Apr 04

Sad news…

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

We are very sad to inform you that Lars has left us at the end of last year.

Thank you so much for the interest you are showing in visiting his site.

We hope you will keep on doing so, as Lars’ teaching remains a reference in the world of packaging design and communication.

You will find below some links to interviews Lars gave to his friend Vladimir Naumov, which we hope will inspire you!

the Wallentin family

Jun 15


Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

My teaching is based upon the three words

  • – Simplify
  • – Amplify
  • – Surprise

In this article, I will give a few examples, as ‘surprise’ can be so many different things.

To surprise is mainly to be different. I’m sure you have seen my example with the two elephants which show that it is essential to be or look different in the marketing of consumer goods, as so many products are alike.

Here are 6 ways of surprising the viewer. They are not in any order of importance, as it all depends upon the category in which your product appears.

  • A.    Dynamic graphics! The two samples I’ve chosen, an ad and a pack, use the same technique: they focus on the key element in the design. It cannot be done better!

  • B.    Do it BIG or stay in bed! This technique is used for count line candies, snacks, etc. Just blow up what you wish the consumer to read. You can do it with a text, but equally with an illustration.

  • C.    Shape it up! I feel particularly happy when I have found a new pack size of a known product which surprises with the shape. An excellent example is the big Ricola carton which is 100% Ricola, but surprises with a totally new pack shape.

  • D.    New execution of a known icon or logotype! Those who hear me speaking know how much I admire what the Purina (a Nestlé brand) people do. The other day, I saw Felix looking at me! Wow, I think this is stunning design!

  • E.    Dare to do it! As said above, communication is about being different and, in fact, VERY different! Most brand managers would never think of changing the ‘evian’ bottle to a completely different shape. These two Disney bottles with the correct ‘evian’ branding are just perfect fro my point of view, but how many would have dared to go this far?

  • F.    Surprise with material! A label is a label is a label, be it paper, aluminium foil or plastic. But to add a wax seal or use metal… that’s to go so far that the consumer will refer to your product by saying “you know, that label with the seal”, or “that metal label”.

Well, dear Reader, next time try to surprise!

LW/June 2018

May 31

It’s not every day you have the chance to develop a new brand, as most jobs are about updating, repositioning, line extension, new packaging, etc.

When luck strikes and you can start a job from scratch and develop an identity, here’s one design solution better than most others. It is to design your logotype with letters that have their own personality and which will always, in whatever way they are used, communicate your brand. The best version is to always have your identity on a unike background, but it is not a necessity.

The first brand to use characteristic letters to say something more than the brand is, of course, TOBLERONE which, at the time, belonged to Kraft, now to Mondelez.

Others have followed, some good, some less good. My favourites are NIVEA, evian and SNICKERS, samples of which you see in this article.

LW/April 2018

May 22

The other day, I saw an ad in The New York Times which spoke about the truth, so crucial in today’s journalistic world, when someone invented the alternative facts. How is it on packaging?

Well, if we start with the front panel, I can say there is no place for lying today. However, it is a must to ‘beautify’ a product in order to look better than the competitor.

In food, this is achieved by selecting the most photogenic parts, arranging them up front in a warm light. The food stylist knows, today, how far one can go in order to ‘tell the truth’.

It is a bit different when it comes to back panel communication. We obviously can’t change figures or mention wrong ingredients and we cannot show figures that mislead, but we can try to be smart and amplify the good things in a product.

I prefer, for instance, information from a German Innocent label which tells you, in quite a funny way, how you will appreciate their juice. It’s called “the Innocent juice appreciation curve”. I don’t think I need to translate it for my European readers.

But the best ever label is the one Julius Maggi (an outstanding marketing man) printed on his Maggi Würze bottle around 1910-20! I think this is still the best pack within the Nestlé world. It has it all! Here’s the text in English:

In every kitchen
is unequalled
is unique
guaranteed pure and top quality
MAGGI is still the most refined seasoning
Keeps indefinitely
Sole producers: MAGGI GmbH

IMPORTANT: this MAGGI bottle can only be sold if it contains the pure MAGGI aroma, any offender risks a heavy fine. (i.e. trust)

Confirmed on several occasions by the Supreme Court of the German Federal Republic. (trust)

In fact, this MAGGI bottle bears our company’s name in the glass. Our MAGGI brand, as well as the star, are registered and therefore protected. (trust)

Other products of the MAGGI company: MAGGI bouillon cubes – MAGGI soups (cross advertising).

Nobile quia optimum… (known because the best) – (Latin gives an image of quality).

Directions for use:
MAGGI aroma is very rich; use it sparingly (who would say this today?)

It is unnecessary to season every soup and every dish; only neutral-tasting soups and dishes need seasoning and this merely to enhance their own flavour. This is the truth.

It is impossible to fix the necessary quantity of aroma to be added beforehand – simply sample it several times. (good advice)

On no account must MAGGI aroma be overpowering. (good advice)

Do not cook MAGGI aroma – add it just before serving.

Control analysis:
Specific gravity 1.264 – 1.274
Dehydrated substance approx. 49%
Mineral substances and various nutritive salts respectively approx. 19%
(like on a S. Pellegrino label).

LW/December 2017

May 16

Today, we do not take enough time to analyse communication, as we are too preoccupied with the execution of a project. Furthermore, we favour guidelines, best practice and rules to the profound analysis which obviously demands more from us.

Thus, we design labels as the one below that I picked up in a hotel in Atlanta. When you, still a bit sleepy, arrive to the breakfast buffet, common sense tells you that the key information you need when you choose your teabag is the denomination of the tea. But to find this text on this label, you must be very awake!

No doubt the design is elegant, well balanced, I’d even say beautiful! It is what I call a ‘designer’s label’ and certainly not a ‘consumer label’.

Why does this happen? And it happens daily in the design world. Because most designers are usually more preoccupied with execution than communication.

When I think of it… to replace “Tea & Company” with “Black tea” would be very easy, still maintaining the elegant layout. I most likely cannot change the illegible USDA stamp, as US legislation is very strict and does not allow certain information to be on the back where they belong. Marketing blah-blah like “Emperor’s Breakfast”, “(Reserve Lot)” and “Caffeine” do belong to the back where it can be explained why the tea is so great that it can be called “Emperor’s Breakfast”.

What would be more appreciated on the front would be to tell the consumer that it is a mix of Assam, Darjeeling and Yunnan, words that most tea drinkers understand!

This was just one example I use when I teach communication. Those of you who have heard me know that I have many others up my sleeve!

LW/April 2018

May 09

When I got the idea to write this article, I had a specific pack in mind, but I’ve decided not to show any illustration so as not to embarrass the brand owner. In fact, the above title is valid for almost any pack.

The biggest weakness with most of today’s packages is overcommunication. What does this mean? It means that brand managers believe that

  1. the consumer needs all information
  2. the legislation stipulates all information
  3. the pack has to include all information, etc.

This is certainly not the case, especially as there are big differences between a so-called ‘health product’ and the common ‘indulgence product’, between a soft drink and plain water!

As most companies have issued internal guidelines, there is a common belief that a guideline (which is not necessarily a legislation) has to be followed to 100%! This means that no common sense is being used and that the guidelines (which should just guide) are applied slavishly.

This is particularly true when it comes to promotional packages where information is added and nothing is deleted. If you want your key message (the promotion) to be bold, it is obvious that something else has to go.

It is here that common sense is essential. I therefore suggest that the brand manager goes through the following list before briefing the design agency. I’d also like the design agency to use their own check list which may not be the same:

Do I really need, on the front panel,

  • – to see the complete brand logotype?
  • – the corporate brand to be visible?
  • – the RDA on the front? Can it not be on the side?
  • – the illustration if the product is very well known?
  • – the product denomination? (Mars has none!)
  • – to duplicate brands? (which is the most common weakness)
  • – Fairtrade or other symbols?
  • – to strictly follow the brand guideline layout or can certain elements change position to better highlight a promotion?

If the answer to these 8 questions is positive, the NEW layout of the front panel will become more simple, more dynamic and more SELLING, as the promotional message will undoubtly stand out better and thus be more convincing.


Package design is about SELLING and, as far as I learned during my 40 years at Nestlé, the simpler and more dynamic the design, the higher the sales curve!
Good communication and good products go hand in hand.


LW/March 2018

Apr 25

Storytelling II

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Do you want to sell more? Do you wish to have a stronger link with your consumer?… Well, tell a story!

But not just any story. A story that is as emotional as possible to touch the heart more than the brain.

As the illustration says: “Those who tell stories rule the society” and it was not anybody who said it… it was Plato some 2’000 years ago and it is still valid today!

The story must be linked to the brand in such a way that the consumer remembers your brand. Your brand can tell a story through the product and its use or characteristics, but it can also be a story in a media. 

Telling a memorable story without overdoing the design is not that easy, as you have to balance out the verbal and the visual, even the symbolic in such a way that the story is quickly understood.

Today, we have a tendency to want to say as much as possible on a pack, not to forget the legal (necessary and unnecessary) information and thus drown the story. Moreover, we often look at the design on a computer screen, not next to competitors’ products and we know that on the illuminated screen everything looks great.

When we wish to tell a story, we should never forget that it is the PRODUCT that should be in focus and not the brand, so the product has to be in the foreground!

I’ve chosen a wafer biscuit as an example and, in my opinion, this design would have been a masterpiece if 3 elements had been moved to the side or back panels, as they disturb the story:

  1. the corporate brand Jacob’s, as we then could say something about the Jacob’s quality, etc.;
  2. the nutritional information which one ignores when buying ‘indulgence’ food;
  3. the net weight which could have been replaced by the number of wafers. Nobody is looking for 175g of wafers!

So if we clean out the design, we have a perfect ‘Italian wafer’ with the name MILANO (easy to remenber) and the trattoria. That’s storytelling!

When writing these lines, there is, on our local TV (maybe on many other channels), an excellent example of the above, featuring Federer and Barilla!

LW/April 2018

Apr 01

Creativity takes courage

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized


Creativity: the unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas (Edwin Catmull, Pixar).


Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating (John Cleese).


Working with change is what creativity is about (Edwin Catmull, Pixar).


Creativity: things I have collected over time always have relevance at some point later on (Lars Wallentin).


Creativity is about curiosity and the joy of doing something new.


Creativity is intelligence having fun.


Creativity is the generation of novel and appropriate ideas. Innovation implements those ideas and hereby changes the order of things in the world.


Creativity without implementation is irresponsibility (Ted Lewitt).


Creativity is to challenge oneself!


Nonconforming oddities can be enriching and humanising! Indeed, exceptions to the rule are often more interesting than the rules themselves.


Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and last, but not least, having fun! (Mary Lou Cook).


The impetus to conform, so widespread today, will, if not checked, kill all forms of creativity (Paul Rand, 1960).


LW/March 2018

Mar 25

Those of you who have read my books or the articles on www.packagingsense.com know that I prefer both icons (e.g. spokesmen) and design style (identifying a brand) to a logotype, as they are more emotional.

Today, I’d like to give some advice on how to use the brand spokesman in the most efficient manner on packaging, POS or advertising.

If I start with the style or type of spokesman, it can express many different positionings of the brand:

  • –       cheap (inexpensive) or luxury
  • –       basic or special
  • –       friendly or distant
  • –       fun or serious
  • –       childish or adult
  • –       human or animal
  • –       hyper realistic or stylised
  • –       agricultural or industrial
  • –       specialist or layman
  • –       traditional or contemporary, etc.

The illustrations to this article show some of the above characteristics.

Once the spokesman (or icon) has been decided upon (its expression of the brand), the next decision to take is its position on the pack and other media, i.e. attached or non determined position. It’s here many design manuals make the mistake to determine a precise position and fix the size.

As the spokesman is more attractive than the brand, my opinion is to not decide too early upon how to use it, as it is impossible to foresee all the situations that will come up.

It is useful to fix the spokesman’s position next to or attached to the brand logotype when you register it, as it then strengthens the registration, but once this is done, let the spokesman take the best spot on the pack, POS or advertising. Now and then, you have a portrait format and thus the spokesman will most likely appear above or below the logotype. On other occasions, you might have a landscape format and then the spokesman may be to the left or to the right. It all depends on how big you wish the brand logotype to be in relation to the spokesman.

My experience is that, if your spokesman is photographic or a hyper realistic drawing, it is useful to also have a simplified, stylised version, depending on the printing technique, the material, the background, etc.

The following points have also to be taken into consideration:

  • a)    The background: a face looks different against a white background compared to a photographic one. You may decide to frame it which I would advise against, as it limits its use.
  • b)   If it is a person, should you allow it to have diffferent expressions and/or positions? I would be for it, as my experience with the Nesquik Bunny is a good example. Don’t forget that, on a pack, you have a back panel where you can amplify your spokesman (Sardines Lou Ferrignade).

Last, but not least, always allow your spokesman to overlap your brand if you have limited space!


LW/November 2017

Mar 16

It’s about focusing

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

The other day, I drove down to our railway station to pick up my Saturday newspapers, the Financial Times, Courrier international, Die Zeit and L’Equipe, as I’m a fan of sports.

On the way, I passed a poster that CAUGHT MY EYE, as it was simple and emotional – I could imagine myself on it. I remembered ALL I saw, the word MERCI, as well as the thanking gesture as the car stops at the pedestrian crossing!

So far, so good… but a little bit later, there were 3 posters that did not catch my eye. Nevertheless, I stopped to photograph them, as they were examples of what 90% of such outdoor posters look like. I call them “designer’s posters”, as I can imagine the designer filling a blank surface with what he or she likes, without thinking of me, the viewer.

I ask myself: when designing a poster, a pack, POS material, do we not want it to be read and understood instantly?

These 3 posters have been chosen randomly and I do not wish to comment upon them, as the reader certainly understands very well why I write these lines… with the hope that designers conceive communication not for themselves, but for the potential viewer!


LW/January 2018

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