Oct 25

I often stay in hotels and take my breakfast with a cup of tea. If there is one thing I don’t like is when my plate is taken away before I’ve finished eating, another annoyance at breakfast is trying to choose my sachet of tea. It is almost impossible to read the flavour amongst the varieties offered!

Once again, I think both the brand manager at the tea company and the designer are to be blamed for not understanding COMMUNICATION. You don’t drink logotypes, you drink a tea variety! So why do so many companies put their brand on top or so big that the variety becomes difficult to find?

The Bewley’s packs are certainly great designs, but what I need in the early morning is to be able to choose the variety!

The third annoyance is that many companies do not tell us what the sachet contains, but invent names like “love”, “relax” or “tea journey”. They also often print white texts on a yellow background (even at Lipton)! And what about sticking too much to  guidelines as in the case of Lipton green tea? Do I need to be told three times that it is green tea?

I know that Unilever is promoting the sub-brand “yellow tea label”, but it would be good to know the type of tea.

X X X

I hope that some designers will read these lines and even some marketing people at tea companies so I can easily find my Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea in the future!

PS: there is obviously also some good communication, as for instance on the Ronnefeldt tea sachet!

LW/October 2016

Oct 12

Plastics

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Did you know that the first thermoplastic was a compound created from nitrocellulose and camphor? The two first brands being used were Parkesine and Xylonite until Celluloid was registered in 1869 in Newark, New Jersey. It was first used as a replacement for ivory. Well, that’s a long time ago and if there is one material which has constantly been improved with time, it is certainly plastic, in any form or composition. We have polyethene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, etc. basically developed from crude oil.

The famous words by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev have to be mentioned here. He said: “burning petroleum is as stupid as firing up a kitchen stove with bank notes”. Yes, it is far better to use the world’s resources or crude oil to make plastics than to heat, drive cars, etc.!

As I’m not a scientist, nor a packaging technologist, I will here only deal with the enormous utility of plastics to communicate, or rather let the product do so, as most plastics used are transparent.

We all know by now that the main advantage of plastic as a packaging material is that it is light. And were it not that so much plastics end up in the nature, I’m sure that our shopping bags in plastic would have less impact on the environment than the heavier paper version.

I will not enter the ongoing discussion about recycling, as it is just common sense to recycle plastics of a certain weight, while thin plastic films help our incinerators to be more efficient!

We can get fantastic results when the marketing and the technical services meet. I believe that the recent Coca-Cola plastic BOPP label that turned into a great ribbon or bow tie was just great! Just a pity it didn’t work each time.

Some brands would, in my opinion, not have existed, were it not for the plastic material. I think of Tic Tac, Mon Chéri or Ferrero Rocher. Plastic bottles are no doubt superior to glass when handled by kids, so we see for instance a lot of plastic ketchup bottles.


What would the whole chips industry be without plastic bags, whether aluminised or not. Most PET bottles have now labels in the same material. This is logical when you think of recycling.


But most of all, I think that plastics are best when combined with paper, cardboard, etc. to obtain see through windows, as consumers wish to see what they purchase.





One of my biggest learning during my years at Nestlé was no doubt the possibility to embrace any material, as from a communication point of view, the material often says more than a text or an image. Long live plastics!

LW/September 2016

Mar 15

The Kasperskian Story

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The most interesting project I had during 2015 was no doubt the work on the identity for a new caviar factory in Wallis, the canton next to where I live.

The width of the project made it fascinating. Moreover, it was a job without guidelines, nor were there any preconceived ideas. Well, when I got the job which I did together with the local ARD Design agency, the two seahorses which are the company’s icons/symbols had already been decided upon, but not in a fixed position.

The interesting point with this project is that a brand can have two different identities, something I learned from Peter Brabeck during my Nestlé years. So, instead of designing a Kasperskian logotype and then use this identity for the two different caviar products, we were given the freedom of designing a unique white identity for “Caviar with life” (when the fish is not killed, but its roe merely squeezed out) and a black identity for the traditional caviar (when the fish is killed at the age of 7 years after having taken its roe).

Another reason which made this project so special was to follow the creative passion of my designer friend Patrick Gaudard. To take an example, Patrick walked a long way above Zermatt to find a small stream in which he placed the tin of caviar, creating a beautiful photograph in the fresh, splashing water.

This was not only a pack design. It was a project including everything from interior design to signage, brochures and last, but not least, some 12 different tins with labels, sealing tapes, etc.

At the beginning of the project, I knew very little about caviar production, be it in Poland, China, Chile, France, Italy, etc. It has to be noted here that, today, there are very few sturgeons in the Kaspian Sea or in the Volga, as they now swim in fish farms in the countries just mentioned.

The project was also challenging, as the “Caviar with life” is a new concept, so the design had to be unique. It is based upon the fact that for each time the fish is being ‘milked’, the caviar pearls get bigger and this is translated visually on the pack design.

For those who wish to know more about the Kasperskian caviar in Wallis, here is the website: www.kasperskian.com

LW/March 2016

Jun 08

Needing a magnifying glass…

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For many, package design means surface design, structural design, graphical design, but unfortunately not communication design. That’s a pity!

Because package design is mainly about communication,

communication of:

–          branding (that gives trust);

–          appetite appeal or product appeal;

–          usage instructions;

–          useful information about the product, such as ingredients, calory content or vegetarian cuisine.

So why then is the information on the side or back panels of such low design quality, when the front is usually highly creative and attractive? Because most package designers do not really care, nor do most brand managers.

Now please do not tell me that there is not enough space or too much text!

–          If you treat the information as a page in a daily journal;

–          if you follow common sense and not (very often) outdated guidelines;

–          if you understand the meaning of hierarchy;

–          if you ask the consumer what she really needs as information;

–          if you print texts ‘en suite’ and not in space taking table form or with unnecessary frames;

–          if you reduce the amount of text to what is legally accepted and get rid of ‘marketing chatter’…

then my wife does not need to take out the magnifying glass when she wants to know the ingredients in a food product!

LW/May 2015

Mar 31

Today, it is more essential than ever to belong to a group. We can, no doubt, inform ourselves through the Internet on specific issues or via the professional press, not to forget websites like Dieline and maybe even this one!

However, one thing is information, the other is learning. Learning to understand, evaluate and progress.

Having been part of the package design world for some 50 years, I’m quite surprised to see how little interested design agencies seem to be in meeting with like-minded people and exchange knowledge which, no doubt, would be a win-win situation.

Why do I say this? Because I was always surprised to see how few European design (packaging, graphic, etc.) agencies belong to the epda association. Yes, many agencies are part of an association in their local market which means that they are basically exposed to one and the same culture while, today, it is important to understand different cultures, be it Germanic, Anglosaxon, Latin, Nordic, Russian, etc.

Is it because epda has too low a profile? Maybe. Is it because epda could have a better program for junior designers eager to learn? Could be. Is it because membership is too expensive? Could be, but should not!

As I have been to numerous meetings (less lately, as I have given priority to my own teaching program), I can say that I have

–          got new contacts;

–          learned about failure and success stories;

–          learned from speakers outside the fairly narrow packaging world;

–          had a lot of fun whilst discovering great places, not to forget excellent food and drinks in good company, etc.

I write these lines hoping that the designers who have taken the time to read www.packagingsense might also join epda, if they have not already done so!

Feb 02

One day when I was teaching in my native Sweden, Johan Kruse, a local marketing expert, heard me and proposed that package design communication, as well as in store communication, not to speak of advertising, could be far better if my simple message “simplify in order to amplify” were spread to a wider audience. Said and done. The www.packagingsense.com site was created and a book on the subject produced. I am today working on article No 182 and there are many more issues up my sleeve! I strongly recommend the readers to click on it every now and then, as I regularly inform about the strengths and the  weaknesses in our profession.

My book in English is now sold out (I am looking for a sponsor to reprint it, as well as a second one), but still available in Chinese and in Russian.

January, 2015

Feb 02

Package communication Online

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Those of you who have read my book or listened to my speeches certainly know the triangle I use to explain “what and how to communicate” in each media, from outdoor advertising to package design.

As more and more products will be sold online in the future, although food and drinks will constitute a rather small part (about 5%), here is how I see the situation when I put online and offline communication together.

It goes without saying that the triangle is a condensation or simplification and that there is more to the story. That is why I still teach at various companies and design agencies.

Amazon has a great concept: “if you buy this, you might also buy that…”..why do we not copy this as the illustration shows?

I thinks this proves that, to be efficient, we should learn from different media.

January 2015

Jun 11

In any profession, there are misconceptions, false ideas and misunderstandings. I meet them quite often in my daily work with marketing/brand managers or package designers. Here are my opinions on ten issues chosen at random:

Red is warm, blue is cold

I hear often that certain colours cannot be used for certain products/packages. It must be green, white and blue for a milk product and it cannot be red if you wish to express freshness. No doubt there are so-called warm or cold colour tones, but as you cannot judge a part of a design in isolation, I would say that “anything goes” as Cole Porter composed for his musical 1934! The blue gas flame is very hot and the red Coca-Cola colour quite refreshing when water droplets are added.

Cutting trees for packaging or other paper products is seen negatively

Well, if you are of this opinion, you couldn’t be more wrong! There have never been, to this day, so many trees  in the Northern Hemisphere (where cardboard and paper come from). For every tree chopped down by a forest company, 2 or 3 new ones are planted. Moreover, young trees absorb CO2 far better than old ones.  So let’s cut down old trees, make cardboard or paperof them and plant more young trees!

Don’t play with the food!

This is what my parents told me when I grew up and how right they were! Apart from some exceptions as for instance kids’ sweets, a food product cannot be presented as a joke. It is not liked in any culture, it is not appetising and it tells the wrong story. Food, be it pleasurable as chocolate or nutritious as a yoghurt, is serious matter and must be presented as attractive as possible. You may read about food styling in my book or elsewhere on this site.


Aluminium gives confidence, trust and freshness

So do glass and cardboard. Also, a chilled aluminium can will feel colder in your hand than any other material. On the other hand, plastic has a greater problem to be taken seriously. Would you offer wine in plastic?

Now what about tinplate? It has basically the same image and is excellent to recycle as it is magnetic. However, it is heavier, less used today and has become oldfashioned compared with aluminium. And just think of the aluminium foil you use in the kitchen to keep products fresh!

The corporate brand must be in the upper lefthand corner of the front panel

If you work for Unilever, Nestlé, Kraft or other companies that use both a product and a corporate brand (not as Mars or Procter & Gamble who use only a product brand), you will often hear that management wants to see the small corporate brand on top. Why? Because many top managers I’ve met believe that you look at a pack in the way you read a book or a newspaper. How wrong can they be… The corporate brand, if used to say “here I am, look at me”, is best placed in close proximity to the product brand. It should be a disturbing design element in order to be noticed and this can be in the middle, below, or even partly hidden to give a 3-D effect.

Food packages need a GDA (Guideline Daily Amounts)

If I am not wrong, it was in 1998 that the British Institute of Grocery Distribution supervised a project launched by the UK government, the food industry and consumer organisations to highlight the nutritional values of products. It was to appear as a table on the back of the package, with a special reference on the front. I believe it is Tesco that started it, immediately followed by other companies, for good or bad.

As it is a duplication of data you find on the back, I feel it has little extra value. Moreover, most consumers don’t have a clue what for instance 8% of their daily requirements represent. It would be far better if, on the back, with big letters, the brand explained what is good with the product in question!

Julius Maggi said it very well on his famous liquid seasoning bottle: “the product is very rich. Use it sparingly. It is unnecessary to season every soup or dish; only neutral-tasting soups and dishes need seasoning and this merely to enhance their own flavour. It is impossible to fix the necessary quantity to be added beforehand, simply sample it several times.” I call this pure common sense. To tell the consumer that a few drops of the product make up x% of the daily requirement of salt is sheer nonsense! Last, but not least, there is no legislation on GDA information!

Constant change to the design reduces brand identity

Dear reader, please tell that to Google and they will laugh at you! Constant change is a way of staying top-of-mind. I am not saying that the front panel of a pack should change all the time, but special editions, new layouts and constantly better illustrations will help your brand to be in the forefront and be referred to as a ‘living brand’.

And what about the back/service panel? At each new printing, it has to give new information about the product or the company. I say company and not brand, as most consumers today want to know who is behind a brand. The brand tells us a different story, such as taste, convenience or pleasure, whereas the company expresses quality and trust.

We need more packages, not less

Do you know how much food gets lost, i.e. destroyed in the world due to a lack of proper packaging? Tons! Proper packaging (and we still have a lot to learn, thus this site) is a goal we should strive for both in developed and developing markets. Great packaging is economy and ecology. It’s about perfect protection, easy distribution, valuable and understandable information. The materials get thinner and thinner (less weight), some standardisation contributes to a better use of space during distribution, etc. Correct packaging is more packages in certain categories and less in others.

Also, we need to buy our fresh produce as close to the growing/production areas as possible and this is one of many positive trends.

Pack design should cost as little as possible

During the last 3-5 years, I have noticed that more and more of the big companies buy design through their purchasing department in the manner of raw materials, machines, etc. That is to say they obtain 3-4 quotations and take the cheapest one if it offers the same quality which, in the case of raw materials, is measurable.

However, great creativity, brain thinking and superb execution is something only a knowledgeable marketing person can judge and evaluate. Pitching for design jobs should, in my opinion, be forbidden. A long-term relationship ‘client-design agency’ is common sense.

Shippers are not seen by the consumer, thus they need no design

How wrong can one be! Just back from Guangdong, a province as large as France and UK together, I did my usual store-checking and found, as in Europe, that the shippers/outer cartons are very often piled up above the supermarket shelves. Why are beer companies spending money in printing messages/call-to-action on these secondary packages and not companies like Unilever, Nestlé or Krafft?

When these shippers travel on trucks from a warehouse to a supermarket, they are seen and, if well designed, they get a second life, as the Chiquita box!

It is the cheapest advertising space you have for your brand, as the carton anyhow has to be printed with article number, origin, etc.

Last, but not least, it is great fun to have a bigger surface to work on than a retail package. And with such constraints as for instance the use of two colours only, it is an interesting problem to solve!

I hope the above comments are of some help to a younger generation of designers!

August 2012

Feb 18

I could most likely include non-food FMCG companies, but my experience being mostly within the food and drink segment, my comments will relate to these products.

Why write this article? Well, some frustration is no doubt the driving force, as I have seen some changes, unfortunately not to the better, during the last decades.

I will cover the following 8 areas which I believe need improvement:

  • • Education;
  • • Design as a selling tool;
  • • Structure within the organisation;
  • • Legislation, ie. what must be in relation to what could be;
  • • Purchasing of design/creative work;
  • • 360° communication, i.e. the coordination within all media;
  • • Testing;
  • • Appetite appeal. We eat with our eyes.

X  X  X

If we wish to have more creative solutions, faster and more efficient, we have to start with education. Young brand managers coming out of business schools (e.g. MBA) have today very little, if any, training in design and communication.  I would therefore, as early as possible, have all my marketing people trained in

  • • how to make a difference between concept and execution. With today’s overuse of the design computer, it is clear that most agencies offer several executions before even thinking/agreeing upon a concept/big idea!
  • • how to brief an agency with stimulating information and not a lot of figures;
  • • working with a highly skilled design communicator (see later) who steers them in the right direction.

X  X  X

Such training is not easy to obtain, but is essential to avoid too much testing and/or personal likes or dislikes.

The 2nd area, which is linked to the 3rd, has to do with the question of where, in an organisation, I should place my design manager or unit. I personally favour a solution where, depending on the size of the organisation, you have a few skilled designers inside who understand both the technical and the marketing side of packaging and instore POS material, as these two media go hand in hand. These designers should be the link between the brand managers and the outside agencies. They are trained to judge quality, costs, efficiency and should constantly look for improvements within the packaging world, a world that evolves so fast that a brand manager has no time to be up-to-date. This or these designers should preferably also be good teachers in order to pass on their knowledge both to the brand managers and the outside agencies.

It goes without saying that I here mainly deal with the marketing side of package design. On the technical side, there are plenty of packaging engineers who receive adequate training in technical highschools or universities.

Great design, visual and verbal, makes a product more valuable. In my opinion, the abovementioned designer should therefore be placed rather high up in the organisation, as assistant to the business director or marketing manager, i.e. above brand management. Brand management decides upon what to communicate, the designer knows how to do it.

The 4th area which I’d like to discuss is how to interpret legislation. It goes without saying that what is mandatory such as ingredients, weight, last day of consumption, etc. should not be put into question. There must be a real dialogue between the legal department/regulatory affairs and the brand management. If we are in Europe where, in my opinion, there is a good legislation, we do not need to print net weight on the front and GDA is not obligatory. A brand manager should always challenge his or her legal advisor if we wish to give clearer and common sense communication to our consumers!

My 5th point is the one where I should like to make a real change and that is WHO BUYS CREATIVE DESIGN WORK TODAY? The purchasing department can issue the purchase order, but it must be the abovementioned design manager who negotiates and agrees with the outside design agency about price and delivery date, leaving the door open to corrections which are unavoidable. It is practically impossible to fix a precise price on something which only exists in the mind of people when the job starts. There must obviously be a roof, a sum that can be fixed. But the way up to this roof, i.e. the costs of the various steps, must be flexible.

Now, if the supplier cannot meet the agreement, there are other agencies waiting for an opportunity. This being said, I’m totally against pitching and only believe in long term business relationship, especially nowadays, when brand managers change job quite often, more often it seems than designers in agencies…

My 6th advice is to always see package design in a larger context. It is surprising for me to learn that all the big companies I have worked for during the last 7-8 years deal with packaging separately from other media! For me, there is only one solution. The Big Idea, the concept, can come from almost anyone or any unit, but the development of this idea must be done in teamwork between the design agency, the POS agency, the advertising agency, etc. There must be synergy, meaning economy. Here again, I would like to see the design manager coordinate this to achieve a good result.

The 7th area is about testing? I would test concepts, I would test specific parts of a piece of communication, but I would never ask consumers what they think about my pack or my ad? How can they know? Research is necessary to find out pros and cons, likes or dislikes, but no consumer in the world can give a good answer about my pack design. The knowledge of how to design a pack, i.e. the structure and hierarchy, must be the role of the marketing manager to decide upon with the help of the designer.

Last, but not least, I would spend money in order to get all my illustrations more than outstanding! I would invest in seminars about food styling for those in my organisation who decide upon photography and design. Do not understimate the value of great appetite appeal… just look at the Magnum print ad or at a Mars TVC and you’ll understand what I mean! The right combination ‘photographer and food stylist’ (be it a drink or solid food), is among the best investment a marketeer can do. I don’t think you ever can over-pay an illustration that makes your mouth water!

X  X  X

Good companies master many of the above advice, but I believe the role of a key design manager is more than ever essential and cannot be underestimated!

Oct 24

Congratulations Lars!

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Best wishes from Filip and HelloSwe.

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