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Be close to your target!

Be close to your target!

The other day, I fell on two goblets standing side by side in the rather new product category of chilled ready-to-drink coffee beverages. As I love to analyse communication, this is what I found: One design speaks the language of the young consumer who drinks on the go, while the other design most likely follows […]

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Why are chips packaging so exciting?

Why are chips packaging so exciting?

I believe there is no other category in a supermarket that has more creative design solutions than the potato chip sachets! Some years ago, I would have put breakfast cereals first, but these designs have lately become overloaded and complicated, as they try to look ‘healthier’ and at the same time often carry a promotion. […]

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The HaHaHa Pentaward

The HaHaHa Pentaward

One day, I was sitting with my old friends Brigitte and Jean Jacques Evrard, chatting about humour, one of our favourite topics. I mentioned that humour seems to have no place in today’s business world. Digitalisation has made us so efficient that there is no time to lay back, think and smile. So Jean Jacques […]

Jun 11

Why not do the opposite?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

first… to be seen, i.e. noticed;

second… to be interesting/intriguing and

third… to inform and communicate,

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

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

Product patterns

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

Taste patterns

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

Anything pattern

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

Style/Trend patterns

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

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

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

November 2013

Jun 11

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

Jun 11

Good News!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Uncategorized

When I wrote “The world’s first book about packaging communication” (available on this site… only 50 copies left), my idea was to write a series of 4-5 books. The second book will soon be available in Russian, in fact already this Summer. Lucky Russians!

Now, if someone who reads this could suggest a sponsor who would be willing to put some money into a second English version, I’d be more than happy…

I think it is a pity that Russians only will be able to learn more about this fascinating world of communication. By the way, the Chinese have already part of the second book in their language.

Don’t miss the chance to be part of what seems to be a success story! Last week we had over 200 daily visits to this site!

April 2014

Jun 11

In order to give an advice, I visited two local retailers, COOP and MIGROS to inspire myself.

I wanted to find out what strikes me most when looking at various categories in the food and drinks section of these shops. Well, I could have included non-food categories, but concepts are more rare outside the food and drinks categories. What did I find?

Your eyes will obviously first fall on a range of products as they take up more space than a single product/pack design.

If all products in a design concept are displayed together, it is certainly far more powerful.

A concept must tell a distinct story or have a strong visual identity to become effectful.

It is an advantage if the concept has a memorable name.

If the concept is visually strong, the illustration can be of lesser quality, but what is important is the differentiation between the products to give the consumer a feeling of choice.

A colour pattern background as on MBudget is no doubt stronger than pastel colours, although these colours make the product illustration stand out.


A strong visual identity has its limitations when the range becomes too big. I doubt if the MILKA violet is used properly. I believe NIVEA does a better job with their blue.
You cannot have both the concept and the corporate name, or two similar concepts such as COOP’s naturaplan and bio. The simpler the better!


I believe it is very important to find the correct colour(s) for a concept. Here I think testing is useful! I don’t believe COOP’s rosy tint is correct for PRIX Garantie.

The designing of the concept name is key. This has to be done in isolation and before designing the pack. I believe Mbudget is excellent and so is MIGROS BIO, while COOP naturaplan is far from what it tries to say.

If the products are quite similar, a concept design can help to keep them apart. Good examples are MIGROS Tradition and Créa d’Or.


To maximise a concept design, you need a top copywriter to communicate what the design can’t do. It is often the missing person in a design agency!

I hope these comments will be useful for those designers who suggest to their clients to develop a concept before designing a pack!

February 2014

Jun 11

Make it easy or lose a consumer!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Uncategorized

Many packages are still too difficult to open! There are basically two reasons for this: one is purely technical due to material, construction, cost or safety (tamper proof) and is therefore of lesser interest in a site like this which deals mainly with communication. Packaging engineers are constantly working on such problems and we will, no doubt, see improvements. Why? Because technical problems are easier to locate and thus to solve.

The other reason why we have difficulties to open a pack is due to bad communication. We do not take the time to explain in a simple way (text or symbol) how to open such a pack. This is especially important in the Western society with an aging population. The subject was recently brought up in an excellent article published in the GROCER in UK with the telling title “A bad wrap” (The Grocer, 25.1.2014).

This article will try to show what can be done, in terms of communication, to help the consumer open a  pack.

FIRST: Never say “they know how to open it”… you will always have new consumers who have, for instance, never opened a sachet of chips or a chocolate bar.

SECOND: Design the opening device as carefully as you design the logotype or the icon. For tear strips, it is essential to show the direction.

THIRD: Make someone responsible for the functioning of the opening device, be it a person on the production side or the brand manager. I’ve found out that there is seldom such a person around.

FOURTH: Remember that basically all consumers look at the opening device. Take this into account and profit to give other useful information as for instance “shake before use”.

FIFTH: If you have a special feature to make the pack tamper proof, you have to explain it, as such devices will always be difficult to handle. A text like “security ring for your protection” will no doubt add value.

SIXTH: If the pack is a cardboard carton and the opening device is a tear strip, you may add a message below that becomes visible when you tear it. Such a text can for instance be “visist our website  www.xxx.com”.

There is much more to be said, but as each pack design is different, it is difficult to give general advice. Thus, be creative and make it EASY for the consumer to understand how an opening device functions!

April 2014

Jun 11

What did I learn since I retired?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Uncategorized

Good question! 10 points! The answer is: the more I teach, the more I (have to) learn! Lucky me, as I now work for the retailers, the multinationals, the medium-sized companies, the schools/universities, the NGOs, as well as for the packaging industry.

What advice can I now give to the brand managers and the creative designers? No real breaking news, as the basics of packaging communication has not changed very much since I started teaching. I had the chance to learn from a considerable amount of knowledgeable people who could confirm that my way of thinking always went in the right direction.

So, no breaking news, but nonetheless some worthy advice. I will start looking at the consumers who are the centre of our attention in terms of branding, appetite appeal, easy openings, etc. We all wish that the consumer be more informed in order to appreciate packaging in a more positive way, as it plays such an important role in a modern supermarket, kiosk or 7/11.

On the subject of informing the consumer, we have a marvelous tool at our disposal: the back or service panel where we can communicate interesting issues. Unfortunately, as most package designers and brand managers show little interest in this kind of communication, we have too many quite boring panels! There are exceptions such as for instance Special K or Innocent. I constantly repeat: try to design the back panel as a modern newspaper page (e.g. Metro) which has catching headlines and short (4-5cm) text columns and change the text as often as you can which is now possible with more digital printing.

If I still see the possibility to considerably improve the back/service panel communication, even more progress will be made when there will be real teamwork between the brand manager together with the pack designer, the point-of-sale specialist and the advertising agency! They should work together in order to

  1. find the big idea;
  2. develop the key visual(s);
  3. design the pack, the ad and the POS always with the key visual(s). This means synergy, i.e. economy.

It cannot be too often repeated that a media should not be handled in isolation. The person who can make a real impact in making the above teamwork happen is no doubt the brand manager or, even better, the marketing manager, if your organisation has such a coordinator.

An example of excellent communication along the above lines is the Cusquena beer concept in which the bottle, the glass and the advertising make this product really the “gold of the Incas”. It is worth looking at it on the Internet!

My key learning during this period can be resumed in the word “stepwise”. First you develop the idea in sketch form, then the visual identity in its final form, i.e. logotype, icon, colour(s), etc. The next step is to adapt this identity to several media, the package being the most important one (at least within the food and drink category). You develop the pack design only once you are sure that the identity has the potential to become highly memorable thanks to the synergy effect between the media.

It goes without saying that in order to develop the big idea, the briefing has to be prepared in collaboration between the designer and the client!

February 2014

Jun 11

Fons’ 3 “wow” Rule

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

January 2014

Jun 11

You never stop learning

Posted by Packaging Sense in Uncategorized

Indeed!… and you learn as much from good, as from bad packages.

Around Christmas time, I had lunch in an Italian restaurant with my wife, enjoying some of their great pastas. To that, we had a bottle, or rather a flask of Chianti and the following came to my mind: we usually refer to the Coca-Cola, the Absolut or the Maggi Aroma bottles as great examples of design shapes, but what about the handy, traditional and timeless Chianti flask? This bottle not only has a characteristic wicker basket, but each bottle has a number to make it even more special! It is as unique as the Coca-Cola bottle and does, in principle, not need a label which to me is the proof of an outstanding pack design. This is also valid for Orangina, Tic Tac, Chanel No 5, etc.

What is the learning? Well, try to work on your pack design until you reach uniqueness (verbal or visual)!

After lunch, I went ‘hunting’ in our local shopping centre to find the very best and the worst pack – they both have a lot to teach us.

The Lindt DIVA is for me the pack of the year thanks to its simplicity, its elegance and the clever use of material and manufacturing. A strong DIVA branding (a well chosen short name) and the gold embossing of the letters “V” and “A” which give a touch of quality and refinement. ‘Framing’ the pack is also a sign of elegance. The decorative bow gives a final touch to this gift pack!

Most gift packs don’t need a product denomination, thus the words “truffes assorties” embossed in a subdued way – clever! In short, this package sums up perfectly what I try to teach, i.e. simplify in order to amplify.

This was the very best pack. Now to the pack that disappointed me: the new Kellogg’s Cracker Crisps which is a huge step backwards for a company I have always admired for their pack designs. Here is a typical example of a pack probably designed by the brand manager and not by the designer. I don’t think it could be much worse… Could it be a consequence of having bought Pringles from P&G?

Not only is it the wrong brand for a snack (I’ve already written on this subject), but what has been squeezed in on the front is just senseless for a snack product! What I like least is the blue colour as the Special K brand has been white for decades! Enough said. Good luck to Kellogg’s if they continue on this road!

February 2014

Jun 11

Why I liked Kellogg’s

Posted by Packaging Sense in Uncategorized

Since I came into the packaging world in Summer 1961 after having obtained my print technology paper at the Graphic Institute of Sweden, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Special K were my favourite pack designs.

Unfortunately not any longer! Why? Because Kellogg’s has gone from clear, simple designs to today’s overcrowded ‘consumer friendly’ designs where key information is lost in the middle of pointless ‘politically correct’ communication.

Just compare the simple UK Corn Flakes pack design (with the GDA values on the front!) about two years ago with today’s Frosties Snack Bar pack design and you will understand my change of opinion!


I liked the flexible Corn Flakes pack design as it usually contained just the key design elements such as the green rooster, the black bold CORN FLAKES typography, the white background and the red Kellogg’s logotype. A bowl of cornflakes has been added in the Italian version with the hope to show Italians how to eat breakfast!


I’m not sure I like today’s designs when these ‘clean’ front panels will be submerged with information that belong on the back.

But the worst is yet to come. Why print texts so small that a person with normal eyesight cannot read it, as on the small 30g pack I recently got in a hotel?

Yes, I know that from a pure logical point of view, it’s great to be able to have the same pack in about 15 markets, but I do not call this consumer friendly packaging. And why repeat the GDA 6% (113 kcal) three times on the back/side panels when you anyhow add milk to it, which gives you another figure? Where is common sense today? I’m sure if no one in Brussels or in a multinational company stands up and says “enough is enough”, it will be even worse!

May 19

From global to local

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Having had the pleasure to design packages since 1962 when I left the Graphic Institute in Stockholm, I’ve experienced several trends, from the Carrefour white (so-called non-branded) products to the retailers’ brands, from bio-designs to super premium designs, etc.

This article is about the latest trend which is to go back in time and offer consumers products from very local producers, be it a farm, a small factory with handpacked products or multinationals’ offers from a local producer. It goes without saying that the designs are created accordingly.

What I specially like in today’s supermarkets is the variety of designs, i.e. the vast choice for the consumer. That makes shopping interesting and stimulating!

The first design I fell on straight out of school was the global TIDE bull’s eye effect package, still going strong today as it is an example of impact package design. Impact because it remains very simple, following my advice “do it BIG or stay in bed”. As this brand, i.e. global pack design, profits from millions of dollars of advertising, it can stay fairly simple.

Now, when we come to local designs, the problem is quite different as such designs, i.e. products, are not supported by any other media. Thus the pack must tell the whole story. So how do I then attract the consumer, making my design unique? There are many ways. Here they are, not necessarily in order of importance:

Oldfashioned ‘containers’ as for instance the bag/pouch/sack closed with a string or a cord, or a glass jar with a special lid.

Please note that a ‘local design’ is very often a combination of several materials which amplifies the homemade touch. This is typical for all those local Italian pasta makers.

The addition of a label, a tag or anything which is added by hand as on this mushroom salami.

A very special typography, often handwritten. Please note that when I speak of ‘local’, it can be a region as big as New Zealand or as small as your local dairy.




Most local designs show only the product, as the obligatory text can easily be added on a label or a tag!

Even national brands such as Michel et Augustin in France (or Innocent in the UK) add the local touch through typography or a specific ‘homemade style’. These packs are of course not local, but play on this emotional ground. The Innocent yearly promotion with the small knitted hats on the lid is an excellent example.


This Yorkshire product is not only using the term “locally sourced” as a sales argument, but even the farmer’s name “Anna Longthorp” to amplify the origin.

Local is a sales argument McDonald discovered many years ago. They clearly indicate on packages, as well as in their brochures, that the raw material (meat, vegetables, etc.) is local, in this case 100% Swiss.

Conclusion: The more we learn about ecology and a sustainable society, the more we look for local products. As can be seen from the above, with just a few examples, it is possible to communicate the localness, be it from the local farmer or your own country.

April 2014

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