is a guide to do better, i.e. improve. Furthermore, most guidelines are too elaborate and thus limit creativity.

We are in a world of over-information and the young brand managers have not enough experience to concentrate on the essential in each media. The essential on the pack can be appetite appeal, on POS material, it can be a selling text and in advertising, it can be the brand. Today, there is a tendency to put everything on the pack and then duplicate it in other media.

When it comes to readability, there are three reasons for optimizing the typogaphy. Great typography creates interest, it makes reading easy and it has a layout that highlights what is important and useful. I doubt package designers see it that way, as many backpanels are very boring and difficult to read!

We do not make any difference between pure information that does not necessarily sell and communication that involves and thus has an impact.

To be top-of-mind, to be noticed, to stand out, you have to now and then change something in your design. Toblerone, for instance, does it constantly and so does Google!

The 3 illustrations below prove how  bad it has become… can it really be worse?

Last, but not least, package design is not yet considered as important as advertising at top company levels and teaching packaging communication is still in its infancy. I hope my website and my books will help!

October 2014

Jul 16

I think each designer and especially the pack designer should, after having finalised a job, take some distance to the work and analyse the communication.

During my years at Nestlé, I always showed my design to the cleaning lady who came each evening to put order in my cubicle and asked her “what does this pack design wish to say?”. If the answer was “I understand”, I knew at least that my message was clear. If she could not see the message, I knew I had a problem. Please note that we do not speak of the aesthetics, nor the graphical style or layout which is a very personal matter.

As far as I can see, it is the designer, i.e. the expert who is the best judge regarding the execution and not the consumer, nor the brand manager.

The reason why a package design often does not communicate correctly is that we mix up message with graphical aesthetics.

I suggested in the beginning to take some distance from your job, meaning  physical, i.e. from the mock-up, surrounded by packs from the competition (and not just looking at the computer), as well as from a communication point of view. Does the design awake interest? Is the icon or illustration emotional enough, i.e. memorable, etc.? I claim that a good part of pack designs are rather average because the designer has sort of filled a surface with information instead of structured a communication.

This is even more evident in print media, especially on outdoor posters, at least here in Switzerland. How about this ad for a pair of glasses (unstructured) compared to the Czech pack design (structured)?

July 2014

Jul 09

My favourite European pack

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Last week I gave a speech in Prague for designers, as well as brand managers. Before that, I did my usual store checking to be reminded of the pack I just love, the Kolonada round flat crispy spa wafers from 1856. The now Mondelez company has fortunately not changed this design, although there are rumours that they will. This often happens when there is a new owner and a new brand manager, just for the sake of changing…

Here are the reasons why I love this design:

1. It is 3D with basically three layers

a) the product brand Kolonada;

b) the product (with embossing!);

c) the blue background;

2. The hierarchy of information, i.e. first the yellow product (although quite white in reality) and then the product brand.

3. The product illustration that shows the embossing, i.e. a structured surface which is so much more appetizing than a flat one.

4. The remaining information which only new consumers need, i.e. corporate brand, product denomination, quality seal, tradition vignette and hazelnut flavour.

5. Although much is said on the front, I do not feel the design is overloaded thanks to the correct hierarchy.

6. As a product such as this one needs little explanation, there is no back panel, just two fronts, one in English for export and one local.

Some designs like for instance S. Pellegrino have become so iconic that they basically cannot be improved. The Kolonada pack falls into this category. However, as the latest S. Pellegrino label shows, they can temporarily be slightly altered, as can be seen with the red Ducati band.

June 2014

Jun 11

Why not do the opposite?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Most of the articles on promote simplicity, as the best and most powerful messages on a pack, POS or advertisement should not be disturbed by other design elements .

Steve Jobs even stated: “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

However, this being said, there is no rule without exception and that’s what this article is about.

If we accept that the role of a pack design in a supermarket is

first… to be seen, i.e. noticed;

second… to be interesting/intriguing and

third… to inform and communicate,

then we must accept that there are many ways to do the above. If simplicity is one solution, another one may be to ‘be busy’, i.e. the opposite!

I have found a few good packages which have chosen the way of patterns to raise impact and interest and have divided them in subgroups as follows:

Product patterns

The most evident way to design a pattern is to let the products do this. The obvious ones are Smarties and M&M’s, but equally interesting are the bubbles on an Aero pack from Nestlé UK.

Taste patterns

In order to heighten the taste of a product, the designer can choose colours which express what is typical for the product, be it fruitiness, freshness or Mint as on the Aero pack! I personally like very much the Sunkist soft drink!

Anything pattern

To achieve shelf impact, any intriguing and interesting pattern will do. I bought a PUCCHO pack which contains sweet confectionery. I don’t understand the signs, but I couldn’t resist buying the bag for my collection! The Lipton Lemon Ice Tea is equally interesting. It is obviously in mass displays that pattern designs achieve their maximal impact!

Style/Trend patterns

The corrugated pack for two wine bottles I found in Auckland, New Zealand, belong to the category of trendy patterns, as do the Michel & Augustin packs in France. I like the word intriguing as I believe that package design can trigger a certain fascination or curiosity to discover something new!

I include the Swedish “Pripps Bla” which, instead of the standard blue box, chose a very busy and interesting pattern once you take the time to study it… which I obviously did! The same comment is valid for the Heineken standard green bottle that has become black for a special Ed Banger records edition.

Yes… “make it simple or stay in bed”, but don’t forget that, if well done, complexity can also help to sell!

November 2013

Jun 11

Fons’ 3 “wow” Rule

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

After having met Henry the passionate salesman in Ireland, I met Fons last week in Belgium. Fons is the typical entrepreneur who has built a great factory thanks to a lot of common sense and lean thinking. Fons told me about the 3 wows and here they are:

The first one is about the design of the package or container. If the consumer does not say “wow” when seeing the item, I’ve missed sales. So no need to stress how important package design is!

The second wow is about the product itself, i.e. what it looks like, which is also about design. If you do not achieve a second wow, there is little chance the product will be repurchased. It’s about aesthetics, attractiveness and even surprise.

The third wow is how the product tastes, works, etc., i.e. about the product experience. When you eat Fons’ products, i.e. chocolate, there must not only be a smile on your face, there must be once more a wow effect! All this is about repeat purchase.

So if you have managed to create all 3 wows, you are in business. As you may understand, I am writing these articles in order to stimulate other entrepreneurs and marketeers to invest more in DESIGN!

January 2014

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