Jun 17

Great Learnings

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Design | Logotypes | Trends | Typography | Uncategorized

Guinness just redesigned their 50cl draught can. Did you notice it? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they did it right. This is unusual as today we mostly see up-datings or modernisations without real logic or common sense thinking – just playing around with different elements. Here are seven learnings:

An icon is more involving, more emotional and has a stronger visual impact than a logotype;

A brand logotype does not necessarily have to be on top of the front panel;

An RTB, i.e. reason-to-buy or call it USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is needed to position the product in the consumer’s mind. The one on the new design is “Brewed in Dublin”.. where else? This is the real stuff, not something brewed in your local Carlsberg or Heineken brewery;

A signature as in this case “Arthur Guinness” always adds tradition, thus quality;

Don’t change for the sake of change! Neither the harp, nor the Guinness logotype have been touched. There was no need for it as both are already well balanced designs;

Combine if you can in order to reduce the number of design elements. The “Est. 1759” is now part of the harp. Great thinking!

Better use of space. On the previous design there was a lot of empty space, not on the new one.

Whoever did this, congratulations!

Jun 11

I am often asked the question: “from where do you get your creativity?” The answer is: “mostly in keeping my eyes open, from storechecking, and being curious. That is what I would call the visual input to my brain. However, these images need stimuli to be of value and this stimulation comes from my verbal memory, from books I have read.

In the communication business the visual and the verbal go hand in hand. I therefore take all opportunities to learn from the masters. Masters in typography, design, management, marketing, etc.

I have noticed that most schools do not offer a ‘good list of books to read’ and this is why I will here give a list of those books which have made an impact on me and helped me go further designwise as well as in respect to human relations. In fact, you always have to deal with people before you deal with a design project.

If the reader has other proposals, please inform me and I will include them in a possible future edition!

Now, how do I find the time to read? Well, as everything in life, it is a matter of priority – how you travel, how much time you spend with yourself. I prefer to take the train where I can read calmly instead of rushing through airports. I prefer to lie on my bed in a hotelroom in the evening with a good beer instead of going out eating and drinking. I love to roam around in bookstores!

So, now to my proposals. I have divided my list into the following chapters:

  1. General knowledge for a richer life
  2. Books on Design
  3. Books on Marketing
  4. Business books
  5. Typography
  6. Brand identity
  7. Art
  8. Creativity

l. General Knowledge
The first book to read (or at least skim through) is Richard D. Lewis’  “When Cultures Collide” (Nicolas Brealey International), right now in its 3rd edition. Great reading to understand the various cultures on this earth.

Two books which tell us what work is all about: “Winners never cheat” by Jon M. Huntsman (Wharton School Publishing) and “It’s called work for a reason” by Larry Winget (Gotham Books). These books are a must! They are highly inspiring as they deal with honesty, generosity and everyday values.

If you wish to know how to overcome your shyness and learn “how to talk to anyone, any time, anywhere”, read Larry King’s book with the same title.

It is probably unnecessary to mention here, but “The Peter Principle” by Laurence J. Peter  & Raymond Hull (Bantam) back in 1969 is more valid than ever.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson (Hyperion) is easy reading and so is any book by my favourite business writer Charles Handy. I like “The new Alchimists”, but “The Empty Railncoat” and “The Elepant and the Flea”, as well as his autobiography “MYSELF & other more important matters” are more than worth reading.

The book I open most often is no doubt Roget’s Thesaurus with some 250’000 words, phrases and synonyms.
So much about the general stuff.

2. Design
The main editor in this area is no doubt Phaidon and a must for anyone in the design business are the 3 volumes “Phaidon Design Classics” from 1 to 1’000”!

Terence Conran’s “Terence Conran on Design” has a great selection of designs. For the reader interested in graphic design Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart’s “A Smile in the Mind” (Phaidon) takes us on a very creative trip and so does Bob Gill’s “Forget all the rules you ever learned about graphic design, including the ones in this book”.

Two books by Paul Rand, “From Lascaux to Brooklyn” and “Design, Form and Chaos” show what an outstanding man Paul Rand was.

3. Marketing
Jack Trout and Al Ries “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is the first book to read, as well as David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising”. Marc Gobé’s “Emotional Branding (Allworth Press) and Sergio Zyman’s (ex CocaCola) “The End of Marketing as we know it” are interesting and so is “Cutting Edge Advertising” by Jim Aitchison (Prentice Hall). There are many more books on marketing worth reading – it is just that I have not focused on this category as the marketing I have learned has been ‘on the task’, solving communication issues at Nestlé.

Having said this I cannot avoid mentioning Jack Trout’s “In search of the obvious” and Martin Lindström’s “buy.ology”.

4. Business
My favourite business author is Anita Roddick. Her “Business as unusual” is a real gem! Lee Iacocca’s “Talking Straight” may be a bit outdated and so is most likely also Jan Carlzon’s “Moments of truth” (Ballinger). A more recent book is “The Big Moo” edited by Seth Godin (Penguin) with articles by a.o. Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Kelley and Tom Peters.

Jonas Ridderstrahle and Kjell A. Nordstroem’s two books “Funky Business” and “Karaoke Capitalism” are interesting and so is Jeffrey J. Fox’s book “How to become CEO”. David Firth’s “How to make Work Fun” is a much needed book, especially nowadays!

If you need quotations for a speech Charles Robert Lightfoot has written “Handbook of Business Quotations”.

The book one cannot miss is from Tom Peters and is called “Re-imagine”. It is so complete (layout, content, etc.) that I could mention it in all eight categories!

Two books I do not know where to put as they deal with design as well as marketing are Paul Arden’s “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” and “Whatever you think, think the opposite” (both Phaidon). As I prefer small books to big heavy ones, these have become my favourites!

5. Typography
Most of the books I have studied to learn more about typography or calligraphy are in Swedish, French or German. They will not fit into this list as I have decided to only mention books in English. However, there is one book in English I suggest to read and that is “The Alphabet” by David Sacks (Hutchinson) as it gives a fascinating insight into the archaeology of language and the mystery behind the 26 letters which make up the English alphabet.

6. Brand Identity
Corporate identity and brand identity is one of the richest section in any library. It seems that everybody wants to write about all these popular world brands as CocaCola, Nike, IKEA or Apple. I have skimmed through dozens of books, but only two ended up in my library: Kevin Robert’s “Lovemarks, the future beyond brands” (Power House Book) and Per Mollerup’s “Marks of Excellence” (Phaidon) – a Dane who is very knowledgable within the design community.

7. Art Books
There are thousands of them … it is just a matter of what painter, architect or sculptor you prefer. However, there is a book which has fascinated many readers (although it has very few illustrations) and that is “COLOUR” by Victoria Finlay which can be summarized as “Travels through the Paintbox”.

8. Creativity

One thing is for sure, you cannot become creative just by reading books on creativity. It is more difficult than that! However, reading anything by Edward de Bono helps to ‘think creatively’. His books on lateral thinking are sold in millions of copies. His latest is called “Think! Before It’s Too Late”. My favourite books are Alan Fletcher’s “The art of looking sideways” and Herb Meyers/Richard Gerstman’s “Creativity (Unconventional wisdom from 20 accomplished minds)”.

Now, do I only read business books? Of course not! Here are my favourite five: Nelson Mandela “Long walk to Freedom”, Bryce Courtney “The Power of One”, Jack Kerouac “On the Road”, Paul Theroux “The Great Railway Bazaar” and Astrid Lindgren “Fifi Longstockings”.

9. Presentation skills
I love to teach and to present new designs in a convincing way. A recent book which may help the reader to sell ideas is no doubt “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo (McGraw-Hill).



Well … now to you the reader, build up your own library! It will most likely be different, but maybe you have found inspiration from the above.


May 20

Do it BIG or stay in bed

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Featured | Typography | Uncategorized

Can it be said better? I doubt. On a recent business trip to Austria I was once more reminded of the fact that in every single market in Europe we ‘overcommunicate’. Not only on packaging, but equally on POS, outdoor advertising, TVC or print.

If  packaging technology improves daily, the quality of communication decreases for each day. When digital technology helps us to communicate faster, cheaper and more easily, the quality of what we communicate gets worse.

Not with all companies. Some do it well, such as most beer brands, Mars, Apple, McDonald, IKEA, etc. But about 80% deal with communication in an amateur way.

  • Why have two logotypes (same brand) on a given surface, as they often compete with each other for attention?
  • Why are brand logotypes so small or without supporting icon or colour scheme which we do not see, nor remember who is trying to sell to us?
  • Why do we have more than 2-3 messages on a given surface when we know, and tests have proven to us, that our brain is not interested in more?

The above three comments are surprising when branded products have to fight for being seen surrounded as they are by an ever increasing number of retailers’ own products. If you are not seen you cannot be bought is a statement which reminds us of the importance of simplifying in order to amplify the main message.

As mentioned above some companies ‘have got it’ and do well understand the limitations of the human brain thus being efficient when communicating with the consumer.

For the others, here are a few advice to design a package (front and back) that stands out on the shelf and that invites to be read.

Rule no 1: Strong brand on the front, no brand on the back. Strong brand means strong product brand as that is what the consumer buys. Strong brand can mean BIG logotype, but also interesting icon/spokesman, powerful colour(s)/pattern or contrast. It goes without saying that if a corporate (umbrella) brand is considered it must be strongly linked to the product brand to have maximal effect.

Rule no 2: A powerful RTB which triggers new consumers. Do not whisper it … shout it out in a bold manner on top of the illustration, the brand or icon. The design becomes more 3D which is the sign of a contemporary product. Be inspired by the front page of the weekly press. They know how to sell, week after week.

Rule no 3: When developing the RTB, if it is a text, try to inspire your best copywriter, the one who knows the value of words and their impact. If the RTB is appetite appeal you need the best food stylist to bring out the unique taste, structure or size impression. If the RTB is a technical feature then be sure that it is understood. If not, you are wasting money. ‘Do it BIG’ also means do it strong and convincing.

Rule no 4: Make the back of the pack worth looking at with the help of

  • constant change. You never read a text twice;
  • short text and BIG. Remember the title. Consumers do not read small texts;
  • the back panel being the service panel you need a BIG website if you wish consumers to contact you. The better consumer contact the more efficient marketing expenditure.

These were just a few advice how to ‘make it BIG’ in order to better capture the consumers’ interest. If not done, I suggest you stay in bed.

May 14

Package design is no doubt a multi-diciplinary occupation. To succeed you need knowledge in many fields of activities. Here is a summary of the ten most important.

1. Understand the consumer
To find out what the consumer likes or wants, first of all think of yourself. What would you like ? A pack easy to open, a back panel text easy to read, a brand you trust, a clear product denomination, a pack easy to hold in your hands and easy to dispose of or recycle ? It is not more complicated. Forget buzz-words like insight or focus groups, just use your own intelligence and common sense! With this you will get at least 80% right and that is more than enough to achieve great packaging.

Packages are first of all designed with the consumer in mind, secondly only for the trade, the legislator or the boss.

2. Understand the meaning of simplicity
The person who best formulated this was Coco Chanel some 80 years ago when she coined the now famous phrase : “Always reduce, never add” and the architect Mies van der Rohe who also coined the often repeated, but seldom followed sentence : “Less is more !” Enough said. There is no doubt too much (useless) information on today’s packages.

3.  Understand positioning
Call it what you like : genetic code, DNA, spirit, core value, brand essence, big idea, etc., a package design must strengthen the idea behind a brand (or product). There must  be a synergy effect. A package design is always part of total communication and has therefore to be in line with the abovementioned idea or positioning. The idea must be simple and powerful.

4.  Understand hierarchy
There is always something that is the most important. It is very rare that two things matter the same, especially in package design. The responsible person for a package, be it the Marketing Director, the Big Boss or the Technical Director must be able to make a hierarchy list to follow for those who develop the package design. This is very seldom done and therefore the final result becomes ‘a little of everything’ which is equal to bad packaging.

It is obvious that nutritional information is the key information on a product like an infant formula milk for a newborn baby while for a teen-ager chewing gum an advice like “don’t smoke” would be the best choice.

5.  Understand legislation
This is the area where things often ‘go wrong’ as we do not make a difference between a must (i.e. a legislative decision) and a guideline or rule or best practice. Furthermore, a law can be interpreted in more than one way. For instance, does the front panel on a carton mean only the front or also the side panels ? It all depends upon which angle you hold the pack. In order to not fall into the trap of printing ‘almost everything’ which means small illegible texts, ask yourselves obvious questions like ;

  • • does the consumer really need this information?
  • • does this information help to sell more ?
  • • is the information understood ?
  • • does the consumer really need a GDA on a can of CocaCola or a small bag of peanuts, and what about the carbon foot print (CO2 emission)

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

6.  Understand material
Have you ever held in one hand a can of juice and in the other a carton pack (Tetra, Combibloc or Purepak) fresh from the fridge ? Well, do it once and you will understand why the aluminium or steel cans feel colder. One of the first decisions to take when developing a new package is what material or which material conbination should be chosen to best express the uniqueness of the product inside. It is just common sense that carton packages with transparent windows have today become very popular as most consumers want to see what they buy. Even paperbags have today a transparent window.

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

7.  Understand layout
There is a deep rooted syndrome among most marketing people. It is called ”the upper left hand corner syndrome” as marketing executives believe that a package is seen as a book and that one has to start ‘up left’ with the corporate brand. Nothing could be more wrong. A package design can have ANY layout. It is the product idea that dictates the layout and visual impact that should be achieved.

The French MAGGI “Panier de légumes” soup sachets are good examples. The layout could not be better. It has a 3D layout starting on top with the ingredients, a clear product denomination in the middle and a soup ladle at the bottom.

However, I will never understand what the text “Energy 83 kcal, 3 servings, etc.” has to do on the front panel. This type of information should be on the back leaving more space for the real call-to-action sales message which is “riche en fibres, vitamines et légumes” (in this order).

8.  Understand ecology
Today we are ‘bombarded’ with nutritional messages often too complicated to be understood by the average consumer. At the same time we learn about global warming, the dangers of CO2 and the depletion of the ozon layer. Would it not be a good idea to use the packages to educate the consumers about ecology (not only recycling!) and how we all, by changing our life style, could participate to make this Earth an even better place ?

9.  Understand 3D
A full-fledged package designer cannot be only a graphic designer. He or she must fully understand shapes, forms and how to achieve them.

A thin corrugated shipper needs a strong rigid retail package and vice versa. A great and interesting point-of-sale unit can work marvels even with a rather simple retail package. Before starting a package design project decide where to put your money !

10.  Understand total packaging, i.e. the SYNERGY effect
Until this day when I am writing these lines, after more than 40 years in package design, I have never been at a meeting where all of the following responsible persons were present :

  • • project leader (normally a brand or product manager);
  • • package designer;
  • • technical packaging engineer;
  • • advertising account executive or, even better, thecreative director;
  • • legal adviser;
  • • someone representing the trade.

As mentioned above total packaging is both a marketing and technical issue. It is a matter of retail package, display unit and shipper as well as taking the key decision up-front as to what the main visuals should be (form, colours, logotype, etc.) to be communicated through all packaging and media !

To do this is not an easy task. I therefore often say : “Do not wish it were easier, wish we were better !”

Apr 23

Looking at package design from a graphical point-of-view in general and from a typographical (i.e. lettering) point-of-view in particular the question no doubt arises of whether typography communicates or whether it is just letters put together. To answer this question let us look at the 10 ways letters can be ‘put together’ and what they can express.

Here are 10 groups to give an idea of the potential there is in using letters and typographic style to communicate:

1. Quality
The most common use of typography is to let the letters express a product quality, be it low (Migros Budget), high (calligraphy GRAND CRU) or a specific style. In product categories like wine, spirits or chocolate there are numerous examples.


2. Elegance/Sophistication
Most sophisticated products have script typography. A chocolate product from one of the leading European producers this time from Geneva rather than from Bruxelles.


3. Tradition
To express tradition is very common in categories like beer, biscuits, chocolate or coffee. The calligraphic style of “La Laitière” in France is an excellent example and also a success story of the right combination of an emotional word expressed in an emotional typography. The Nestlé brand “La Laitière” is today used in several product categories from ice cream to desserts.

To express tradition one chooses a typeface which is

  • • not used today
  • • slightly difficult to read
  • • not too perfect
  • • most likely in italic

Amaretti di Matilde is no doubt a good example.

4. Brand identity (Letter)
To own a word is great (ABSOLUT), to own a letter is even better. Kelloggs has no doubt a success story with its low-cal cereal “Special K”. My favourite is, however, the Norwegian Brewery Hansa who uses the letter “H” in a very powerful and decorative manner. Nespresso’s double “N” is also a great example.

5. Brand identity (personalized alphabet)
Not long ago a logotype was sacred and there was no way to use it in a creative manner. Luckily these times are gone and the brand that has best strengthened its identity by constantly changing something in its identity is no doubt TOBLERONE. By doing so the brand is better noticed and thus stays top-of-mind.

6. Taste & structure
A typography can express many things from creaminess to elegance, from childish to exotic, from simplicity to quality.

A very successful brand from York (like KITKAT, although another company) is ORANGE where the whole typography smells and tastes of orange. Another good example, although a bit dated today, is the Australian cooking chocolate “Easy to Melt” from Nestlé with its “melted” letters.

7. Product personality
To underline the strength and freshness of the Russian Stimorol ICE Cadbury did not only use an exaggeration for the strongest flavour, i.e. -70°, but the typography of ICE was given a very icy character. Cadbury’s Fingers literally show the product. Müller’s square cereal yoghurt pot with the product brand CORNER (a word difficult to register) has been given a very unique personality thanks to the letter “O” turned into the shape of the tub. Great thinking !

8. Onomatopoeia
A brand can express itself in an onomatopoeic manner and those who match the letters with the word are no doubt the best. Since many years the favourite among Swedes is the “mums-mums”, a light foamy chocolate with a typography that has no doubt been well chosen for this type of product.

9. 3D
Although designers have the possibility to make typography three-dimensional with the help of modern technology (design computers) it is surprising how little this technology is used in package design. Compared to the 3D style coming from Pixar (Ratatouille, Toy Story, etc.) one realizes that package design has still a long way to go. A good example of what can be achieved is the TOGO chocolate.

10. Letter turned into a symbol
Last but not least in this analysis of typography and calligraphy in package design is the not so common, but very effective way of turning a letter into a symbol. The symbol mostly used is no doubt the heart. The Nutrisoy Soya milk package design is one great example.
What conclusion can we draw from the above? No doubt that there is a great possibility to make typography and calligraphy render package designs more characteristic, interesting and protectable. Hopefully these examples will stimulate designers to do so.

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