May 19

Figures in package design

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Package design involves surface design, shape, material, convenience, etc. Surface design is a matter of layout, colours, pictures, texts and figures.

Figures can be brands, content, price and specific advantages.

As in general designers are mostly interested in layout and pictures, the good use of figures is often forgotten. This is a pity as figures are as memorable as letters (see other article in www.packagingsense.com) and they are quickly understood.

The use of figures as brands is quite common. Two good examples are for instance the French 1664 beer or the 1880 Spanish almond delicacy, but there are many more!

To make a product more attractive, price reduction (i.e. big figures) is obviously very powerful, as the illustration clearly shows.

I’ve chosen two quite different examples to show other ways of putting importance on figures in order to highlight a product advantage. There is no doubt that the “30 months” helps Parmigiano Reggiano to be seen as an aged cheese and this is what parmesan cheese is all about.

Stimorol’s “40 minutes of freshness” is, in my opinion, an even better example of using figures. A good USP, because for those of us who chew this type of product, the feeling of freshness usually does not last more than 5-10 minutes…

April 2014

Mar 19

The origin of raw materials such as cacao or coffee is one way of promoting a country or region. This is done quite often, be it with or without quality seals as “Café de Colombia” or “Rainforest Alliance Certified”.

Packages which promote a city or a country do now and then appear as promotions during sports and other cultural events or for centenary celebrations.

This time I looked at packages both sold tax free in airports or in down town supermarkets. I’ve chosen 4 ‘destinations’: Dublin, Hong Kong, Thailand and Ansterdam.

As the design style for this type of packages needs art to heighten the value and hopefully make them to collectors’ items, I obviously like Bewley’s from Dublin least as it is a bit too ‘simple’.

So let us have a look at Neuhaus Amsterdam which takes you on a trip by boat or on a bicycle to see the famous tulips. It is interesting to notice that no product illustration appears on the front (but obviously on the back!). Same can be said in the case of the Hong Kong confectionary. This pack is today hanging on our wall in the living as we see it as a painting!

The collection of the 4 Thai Heart Made packs is a great example of storytelling packages. It can be noticed that these designs sell first the products, then the Thai landscapes and only in the third position the brand as it plays a minor role when packs are sold as memory gifts. I find the balance between food photography and illustration particularly good, seeing the product well placed in the foreground.

Package design is often referred to as folk art. These examples no doubt confirm this!

Jan 26

I am aware that I’m going to annoy some of my fellow designers with this idea, but, as someone said, if you have no enemies, you have no character!

I have been trying for about 20 years to tell companies that if you need more than 3-4 pages for your design manual, you are reducing creativity, i.e. you handcuff your designers. What does this mean? It means that the times of producing packaging manuals with 10, 20 or even 30 pages are gone, as we live in an ever-changing world and need to constantly update designs to remain top-of-mind.

Design manuals with many pages do often contain what not to do (is it really necessary?), as well as too many package designs which, if not constantly updated, loose their attraction.

Back to the title and the logotype. How many logotypes need to be updated? Very few, unless you wish your brand/logotype to express something special.

The Pepsi logotype did not really need to be changed. That is the case with most brand logotypes, as we get used to them, even when they are not top. What we do not like at first, we start liking with the time!

However, the ‘visual language’ has to be constantly updated, especially for brands that want to be seen as contemporary. The master here is obviously the  Coca-Cola company that has not touched its iconic logotype for decades. Neither did they change the red, nor the iconic shape of the bottle.

Here comes my advice to my marketing friends. Please do not spend money on standardisation, controlling or redesigning logotypes. You will not sell a kilo/liter more, but have enormous costs changing signage, printing plates, packages, etc. Spend the money more creatively, i.e. on updating your designs to attract new consumers and occupy bigger space in consumes’ brains (see latest Heineken: same logo, same green, same star, but a very contemporary design!)

Do spend more money on design that communicates better, attracts new consumers, improves product value, becomes a talking point and increases shelf impact, etc. Do not forget that 70-80% of your consumers most likely do not have aesthetical considerations when they buy a product!

Dec 09

If you offer more than expected, the consumer will always come back. This extra,  this cherry on the cake, this bonus, call it what you want, is about adding value to the product/package. Obviously, this extra lies mainly in the product, i.e. it tastes better than expected, it is aesthetically more pleasing or it is more convenient.

Let’s look at what we package designers can do to add this extra value that leads to sales. It’s a matter of finding the right balance, because, if you overpromise, you can actually destroy a brand! In order to explain what I mean, I have selected a product which I know sells well and is appreciated by those consumers who have a sweet tooth: Ferrero’s Raffaello! Why is this pack and its tray a good example? For the following reasons:

  1. it is aesthetically pleasing, i.e. it attracts consumers thanks to its tastefull design;
  2. it has the right balance (for this category) between branding and product;
  3. it has appetite appeal thanks to the window which shows how the pralines are individually wrapped and also by the photogaphic illustration;
  4. it has the right colour scheme to underline that it is a white creamy filled shell (covered in flakes of coconut);
  5. it has the understandable and positive Italian word “Confetteria”, meaning non-industrial;
  6. it has decorative elements to render the pack more festive which is very important for a product mostly bought as a gift. These decorative elements, i.e. the red flower and the red ribbon are highly emotional;
  7. it has a brand name that says ‘specialty’. Raffaello sounds both chic, affectionate and, of course, very Italian;
  8. it has a shape which is not the standard rectangular one, so it looks more attractive and special. When you offer something, you want it to look unique!

    These 8 points on package design all together give added value to the product. Package design is, as every good package designer knows, a matter of selecting the right material(s), choosing the right shape, having the optimal layout, choosing the correct typography, optimising the appetite appeal, prioritising the information (no net weight or GDA on the front!), amplifying the attractiveness thanks to well chosen aesthetics.

    As package design is not only a question of primary, but also secondary packaging, Ferrero has chosen to print inside the tray to further add quality and value to this package/product. The cost of this is obviously minimal when adding up all expenses for material(s), distribution, production, etc. The individually wrapped pralines are not only typical for Italian confectionery, they also give the total packaging added value. Long live Raffaello!

    Dec 09

    I have repeated over and over again that the best designs are (almost) always the most simple ones. My own philosophy is that, in order to become the number one in a product category,one has to constantly simplify the design. This means that it stands out on the shelf and that the brand is remembered. Three good examples are the Mars chocolate bar in Europe, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in the UK and the Maggi Cube in Africa.

    So why then do we constantly add new elements to the designs? In very few cases, it is for legal reasons, at least in Europe, where basically all information can be on the back panel. What has Mars more than a logotype on the front?

    Unexperienced marketing managers unfortunately believe that the consumer is equally interested in the various information as themselves! Therefore they tell the designer to add and add… and add! Some of these additions will indeed help selling the product. But what about removing some information when you add a new one? What you then achieve is a more efficient design! There are thousands of such examples of over-communication out on the shelves!

    In order to explain my philosophy of removing when adding, I have chosen an Aero wrapper where the flash “New Bubbly Bar” (by the way not a very exciting design…) has been added. The impact of this message would have been far superior if, at the same time, the

    • • No artificial…
    • • Feel the bubbles
    • • GDA

    messages had been moved over to a side or back panel. The brand could have been increased in size to make the pack look optically bigger and the product illustration could have been magnified to underline the bigger bubbles.

    I hope Nestlé will forgive me for using one of their wrappers as an example! I could easily have chosen any other brand, but I happen to have recently visited Ireland where all UK brands can be bought.

    As this site is about teaching and learning, I do hope nobody takes the above as a criticism, but purely as an idea of how to improve the communication when a new message is added.

    Nov 24

    Do you develop the briefing together with your client?



    Do you look for the big idea before you design the pack?



    Do you design the brand’s key visual(s) before you design the pack?



    Do you give your client the one solution which you believe in as an expert and then max. 2-3 alternatives, or do you design 8 alternatives to choose from?



    Do you constantly, on your own initiative, suggest improvements to your clients to designs you or other agencies have done for them?



    Do you stimulate creative thinking by constantly ‘educating’ your client with articles, books, seminars, etc.?



    Do you encourage your own people to take initiatives to improve working methods or team work? Don’t forget that you do not need more than two people to create a team!



    Do you push all your people to sketch, be it account people, illustrators, art directors, etc.?



    Do you stimulate good handwriting? Steve Jobs did!



    Do you share knowledge with other design friends?



    Do you go storechecking at least once a month?



    Do you all speak English in the agency?



    Do you send out my book 🙂 or any other book on design as an end-of-the-year gift?



    Do you dress up when you meet your client?



    Do you present your design proposals with explanatory comments to your client, avoiding emotional remarks such as ‘I like or dislike’?



    … well, then you are doing very well! Joyeux Noël!

    Nov 11

    Red, yellow and blue make up the primary colours in a painter’s colour wheel. The secondary colours, violet, orange and green make up another triad. Triads are formed by 3 equidistant colours on the colour wheel.

    The 3 primary pigment colours cannot be made by mixing any other colours. These 3 colours can be mixed to create all other colours and can be combined with white to create tints (lighter tones) or with black to create shades (darker tones). As the visual system develops slowest in our body (at birth, the child sees mostly grey) and the primary colours being the clearest, it is not surprising that the LEGO manufacture started off with only the primary colours for their plastic bricks.

    I have a passion, or call it an obsession, to look out for any product, vehicle or collection that has settled for primary colours in order to stand out. How about these:

    garbage bins,

    these tubes next to the yellow plastic structure,

    the three Volkswagen I saw in Mexico City,

    the bus,

    the three salesmen in Port of Spain,

    or the 3 cases for liquid drinks?

    As mentioned earlier, it is all about impact and being seen… because if you are not seen, you cannot be bought! Therefore many brands have chosen the primary colours and the one that comes first to my mind is Burger King.

    Some flags have the primary colours and my favourite one is Colombia, as you can see on the small plastic pot in which I put my felt pens.

    There are equally many packages with primary colours designs and I’m sure the reader has his or her favourite. My own is Nestlé’s Galak because first of all I like white chocolate and then I also appreciate the simplicity of the design which tells a very healthy story.

    If you put a few packages together, you can obviously achieve a primary colours collection as these Vitasoy Ice Tea packs from Hong Kong or my own collection of Coke/Flup/Bref!

    As mentioned earlier, children are attracted by bright colours, especially the primary ones, so it was very natural for Mars to use these colours for their M&M’s aeroplane dispenser.

    Nestlé’s Galak

    Vitasoy Ice Tea

    Coke/Flup/Bref

    M&M’s aeroplane dispenser

    So if you wish to make an impact, think primary colours and for those who would like to know more, I hope to see you once when I give my speech “Colour in marketing”!

    Oct 29

    Typographic pack design

    Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

    When art and the practice of typography joined forces with the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 15th centry, who could then foresee such a fantastic development, which was going to be amplified with the arrival of the digitalisation? Calligraphy, also used in pack design, is of course even older and if we go further back in time, we find the Chinese proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And this is exactly what this article is about! Can typography ‘paint’ a picture on the front of the pack to tell a great story? Yes, in the manner of the “LOVE” art by Robert Indiana, first as a Christmas card in 1964 and then as a sculpture in 1970.

    In my collection of interesting packages collected over some 50 years, I’ve selected a few samples which I appreciate for various reasons, be it readability, creativity, surprise, beauty, structure or elegance. My samples come mainly from the Latin alphabet, although similar designs may be found in other writing systems such as Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Indic script or East Asian signs.

    Let it be said loud and clear: the words put together must have both a verbal and a visual story to tell in order to achieve impact!

    Maggi Liquid Seasoning (1909)
    This masterpiece should never have been tampered with and should have kept its original design following the example of S. Pellegrino, an icon within the world of label design. With each redesign, the Maggi label has become worse and worse and is today a bland copy of the original one. Here I would use the excellent German expression “Verschlimmbesserung”!

    I profit to say that by using the three colours red, yellow and black, as well as different type faces, you can easily get the following information:

    • is unique
    • for every kitchen
    • is unbeatable
    • Nobile quia optimum (= known because the best), in Latin to underline the uniqueness
    • ingredients, etc.

    (The illustration is a modernised special edition of the original label).

    Savon de Marseille
    Here is another iconic design which I hope will never be modernised! The soap is in a typical cubic shaped pack on which one can read the whole story of its production. Unique is the word I would use for this typographic design!


    Diet Coca-Cola
    Let us make a huge step forward in time and admire Turner Duckworth’s highly contemporary design which was foreseen as a special edition, but was so appreciated by the consumers that it became the new standard for Diet Coke in the U.S. The rest of the world is today leaning towards the black Coca-Cola Zero. Can typography be more dynamic, unique and contemporary? I doubt!

    Michel & Augustin biscuit packs
    In 2004, inspired by the innocent fruit drinks, Michel & Augustin, les trublions du goût (taste troublemakers) started a whole new style of communication by using neither typography, nor calligraphy, but simple clear handwriting on their packages. Call it what you want, but for me this is an excellent example of

    • breaking away and being different;
    • using a language which the young consumer target appreciates as it is non-industrial.

    Right now, the Michel & Augustin products can be found from Russia to Singapore, including even yoghurts (Vache à boire, i.e. Cow to drink), desserts, etc. In 2010, Michel & Augustin obtained the Prix Phénix for good communication, ahead of both McDonald’s and Evian!



    Let us stop here for a moment, as www.packagingsense.com is about packaging communication, more than package design. What conclusions can we draw before we continue? Well, there is a great future for those package designers who include copywriting and typography in their toolbox to design great packages. One day, they might even improve the back, i.e. service panels which are still disastrous when it comes to layout, amount of text, typography and comprehension! I’ll continue with 10 more interesting examples from my own toolbox:





    The Hottest Fuckin’ Sauce (Figueroa Brothers)
    Surprise! Surprise! … which makes the consumer read the whole text on the front that ends with the sentence “there is no better verbal therapy”. You may find the complete text if you go to their website, or buy the product!

    Braised Pork (Russia)
    I often go to Moscow to teach, as Russia seems to still be lagging behind the West when it comes to

    • the quality of the design;
    • the communication

    I do not speak Russian and cannot read the text, but I have learned some of the cyrillic letters and am therefore of the opinion that to have all letters of equal height makes it less legible than the Latin alphabet with its ascending and descending letters. I may be wrong. Here is a label that says something like “great product”, “braised pork”, “extra”, “superior quality”… Unfortunately, the quality of this typography does not live up to these words.




    Le Rustique
    It is in fact quite easy to communicate tradition. First you just have to choose the right material(s) and then a typography that is hot stamped, i.e. burnt, together with a quality seal. Great simple design!





    Petits-Beurre de Lorient
    Yes, tradition is easy to represent as there are so many symbols to use in order to express a time passed. And isn’t food often something very traditional? I think this design has the right typefaces and decorative elements.





    Domino’s Handmade PAN PIZZA
    Certainly more than 50 years separate Albert Ménès’ Petits-Beurre and Domino’s Pizza pack, but what a difference in communication! Domino has always been creative with their packages. This one beats most of what I’ve seen until now! Full of fun facts and emphasis on the RTB as for instance “never-frozen dough”. Go to their website and learn more!





    Compagnia dell’Arabica coffee
    As a stamp collector, this design easily falls into my toolbox as the typography is so well chosen both on the stamp and on the pack. It is elegant design that expresses quality and it is timeless!


    John & John No 1
    Good choice of typogaphy (in a series of numbers). You may feel the pleasure the designer had when he carefully ‘filled the surface’ with the typography he liked. Congratulations!


    McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes
    An article such as this one would not be complete if I didn’t mention the revolutionary design, some years ago, by Williams Murray Hamm which, I believe, has been redesigned since. Can typography be used more effectively? I say “NO”!


    MIGROS Budget Range
    Typography can be used to express many things, from quality to tradition. These designs caught my attention as they cleverly combine the oblique quality pattern with a simple product denomination in a sans-serif typeface. Budget is furthermore designed in a cheap manner. Great communication!



    Adams’ Infinity Chiclets chewing-gum
    This is great design to express an ‘endless – eternal – perpetual TASTE’! When I write about typography, i.e. letters, I obviously include figures as well as signs. These small packs are real masterpieces! It is surprising to analyse this product category and see how creative the design agencies are, because the space is limited…


    Zoega’s Forza!
    Last, but not least, here is another of my favourits from which we have a lot to learn. Not only the concentration on one letter as done by McDonald’s or Kellogg’s (Special K), it is the way the letter has been designed to express something – and this is what this article is all about! The flames, together with the word “Forza!” and the Swedish words “eldig och kraftfull, extra mörkrost” (fiery and powerful, extra dark roasted) are telling a great story. Congratulations to Nestlé Sweden who did not ‘spoil’ this front with unnecessary information such as net weight, GDA, etc. which belong to the back panel!

    I hope you’ve had some pleasure and learning from these examples chosen at random. I’m sure there are many more packs out there on the supermarket shelves. Just go and have a look!

    Oct 11

    The killing of 7 myths

    Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

    First: you have to show your pack in your ad…

    No! It’s not necessary, as most consumers are not interested in what your pack looks like. An ad has to show your brand identity and tell what you are selling; all additional elements are just overloading the message. Advertising is about convincing who you are, what you do and where to find you.

    Second: There is only one way to show the GDA…

    No! First of all, there is no legislation about GDA, so you do not necessarily have to show it either on the front or the back. This being said, I am positive to the GDA for certain products. The illustration shows how Jordans do it on their cereal pack.

    Three: Recycle whenever you can!

    We have only one Earth, so we better take care of it. Recycling material is one of many disciplines we should all learn at school as early as possible. However, recycling for instance small coffee capsules or plastic bags/tubs in a country like Switzerland does not really make sense as we have a very efficient incineration system which, in addition, produces energy.

    Ecology is mostly about energy and here the coin has many sides, depending upon where you live. It’s about transport which is energy consuming and about the separation or different materials.

    Fourth: The corporate (or product) brand must be in the upper left hand corner, on the front of a pack.

    I don’t know who first stated this. Yes, we start reading a book up left, but a pack is something different. It’s about selling, convincing and interest. Here the rules are different. If you have a so-called corporate brand, it must be in close proximity to the product brand and as disturbing as possible, so it can be below, above, on top, etc.

    Fifth: People do not read back panels or people do read back panels.

    Both statements are basically wrong! Pretending that nearly all consumers read the nutritional information is, in my opinion, based on market research where most likely the consumers, when questioned whether they read this information, will answer yes, they do. But they will most certainly only read what they understand, like for instance calories or ‘gluten free’.

    The fact is that most people do not read back panels because they are boring! It is a pity that most designers and  brand managers are satisfied with the designing of the front and little attention is given to the other sides.

    Sixth: You need the logotype and the product name on the back.

    Why? When you have picked up the pack, you know what you have in your hands and, during my regular store checks, I see no packs that are placed the wrong way round.

    Seventh: There is a standard size for the barcode.

    Yes and no. There is a minimal size in relation to print quality, contrast, etc. but the code, if it answers the above criteria, can be as big as you like. I personally like the Kellogg’s barcode that can be read on several sides of the pack, or the Mackmyra Whisky from Sweden made from barley.

    Jul 19

    Does this make sense?

    Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

    Very early in my marketing career I was told that, if you wish to build a strong brand, you cannot be two things, in other words, you must focus on one thing! I also learned that too many line extensions weaken the brand. Nothing made me change this opinion; I have seen many mistakes in marketing which just confirm the above.

    The latest is no doubt KitKat Senses from Nestlé. Well, here’s another case which I will follow closely, as I doubt that it will be a success story.

    A Kellogg’s brand, in this case Special K, is in my opinion a brand which has positive health connotations thanks to the two words cereal and milk. I suppose most consumers share this opinion. It is also a ‘sweet’ brand, as Kellogg’s products, from Frosties to Special K, are sugared or used with sugar.

    What did I discover the other day, if not a range of snack products in the crisp/chips category which, as I see it, have very little health connotations! One of the products has an identical design to Special K Red Berries. Moreover, I think that it is the wrong type of pack. Snack products like chips or crisps are usually in plastic/aluminium foil bags to highlight the crispiness!

    Future will tell us what will happen to Kellogg’s Cracker Crisps. My guess is that it goes the same way as Nestlé’s KitKat Senses!

    The reason why the Crisp pack looks like the Red Berries is that the Kellogg’s company seems to have too strict a guideline which does not allow the agency to develop a unique design for this new range of different Special K products…

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