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My 4th book is now available (the first is sold out). It has a very clear message: how to improve the copywriting, as well as the layout on the back/side panel of your pack. As the previous ones, this book is directed to schools, design agencies, brand managers, sales forces, etc… well, anyone interested in […]

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Typography, a communication tool

Typography, a communication tool

Once I heard that typography was a “beautiful group of letters and not a group of beautiful letters”.

Jul 08

How would you package a series of products for professional hair colour? By showing every nuance of hair from peroxide white to goth black? The packaging of the new hair colour product Inoa from l’Oréal is nothing like that. The TDBdesign agency used a mean green and restrained artwork.

– Elegance is the design key of many beauty products. But there has to be something interesting as well, says Lars Wallentin.

– May it be a catchy icon or other spokesman for the product. Something recognized on every package in a product series. Something that communicates a Reason To Buy, says Lars Wallentin and concludes his comment to this entry in Pack Attack:

– This design has elegance, but it’s all typography. If the logotype is strictly typographical something more should be added to make it interesting.

Read More:

Jul 08

Those of you who were lucky enough to get tickets to the World Cup soccer games in South Africa recieved your tickets and accompanying information in a clever slider package. Remember? Well, here’s the rare package again.

This is the first entry to be commented by Lars Wallentin in his Pack Attack campaign. Sure it’s borderline unsporting to judge from a pack shot alone. All we aim for in the Pack Attack is Lars’ gut reaction. So what say he of this Hospitality Kit?

– The technical design by Burgopak, with opening slides and acetate window and all, looks good. But the World Cup artwork should have the potential to stand out far better than this. I don’t have World Cup tickets and I don’t know what they look like – but I have seen the FIFA logo a hundred times on TV by now and it’s difficult to recognize the small logo on this package, says Lars Wallentin.

– I expect to see a Big One, like football or logotype, and a better hierarchy. But perhaps something that communicates is added when the content shows in the window of the package? It’s hard to tell by looking at this shot, says Lars Wallentin.

– By the way, hospitality is something you want to experience. Why label it on the package to say “the content exceeds your expectations”?
There’s a good piece of advice: don’t let the designation of your work in progress become a caption on the package.

Read more (PDF): Burgopak FIFA World Cup Hospitality Pack

Jul 05

Brand Leverage

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Logotypes | Uncategorized

Some brands are for ever linked to one and the same product and it is unthinkable to use it for another product, even in the same category. Other brands have the capacity to be stretched. One can also speak of brand extension, but I prefer the term “leverage”.

The brands which have the capacity to be used for a range of products are most often brands which

  • have a unique positioning;
  • have been properly managed during many years to become very strong in the consumers’ mind;
  • have a strong, i.e. unique personality (icon, colour scheme, style, etc.);

As brand leverage is a far cheaper way to introduce new products than developping a new brand it is quite natural to ‘leverage’ a brand as new products are invented thanks to new technology, new raw material or new distribution channels.

However, as we all know, in marketing it is difficult to be two things at the same time without watering down or weakening one or the other. Great care must therefore be taken to not use the same brand for a new product too far away from the brand’s positioning. It is difficult to sell orange juice if your brand is Chiquita and equally difficult to sell a cheese cake under the brand Campbell which stands for soups!

A good case of brand leverage is Nestlé’s Nesquik who’s positioning until recently was “irresistible fun”. The Quicky rabbit who is more powerful and interesting than the word Nesquik is being used for many chocolate products for children. As the illustrations show it is possible to use this brand identity for products as different as chocolate drinks (powder, semi-liquid or liquid), chocolate spread, chocolate bars, chocolate cereals, chocolate desserts, etc.

By leveraging the Nesquik identity which from the beginning was a product brand (chocolate powder to mix with milk) to a range brand (many different products) the brand has grown tremendously and is no doubt one of Nestlé’s most successful and profitable brands although all of the above products can easily be copied and have indeed!

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!
The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

Jun 29

The shipper is advertising

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

When the first corrugated box was developped hundred years ago, its only function was to group together a number of smaller units, be they prepacked or loose products. The function has not changed over the years, but a second equally important one is that of being a support of brands as well as product information and last, but not least, a message. Thus the heading: “The Shipper is Advertising”.

The technical/purchasing department is highly skilled in

  • choosing the right board (relation strength/price);
  • choosing the most economical construction;
  • reducing the costs (printing, gram weight, etc.);
  • providing the necessary information for the trade, i.e. article number and bar-code.

The marketing department is skilled in

  • maximizing the brand (shippers are often seen at a distance);
  • choosing attractive graphics;
  • communicating the USP or product denomination/advantage.

It is thus very important that the responsible technical/production person sits together with the marketing person and together they decide upon the hierarchy that the designer should follow when he lays out the various information on the 6 sides. This in order to avoid the common mistake of repeating the same information on every side which automatically will lead to a crowded design with very little impact and interest.

How then is the shipper designed? Here are some principles to follow bearing in mind that a rule will never solve all issues. A guideline is always right in average, but often not in specific situations. Common sense must prevail!

The brand must be the main element unless a unique brand identifier, i.e. an icon, is more powerful (the Nesquik QUICKY rabbit or Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger). The order-picker needs a clear bar-code, but never forget that even for him a strong visual is a faster way of identifying a carton than an article number!

The brand colours. It is bad economy to save on identifying colours when today flexographic printing machines handle up to 6 colours.

The product denomination which, depending upon legislation, can be turned into a USP or slogan which has a stronger impact.

As the title says – “The Shipper is Advertising” – it is possible to turn the main panels of a shipper into advertising. Therefore, it is suggested to rearrange the design elements in such a way that they constitute an interesting advertisement instead of pure information of brand, denomination, etc. Nobody has ever decided nor said that a corporate brand has to be in the upper left-hand corner, nor that a product denomination is necessary. Strong brands like KitKat don’t even need a product denomination. A big appetizing ‘product break’ illustration bescomes an important ‘call-to-action’.

Bar-code, storage and other legal texts should be on the end panels.

As most shippers have two larger sides, it is suggested to increase the brand as much as possible on these sides. The storage text goes on the top and as most shippers are stacked alternatively with the short and long side outwards it is sufficient to have the bar-code and other legal texts only twice.

The bottom should be used for text which is of no communication value, but need to be there for legal reasons.

For a promotion, make the promotion message ‘violate’ as much as possible and if the brand logotype is wellknown it can even partly cover it. As shippers do end up in certain supermarkets, in cash & carry stores, outside the shop (unloading) on open trucks, etc. never loose this opportunity to reinforce branding. There is no extra cost involved in visually strengthening brands in this way. Chiquita knows it very well!

Jun 23

I have lately been involved in some ‘special edition’ package designs which, unfortunately, did not become the masterpieces I had hoped. The reason is very simple. Very few brand managers dare to ‘do it fully’ and therefore end up with half-way solutions which will never have an impact upon the buyer.

Comparing the promotional tictac pack which today is sold in Switzerland with my counter-proposal (which can still be improved) the reader will hopefully understand why.

You can, temporarily, change the logotype as long as you maintain the key visual identity. Mars did it very well two years ago with Hopp. Toblerone does it very often.

Other sales arguments do have to disappear (at least from the front). The promotion ‘Hopp Suisse’ is very powerful with the red and white mints and should not be disturbed by a mention as to calories.

Reduce the number of elements and texts in order to make the promotional message stand out.

Give a RTB, if possible with the product. It is impossible to see on the front that this is a cherry/orange variety because the designer filled the surface with unnecessary elements as the football ground, the football, the calories and ‘special edition’.

Surprise! To see the tictac identity with the word ‘hopp’ catches the eye and that is the most important thing for a special edition.

It goes without saying that if one temporarily changes the visual identity the proper registered one has to appear somewhere in a smaller size to give trust and  authenticity to the brand.

There was recently an article about IBM, AOL and Pepsi in the French journal “Stratégies” which showed various executions of these brands. In my opinion, they are all wrong, i.e. not brand-building as the designer plays around with the identity without a very specific purpose. Toblerone has always a reason to changing the logotype. The St.Valentine’s Day version “TO MY LOVE” is a good example.

A strong brand has a unique identity. In the case of tictac, it is the physical shape of the transparent and white plastic dispenser, as well as the leaf shape on the label with the lower case tictac logotype.

The proposed promotional version maintains these two properties, but changes temporarily the logotype and the colour.

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 14

When reading about the introduction of the iPad in the TIME magazine I fell upon a few words about Steve Jobs which gave me the answer to the above question. It read as follows: “Apple’s success is mainly due to Steve Jobs’ insistence upon design, detail, finish, quality, ease of use and reliability”.

I seldom find this insistence in the companies I have worked for the last 5 years, nor in the design agencies. No brand manager I have met (yes, that is the person who orders package design) understands that in order to reach the simplicity of an iPad you have to take care of all the above issues, not just one or two of them. That is why it is so difficult.

  • Design is the way you think and work;
  • God is in the detail;
  • Finish is when it looks and actually is simple;
  • Quality is something emotional rather than rational, it is communication and not just information;
  • Ease of use is the way you lay out texts and pictures on the service panel;
  • Reliability is that you trust the brand and always return.

Shall we thus blame the brand manager, or is it more complex? Well, it is. The brand manager is only one of those involved who need more knowledge, training and common sense to reach simplicity. In a world which tends to overprotect the consumer by constantly increasing the amount of information on the pack, I claim that it is not necessary to put all this on the package. Rather, the consumer needs access to information via other media as website (make it big!) POS, advertising, brochures, etc.

The technical side of packaging is today not a problem as there seems to be great knowledge among packaging engineers, converters, suppliers of material, etc.

The weakness lies on the communication side, i.e. with the packaging designers and the brand managers who believe rather than know what

  • is legal
  • is understood
  • is actually seen
  • is necessary to know to enjoy the product
  • is strengthening the brand
  • is of interest
  • is the hierarchical order
  • increases appetite appeal, etc.

i.e. quite a list of key issues that today are dealt with in an amateur way (my personal opinion).

To help those involved to get it right, here is my advice:

First of all it is a matter of layout which is most likely a matter of priority. The priority is totally different on a single serve stick of instant coffee to a cake mix carton!

Secondly, do not call it ‘back panel’, but ‘service panel’ as it is all about giving information about preparation, nutrition, quality, ingredients, storage or further information as website, telephone, address.

Thirdly and last, but not least – it is a question of constant change. The daily newspaper is different each day, so is the weekly paper and we therefore read them. If we do not constantly update the service panel, nobody will look at it more than once! However, if we constantly give new tips, advice or recipes we achieve a stronger link with our cosumers. This is very important to build brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction.

This constant update is not a matter of pack size (e.g. cereal cartons) as most marketing people believe. It is a matter of hard work and professional copywriting (as is the case with dailys and weeklys). The surface can be small or big – it is just a question of priority and interest. Simplify and amplify are the key words in today’s marketing!

Today texts on the back of the packages are, apart from the breakfast cereal category, presented in such a manner that we are not really invited to read them. What a pity!

The other day I read in the Danish retailer’s IRMA brochure a text that translated would give something like this: “Read yourself hungry”. The text said, so rightly, that reading certain foody and tasty words (e.g. mango fruit, blueberry jam or chestnut cream) produces pictures in our brain which influence our taste buds and are mouthwatering.

I believe it is high time to approach the service panel in a more serious way and give a better balance between the legal text and the text that strenghtens brand image, simplifies nutritional information or increases curiosity about the product and its virtues. The preparation instructions can be both instructive, i.e. clear and simple and at the same time foody and tasty if we for instance use 3D photography instead of simple cartoon drawings.

In order to render the service panel more attractive we need to learn a lot from the weekly or daily press, i.e. use stimulating headlines, shortest possible texts and highlight key words.

If the role of the front panel design is to stimulate purchase, either through strong branding, appetite appeal, special offer or product advantage, the role of the back panel is re-purchase, i.e. strengthen the bond between the consumer and the brand/producer. If this is the case, why are so many back panels totally uninteresting, to such a degree that the consumer does not even look at them?

There are mainly five reasons for this:

  1. The responsible person does not believe in the above statement, i.e. that back panels are uninteresting;
  2. The responsible person does not understand what design can do to make things attractive, clear, simple and interesting;
  3. The responsible person does not have a knowledge of hierarchy, i.e. what is of primary and secondary importance to the consumer;
  4. The responsible person has chosen a design agency which has no or little knowledge of communication;
  5. The responsible person does not care!

It is not difficult to design a good service panel if the designer approaches this task as an editor of a daily or weekly paper/journal approaches his or her readers… with words, pictures and layout that invite reading. This is unfortunatley seldom the case today as the responsible person tries, above all, to please the legal advisors, the boss, guidelines, rules or best practices and thus complicate communication.

Furthermore, there is a misunderstanding about what has to appear, what can appear, should appear, may appear, etc. Here are 3 basic rules to follow when designing the service panel:

  1. How to best enjoy the product, which means how to prepare and consume it;
  2. How to contact the company for more information (recipes, tips, etc.) or comments, i.e. big website, a telephone number, an e-mail and postal address;
  3. How to best explain nutrition, i.e. simple and understandable data related to the product in question.

Only when these three criteria have been fully taken care of come texts such as ingredients, net weight, bar code, date marking, etc.

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.

Jun 09

Packaging – Unravelling the Value of
the Silent Salesman

Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell, advises Lars Wallentin, a Packaging Communication Specialist. Part of what the product does and stands for is getting lost through unclear and complicated communication, when in fact simplicity is the key. As a speaker at the marcus evans EuroPack Summit 2010 taking place in Monaco, 23 – 25 June 2010, Wallentin shares his solutions to some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe today.

What are some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe at the moment and what solutions would you recommend?

Lars Wallentin: The problem today is that purchasing and marketing executives are looking for different things – one wants to cut costs whilst the other wants quality. The industry is constantly creating more efficient packaging materials and production methods, thus it is not so difficult to find what I call the technically best package for a product. But a package is a silent salesman and must help in selling the product and that is where the problem starts; the product should be understood through its package and that is not being communicated so well today. The dialogue between agencies and brand managers is not at the level it should be. They often communicate through emails, which is not the same as sitting together and discussing ideas. Part of the message is getting lost.

Brand and product managers need more education and training, which is one of the reasons why I started a blog. We still have a lot to learn. There is a gap between each generation, because of technological advances; the younger generation thinks they can get everything done over the internet, but they can get information, not knowledge. It is not a matter of having nice packaging – it is a matter of getting to the essence of the product. We like Apple products because of their simplicity. There is legislation on everything, and we have a tendency to believe that all legislation is good, but common sense must prevail. Sometimes we need to do things differently in order to be clearer. We give out a lot of information on product packaging, but we do not explain.

Julius Maggi is known as one of the best marketing experts ever. At the back of his “Aroma” bottle in 1917, Maggi added a message for consumers not to use too much of the product as it would overpower the taste of the food product. He spoke in a language that consumers understood. Today, people would like consumers to use as much of the product as possible. This is another area where the information we add on packaging can improve.

How can similar products be differentiated?

Lars Wallentin: We must clearly communicate to consumers why our products are better, superior or different. Brand managers must have clear and simple positioning of products and what the brand stands for. A detergent cannot be both smooth and fresh. The manager must decide whether to go with either one or the other. If they pick freshness, they can use blue packaging and so on; if they decide on smoothness, silk can be used to indicate that quality. Brand managers today try to do everything at once, when they should be simplifying the message.

How can an unforgettable brand experience be created?

Lars Wallentin: An unforgettable brand experience can only be created through the product. A brand alone has no meaning. We do not buy brands, we buy products. The adventure or feeling must come through the product. If it is a food product, the taste experience is the most important. Companies must constantly update or improve their products, and communicate that through the packaging and branding. The brand must constantly evolve; it cannot remain static.

Very often we modernise brands, but that is useless if the product itself has not been modified. Consumers are not interested in the logo of the product but what it does to them. Cosmetic product changes do not change purchasing habits. Only people in the trade care about logos.

How can senses be used to improve packaging?

Lars Wallentin: Packaging designers do not make the most of people’s senses, instead focusing on the graphical aspect of packaging. They hardly use the sense of smell or sound in packaging. They have become dependent on their computers. They should start sketching, touching the product and thinking conceptually of how the product should sound. Packaging has a tactile aspect, and whether it opens and closes easily is important. If packaging were an Olympic sport, it would be a decathlon as it is a combination of so many different things. Nevertheless, most packaging executives have a tendency to only concentrate on logos.

People do not buy rational, they buy emotional. The “Big Idea” is something that is instantly perceived, verbally or visually or by sound and requires no explanation. When you hear the sound of a Harley Davidson, you immediately know what it is. The product comes first. If Harleys were not beautiful motorbikes, their sound would mean nothing. Their sound is a translation of what they stand for.

In a nutshell, what advice would you give to packaging directors?

Lars Wallentin: Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell. Simplification is the key. There is so much information out there, that if you do not have the capacity for simplifying, you are not able to amplify the real reason for your product or your brand. Packaging executives must judge what is a “Big Idea” because only the biggest ideas survive over time. That is what we are all looking for.

May 21

Package Design and Food Styling

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

I left the Grafiska Institutet with a certificate quite different to the one a few years earlier at the Halmstad High School. When you like what you do you are always better. The only high note I got back at high school was in drawing.

I took up a job at the Esseltepac packing company in Norrköping, an industrial town just South of Stockholm. There I learned a lot about printing (offset, rotogravure, flexography) as well as carton engineering. As I had a support function to the various salesmen I also learned a little about selling. At the same time as I joined Esseltepac Nestlé bought up the largest Swedish food company, FINDUS, and set up a business unit for frozen foods at the headquarters in Vevey.

1964 – after only two years at Esseltepac I received a phone call from Switzerland asking if I would like to head a small unit designing all FINDUS packages in Europe which at that time meant Scandinavia, France, Germany, UK, Benelux, Austria and Italy. I said yes although I had been thinking of continuing to study at the Michigan State University in East Lansing, the only university at that time to deliver a batchelor’s degree in packaging.

I was only 25 years old when Nestlé hired me to head a small unit of about 10 people designing the FINDUS packages. At that time I was not a very daring and creative designer, but I had a good knowledge of planning, administration and printing technology and we produced some 25 artworks per week including a lot of food photography.

The FINDUS brand that stood for quality had a wide range of fish-, meat-, prepared meals and vegetable products. Our studio was situated next to the FINDUS test kitchen with great chefs who were very helpful when we prepared for the photos in the studio.

However, the real learning came a few years later when I started to work with famous German food photographers such as Mr. Ohlenforst in Düsseldorf and Mr. Teubner in Munich. These photographers worked with the very best food stylists in Germany and thanks to this knowledge I could later on organize workshops on food-styling which was a very rewarding experience.

I will try here to summarize what is important when it comes to food and drink communication in advertising, packaging and recipe brochures.

It is all about maximizing appetite appeal and present the products in their best light. If in the beginning tricks like shaving cream was used to fake real cream I learned very quickly that it is not about faking … it is rather about

  • Selecting the best coffee beans, peas or  fish fillets;
  • Use handmade samples instead of industrial products;
  • Using a warmer/colder light;
  • Chosing an angle that makes the product look more interesting, etc.

As we shop  with our eyes, meaning that our brain ‘eats’ the product before the stomach, it is important to give the brain what it wants, i.e. a vanilla ice-cream nicely yellow as that is the way we want to see vanilla ice-cream although vanilla is actually white as snow !

Perception is no doubt reality when it comes to appetite appeal. One can also say that we see with our memory as the latter remembers best the shape, colour, structure, etc. of food and drink products.

Let us first look at food photography and after that how to do hyper-realistic, highly retouched illustrations. Appetite apeal is universal and the basic principles are therefore as valid in Buenos Aires as they are in the small village of Corseaux where I live.

Maximal appetite appeal is the primary objective of all food photography. This can only be achieved if :

  • the designer or art director has given the package an attracive layout showing the product in the foreground;
  • the food stylist (be it the home economist or a specially trained person or the photographer himself) presents the product in its most photogenic manner. This can be compared to a make-up artist preparing a performer for a public appearance on television:
  • the photographer uses a lighting technique that gives highlights and bright colours.

Every succsessful photograph is based on a clear and precise briefing. It is just as important to draw up sketches, i.e. finding the best position of the various elements before taking the picture as it is to indicate the required structure, colours and props. The prop is used to indicate all material which helps to render the photo as interesting and attractive as possible, i.e. cutlery, glasses, cups, plates, serviettes, flowers and other decorative elements.

In food photography especiallly, time is money and time wasted in the photographic studio can be very expensive, so it is of utmost importance that the search for props and the layouts (i.e. tracings indicating the position of the food in the picture) be taken care of before entering the photo studio.

It is normal practice to hold a pre-production meeting some days before the photo session in order to settle all outstanding questions involving the product manager, the home economist, the designer and the photographer.

In order to carry out food photography for packaging, advertising, cookery books, brochures, leaflets, etc. the photographer’s studio should be equipped with one (if not two) ovens with a grill, a refrigerator, a large freezer, cupboards, a working table, pots and (non-stick) pans, as well as a wide assortment of knives, forks and spoons. Small electric appliances are very useful such as a deep fryer with a smoke filter, a blender and a mixer. Kitchen paper, towels, foils, cellophane wrap, brushes, Q-tips, etc. also belong to the modern food photographer’s equipment.

The photographer usually works with one or several assistants in order to speed up the work. If the photographer works  with a food stylist this person will have availbable in the photo studio all the above-mentioned utensils to facilitate her or his work. If a food stylist is not at hand, the company’s home economist usually carries out this role. It is the food stylist’s or the home econimist’s job to order and buy all the fresh vegetables, meat, fruit, etc. beforehand. When ordering these essentially fresh ingredients they must be selected so that they are visually flawless, without scratches or unpleasant looking spots. A sufficiently large quantity of  ingredients should always be available since testing often has to  be carried out during the preparation phase.

While the photo is  being taken, the photographer, the art director/designer and the food stylist/home economist work as a team. The photographer is in charge of the structure of the subject to be photographed and all technical details related to lighting, sharpness, depth of focus, etc.

The food stylist on the other hand is in charge of the actual product and its true representation. The designer provides the briefing and decides on the correctness of the layout, the mood he wishes the photo to convey as well as the overall presentation. If the product manager is present when the picture is taken he can assume responsibility for the overall presentation (avoiding taking over the role of the photographer and the food stylist) and contributing his knowledge of the product in question.

Good is not enough ! In food and drink photography the result must be EXCELLENT ! To obtain maximum results, team work is a necessity and the leader of the team is the brand/product manager whose responsibility is to achieve maximum appetite appeal.

If something is not optimal, it is always the fault of the other, i.e.

  • the designer did not understand the  briefing;
  • the food stylist was not perfect;
  • the photographer used the wrong light;
  • the litographer was poor;
  • the printing was a haste-work;
  • the purchaser did not allow for a good cardboard, etc.

So what can be done to improve the appetite appeal on packages, in print or on TV ? Here are some advice, not necessarily in order of importance.

Think BIG. There are five good reasons for thinking BIG. The first is that a blow-up illustration makes the package itself look bigger ! The second relies on the premise that by thinking  BIG one concentrates on the product to the exclusion of secondary design elements that can clutter the illustration and confuse the central message. Thirdly, in mass displays, large illustrations create a bull’s eye effect that polarizes attention for more shelf impact. A fourth reason is that a dominant illustration achieves better recall and makes it easier for the consumer to locate it on the shelf for repeat purchases. The fifth reason is that, if the work is properly done, the product is in the foreground. This is important because the consumer is always primarily interested in the type of product. Brand names, product denomination, size, etc. come second.

As a general rule the product shown in close-up should not exceed 120% of its original size. A good close-up can also be achieved by photographing pieces of food on a fork or spoon. The individual piece of food must be sufficiently large and interesting, otherwise it is the fork or spoon which are being sold rather than the product.

Contrast. To ensure that the product stands out from the pack, it is essential to create a good contrast between product and background. This contrast is usually based on the light/dark principle. It is therefore essential that light products be pictured against a dark background or dark products against a light background. Additional contrast can also be achieved by creative handling of light and good colour difference.

Highlights. Now that we have learned that the product must be pictured with good contrast and in close-up, we come to another essential point. i.e. the product must also be made to come alive. Here the highlights play this role. It is now up to the photographer to set the small highlights in such a way that the products become visually larger and more attractive. If no highlights are used, the product looks ‘dead’ and flat; if there are too many, it looks cold and stale.

Action. Food and drinks in action are always more tasty than static !

Freshness. When photographing food or drinks it is very important to put across freshness wherever possible so as to tone down the impression of the industrial manufacture or products. Depending on the product involved, this can be done in different ways.

Water droplets are frequently applied with a spray to fruits, vegetables or to glasses containing cold drinks thus conveying the idea that the fruits or vegetables have been freshly picked or that the drink is cool and refreshing.

In the case of prepared dishes, small bouquets of fresh spices can contribute the required freshness and atmosphere. The addition of green salad can have the same effect. When handling lighting, ensure that these green trimmings are in the light and therefore radiate freshness.

Look at the masters. They are in Japan, Germany, France or the UK – and the best journal today is ELLE à Table (French), ELLE Bistro (German), but the TESCO Recipe Magazine should not be forgotten.

Food and people. Consider what the addition of a satisfied consumer’s face will add, however seldom on packaging,. The MAGNUM ads are excellent examples of  what a human face can add !

Not all substrates give the same result. An illustration on a plastic material is likely to shine more than on paper/cardboard/tinplate.

Borrow appetite appeal ! Many products do not look good (but taste excellent) – so add appetite appeal through additional props or even other products. To avoid confusion add the text ‘serving suggestion’.

Make a distinction between editorial photo and packshot. An editorial photo can contain a lot to create a certain mood, a pack illustration must be simple.

Never forget a window if technically possible. Most, if not all, consumers wish to see the product.

Highlight the ‘key consumer benefit’. If it is the structure of the food, make it clear; if it is the taste of the drink, exaggerate slightly the colour !

Be generous ! Do always try to offer more than reality. If we communicate GREAT TASTE through an illustration, the consumer is then conditioned, i.e. prepared to experience GREAT TASTE !

Food styling. Each food photograph is only as good as the preparation of the product. A food stylist is a specialist who is familiar with the preparation of products and who is capable, if necessary, of manually reconstructing an industrial product.

Unlike an ordinary chef, the food stylist applies ‘make-up’ to the product to be photographed, to make it as photogenic as possible, disregarding the taste (salty, spicy, etc.) which has no influence on the illlustration.

In order to meet this target, he or she will sometimes alter the composition of a product in such a way that the finished picture does not show this fact. The supreme law for any food stylist should be the fact that you can beautify a product, but must never deceive the consumer.

There is certainly a lot more to be said about food and drink photography for advertising, packaging, POS material, etc. Here just a few words about highly retouched illustrations. It was difficult, in the old days, to do such a thing as one always started with a drawing. Nowadays, one obviously starts with a digital photo on which the experienced retoucher works. This is an art that very few master. It is a matter of increasing contrast, definition and colour intensity without loosing its naturalness … not too little, not too much !

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