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READ MY PACK

READ MY PACK

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”.

May 18

Pizza packaging

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Featured | Uncategorized

After breakfast cereal packaging it is no doubt the pizza category of products that offer most  creativity (colour, layout, concept) in a supermarket. If the big selling pizza brands for obvious reasons amplify the appetite appeal there are still quite a number of secondary brands which offer highly interesting design solutions.

Before looking at some great designs let us first see what makes people buy pizzas or should we say, as the Italians, pizze?

No doubt the most logical approach when designing a pizza pack is to relate to its Italian origin, i.e. with symbols like gondolas, the Vesuvius, la mamma, the Tower of Pisa, etc. However, as all this now looks as ‘déjà vu’, we see far more creative solutions.

Here are a few advice if you wish to design a successful package with hopefully a product that lives up to your design.

FIRST: Maximal appetite appeal which means that you have to exaggerate the following

  • • the colours. A pizza must look warm, i.e. rather earthy colours;
  • • the crust. A pizza must look crusty, but at the same time ‘melting’;
  • • the melting. A pizza must show melting cheese as this enhances the mouthfeel. (La Grandiosa, M-Margherita, Big One);
  • • 3D effect. It is here most pizza packages fail as they look flat. It is a matter of lifting up a quarter, give it a drop-shadow and make it look coming towards you and not away!
  • • the foodstyling which means that the ingredients on top must be clear and clean, but at the same time looking real. This is not an easy job.

SECOND: You need a clear concept, or call it RTB (reason-to-buy) as for instance Steinofen (baked in stone oven), the Big One (Norway’s leading brand.. big people = big pizze), Grandiosa or Trattoria (made by a pizzaiolo).

THIRD: Varieties! Consumers wish to now and then change the taste although most likely 80% will always buy the same once they have found their favourite.

If you get the above three advice correct you may have a success. However, there are other ways of creating an outstanding design and that is to simplify to the maximum.

My own favourite is a take-home pizza in Switzerland called Pizza Pronto from the design studio Typoundso who worked with the famous illustrator Thomas Ott. If the key message is to be noticed, talked about (word of mouth is the best advertising) and economically produced.. this is it!

My second favourite is the Norwegian concept, the Big One, not caring at all to be Italian, but with American skylines (San Francisco, NYC, etc.), Norwegian Mozzarella and Cheddar.

My third design is the French Marie who have understood that a chilled pizza is fresher. This means that they took away the appetite appeal and made it look like a take-away pack in just two colours.

No1 in Norway

No 1 in Norway

Can a product name be better?

Can a product name be better?

Highly typical retailer pack design

Highly typical retailer pack design

As much italian as you can get

As much italian as you can get

Break away! Be different!

Break away! Be different!

All the imagery of freshness

All the imagery of freshness

Great typography

Great typography

A pizza doesn't necessary need to be italian

A pizza doesn't necessary need to be italian

As Marie and Bottega… a typical fresh (take home) design

As Marie and Bottega… a typical fresh (take home) design

Why not say it?

Why not say it?

Each market has it's slow-baked

Each market has it's slow-baked

Yes it is possible to put people into the design, if they look authentic

Yes it is possible to put people into the design, if they look authentic

Smaller units are always welcome

Smaller units are always welcome

Furthermore, according to my own experience, the right material for a pizza package is no doubt micro-well (E- or F-flute) as it is more rigid and also more isolating (the air inbetween the flutes). The Pizza category of food being one of the most popular international meals will no doubt see even more creative solutions in the future.

May 18

The Open Corrugated Box

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Design | Uncategorized

Creative packaging is one of the most efficient way to promote a product. Very often the creativity comes from “thinking outside the box”. Here is an example of such a creative thinking, making a corrugated box more unique.

The Glenrothes whiskies (there are several different ones) all have the most unique package design in the whole category as they use:

  • • an open pack;
  • • a 4-layer corrugated board;
  • • no enhancing colours or gold.

There is today a clear trend towards see-through packaging, i.e. the use of a transparent plastic window or just an opening on a cardboard or metal package.

This trend which comes from Japan is here to stay as consumers want to see what they buy. Another trend is what we call “sleeve packaging”, i.e. a wrap-around on e.g. a pot of yoghurt. A third trend is to go “back to basics”, i.e. communicate a non-industrial product through typography, material and/or shape.

The Glenrothes whiskies do all of the above and have therefore created something so unique that few can copy it although the Russian vodka Marussya and the Aalborg Aquavit Christmas edition have come quite close to it.

What we can learn from this unique package design is that it

  • • is possible to touch the product;
  • • it is possible to see the exact colour of the product;
  • • a squat bottle expresses better strength than a slender shape;
  • • the 4-layer corrugated board gives an image of great protection;
  • • a handle will always invite to take the product/package;
  • • a small label expresses uniqueness;
  • • the small label has hand-written text, year of production, date, signatures, etc. which all contribute to autenticity;
  • • the glass bottle has the brand embossed in the glass which adds quality;
  • • the square shape is the best from a logistic point-of-view.

So when you next time wish to buy a Scottish single malt whiskey, why not choose Glenrothes Speyside, the most unique corrugated box ever made?

May 17

Visibility sells!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

There are many different trends within the food packaging world. One of them is the trend to include windows (with, or without plastic foil) on cardboard packages and especially in the areas of chocolate, pasta, rice and other dry products. More and more consumers want to see the product they are purchasing.

The more sophisticated a market is, the more transparency there will be as this excludes cheating, misinformation or exaggeration. The markets which have much transparency in their food packaging are no doubt Japan, France and UK, especially in the fresh and refrigerated product categories.

Thomas Hinze says in his book on packaging, “advertising leads you into temptation, it is packaging that is the temptation”. It is therefore somewhat surprising to see how little money is spent in creating package design in relation to the very often quite big advertising budgets. I heard the CEO of Nestlé, Mr Peter Brabeck saying in a speech

“food packaging is still an enormously under-utilised medium and the most economical advertising medium”.

How right he is! The reason why we do not see more “see-through” packages is certainly because food packaging is more often seen as a cost (and a plastic film window obviously costs more) than as a marketing investment. Packaging is and will forever remain the best advertising medium.

A company that has clearly understood the power of see-through is Ferrero.. and they do not only create unique food package design, most of them also have a window! When Mars created their success concept “Celebrations”, they were certainly inspired by packages such as Ferrero’s Rocher. At Barilla in Parma they know that in the pasta business consumers must see the product. That is why this business has so many plastic bags although they are less convenient both at home and in the supermarket than a rigid cardboard package.

The Collezione is for the writer a brilliant example of how to tell a convincing story that leads to purchase. Here are the five reasons:

  • • Attractive concept name “Collezione”;
  • • Window to see the product;
  • • Appetite appeal illustration with steam (hot food)
  • • “No 1 in Italia”.. if you are number one, you are in consumers’ minds, the best, i.e. a convincing RTB (Reason-to-buy);
  • • A service panel with not only a recipe and cooking instructions, but educational text how to recognize when a high quality pasta is “al dente”. Not to forget a big website and a legal text in several languages for sales in many different markets.

Food packaging, as can be seen from this article, is a matter of attracting the consumer and look as honest, fresh, interesting and inviting as possible as many of the window packages are not supported by other media.

May 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 23

My three best bottles

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

They are S. Pellegrino, Tabasco and Maggi Aroma (1920 edition) as we have a lot to learn from them. Unfortunately the Maggi bottle has today lost its uniqueness, while the other two bottles are still going strong.

S. Pellegrino
The attentive reader will no doubt notice that in order to save space as it is a long word, “San” has been abbreviated to a simple “S.”. S. Pellegrino is an excellent proof that it is not necessary to have a unique shape when the label has personality. The reason why S. Pellegrino is such a successful water is first of all due to the balanced carbonation and taste. Not too sparkling (as e.g. Perrier) nor too little (as e.g. Badoit). The brand has also never been mis-handled and the positioning as the preferred Italian water has been extremely well communicated in advertising. This being said, it is no doubt the expression of the label as the expert with tradition that has cemented this brand in people’s minds.

I have repeatedly criticized most recent label designs of being not enough unique and having no own style. The S. Pellegrino style communicates what is important for a mineral water, i.e. expertise and seriousness through lots of figures, foundation date 1899 as well as some key words such as “terme”, “frizzante”, “naturale”.

The main label (there are four of them) looks like a value paper (cheque, credit card or bank note) thanks to the background pattern. Other typical signs of value are the logotype subdued as a watermark in the background, the red star and the typeface chosen for the brand.

It is not a hinder that most of the text is not very legible (as on value papers) as consumers anyhow do not read the type of information there is on mineral water labels.

Maggi Würze
There are two reasons why this bottle has become my favourite. Firstly thanks to its unique shape which in my opinion is not particularly harmonious and well balanced, but as mentioned above, unique.

However, the real reason why I like it is that the label goes around three sides. None of today’s labels give texts so interesting and of such common sense. Here it is:

Brand:  unique script logotype. One can wonder why it was changed! The text reads: Our Maggi brand, as well as the star, are registered and therefore protected.

Reason-to-buy (RTB):

  • in every kitchen
  • is unequalled
  • is unique

Quality statement: guaranteed pure and top quality. Confirmed on several occasions by the Supreme Court of the German Federal Republic. Nobile quia optimum (known because the best). Who would use Latin today to enhance a product?

Cross advertising: Other product from the Maggi Company: Maggi bouillon cubes and Maggi soups.

Directions for use:  Maggi aroma is very rich; use it sparingly. It is unneccessary to season every soup and every dish; only neutral-tasting soups and dishes need seasoning and this merely gto enhance their own flavour. It is impossible to fix the necessary quantity of aroma to be added beforehand – simply sample it several times. On no account must Maggi aroma be overpowering. 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%.

The illustration shows a recent re-print which has been simplified.

Tabasco
This bottle is more than a bottle as the producers in Louisiana have well understood how to communicate with their consumers. The extra cost of a carton does a fantastic job, far better than advertising in TV or the press.

The bottle itself radiates tradition, quality and taste through its simple 2-colour quadrangular label. The aluminized green neck label together with a tamper-proof shrinkwrap adds a safety feeling.

The cardboard box tells a great story:

FRONT SIDE: Branding, i.e. the bottle.
BACK SIDE: three recipes.
LEFT SIDE: product story, i.e the aging in wooden casks.
RIGHT SIDE: product story, i.e. the strength of peppers.
If you add to this that you often find a small recipe brochure inside and a web-site and address where you can get

more FREE recipes, anybody will

understand that McIlhenny has done a great job. No doubt you will find this product in practically everysupermarket in the whole world.

Three great bottles in different categories and real success stories! One could add other examples like Absolut or CocaCola, but the reader knows certainly all about these icons already.

Apr 23

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

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

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


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


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

To express tradition one chooses a typeface which is

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

Amaretti di Matilde is no doubt a good example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 23

The backpanel

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The role of the back panel on food packaging is to
increase consumption and/or amplify pleasure

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 on food packaging totally uninteresting, to such a degree that the consumer does not even look at them?

There are mainly five reasons for this:
The responsible person does not believe in the above statement, i.e. that back panels on food packaging are uninteresting.

The responsible person does not understand what design can do to make things attractive, clear, simple and interesting.

The responsible person does not have a knowledge of hierarchy, i.e. what is of primary and secondary importance to the consumer.

The responsible person has chosen a design agency which has no or little knowledge of communication on food packaging.

The responsible person does not care!

It is not difficult to design a good back panel (or rather 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 invites reading. This is unfortunately seldom the case today as the responsible person tries, above all, to please the legal advisors, the boss, guidelines, rules or best practices! Instead of using common sense.

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 for food packaging:

  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. a 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 legal texts such as ingredients, net weight, bar code, date marking, etc…

Follow the above advice when you next design for food packaging and you will notice the sales increase.

Apr 23

My favourite package design!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Yes, I am Swedish. Yes, I am a Kamprad fan. Yes, I buy my furniture at IKEA. But the reason for having chosen the biscuit pack at IKEA as my favourite package design is not my addiction to IKEA, but that this package design expresses so well my philosophy of package design: simplify, amplify and surprise. I should like to know the designer who by knowledge or pure instinct got it so right.

Surprise
Great 3D effect having the biscuits in the background out of focus.

Branding
You will find only the four letters, I, K, E and A as biscuits. So simple, so powerful.

Simplicity
Basically only 3 elements, the red background, the brown biscuits and the word KEX (“IKEA food” and netweight are not really necessary).

Amplification
The taste is amplified by the amount of biscuits which overlap on all side panels.

Appetite appeal
If not 100%, it still is very good as the biscuits haved not been retouched and are uneven (as the chocolate pieces on all the Magnum illustrations).

Last, but not least, this design proves that package design can be simple if the designer knows the job and legislation.

Most marketing people believe you need this and that, when, in reality, the European legislation gives us the freedom to design with common sense hierarchy.

On the back and sides we will find the ingredients list in 16 languages (no nutritional information is legally necessary), best before date, barcode and producing company, as well as the e-mail address to IKEA.

I just wish that product and brand managers, i.e. those who decide upon package design, would go for what really interests the consumer which is totally different from one category of food to another and often so from what their guidelines, best practice, legal advisors, etc. tell them to do.

Long live IKEA!






Apr 23

SHAPE UP!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Design | Uncategorized

The importance of a form that is unique, universal and up-to-date

When you think of shape design in the field of package design, bottles will undoubtly first come to mind. Be they plastic or glas, they no doubt will have an impact on point-of-sale as they mostly have unique shapes. Bottles don’t only have interesting shapes, they also have interesting content, Skål!

To win a consumer’s favour is a matter of staying ‘top-of-mind’ with your product. This can be done with unique and interesting advertising or point-of-sale material.

The best way, however, is to design your package in such a way that it achieves an iconic shape. The advantage of having a unique, easy recognisable shape, be it in glass, metal, plastic or cardboard, is that you can constantly change colour, design, etc. in order to be noticed, i.e. top-of-mind.

There are a few brands on the European market that do this successfully and thus strengthen their identity as we, consumers are reminded of their existence. I have obviously no sales figures for any of these brands. Neither do I know if the special editions have increased sales. But what I know is that the cost of printing/producing a special edition has been considerably reduced the last years thanks to technology (flexo printing, sleeving, etc.);

by having a special edition on the shelves you stand out and are thus noticed;

a special edition receives quite a lot of ‘free advertising’ thanks to articles in the press or TV/radio coverage when launched.

Krafft Foods’ Toblerone brand has taken this idea further than anyone else. They know that as long as they stick to the triangular shape, the yellow background and the personalized typography they

can issue special editions for Easter, Christmas, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. The sleeve with the special design can, if the edition is not successful, easily be removed by the shop owner.

When Selfridges celebrated its Centenary they produced several yellow bottles (POP champagne, ABSOLUT and Coca-Cola) in their corporate colour, yellow. No doubt these bottles (very few ABSOLUT were produced!) will demand high prices after a few years. The EVIAN special edition bottles have already reached quite a level on eBay.

The master of special edition is obviously Coca-Cola, be it for Christmas (St. Claus is a Coca-Cola invention!) Selfridges, Olympics or the 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns in Scotland.

The great attraction of special editions was proven a few years ago when Unilever’s Marmite produced a special edition for St. Patrick’s Day with the flavour of Guinness. The quarter of a million jars were apparently sold out within a few hours.

How far can you go when your shape has become iconic? Well, ABSOLUT recently sold a special edition without branding, i.e. printing on the front of the bottle. That is to believe in yourself! Congratulations!

What can we learn from the above? That it is certainly worth the money to design your package/bottle in such a way that the shape can be protected, i.e. trademarked. Maybe the package will be more expensive to produce, but if well designed, your package becomes your advertising medium and where is the most efficient advertising if not in thestore/shop/boutique?

Apr 23

Is it today possible to distinguish one design style from another when it comes to package design in a highly developed market as Europe?The answer is no doubt, yes, as package design is a sort of folk art i.e. it can express a country’s culture as design in general and package design in particular. In this article we will have a look at italy.

Once I wrote an article called “First you design, then you decorate” which, I believe, well expresses my view on package design. Great package design must tell an interesting story and provoke a reaction and of course, most of all, incite to buy the product. I myself need to be emotionally involved, be it with music, art, literature, photography or good food.

The other day I fell on an Italian pasta package and I asked myself why do I like so much those great Italian packages, especially in the pasta category? It struck me that all great Italian packages do really involve me through typography, illustration, layout or an icon. There is a human touch to Italian package design in opposition to the British ‘minimalistic’ design style which can be both witty and unique, but which tires me very quickly as it seldom follows the rule I mentioned above, i.e. First design, then decorate.

At Nestlé where I worked for almost 40 years, I had a basic aversion to seeing people on packages. In fact, there was only one good example and that was on the coffee label “Taster’s Choice”. The reason was that if on petfood packages the animal brings emotion to the design, people are in general just ‘stuck on’ to show a happy consumer not explaining anything about the product.

However, in Italian package design I haved found great examples of human beings/faces on the pack. One example is the sympathetic face of Giovanni Rana, another the old man on the “Grissini Piemontesi” and last, but not least, the charming Olivia and Marino on the Pavesi packages. The attentive reader certainly noticed that I used the words sympathetic and charming, both highly emotional words for a package design.



In all these cases the human touch is well integrated into the design and does not disturb, i.e. does not take away the attention from the products. The layouts are totally different which proves my theory that there is not one way of creating an interesting layout. Unfortunately however, 80% of all packages today follow the scheme

  • • Corporate brand in upper lefthand corner;
  • • Product brand below;
  • • Product illustration at the bottom,

not to forget the triangular ‘New’ in the upper righthand corner!


This emotional touch on Italian package design can also be a kind of vignette illustration as on De Cecco (the harvest girl), on Agnesi (the clipper), on Voiello (the ‘Pirandello’), or the most famous of them all, the mill on Molino Bianco. Once again I refer to highly emotional symbols which you will never forget and that is what branding is all about, isn’t it?

Add to this the years these brands were created, i.e. 1879, 1886 or 1824 and you tell quite a story about these brands. I once suggested this approach to Buitoni, i.e. to incorporate the Casa as a great symbol, but unfortunately never succeeded. What a pity.

Speaking of figures, my favourite pack Barilla does not fit into this article as its design is far more rational and hardselling. However, it incorporates “No 1 in Italia”, one of the best sales argument an Italian package can have. This has been cleverly copied by Giovanni Rana as he is number one in the chilled pasta segment, Barilla being dried pasta.


Let us for a moment leave the cereals aside, and “brew” the cereals, which gives us beer, let us have a look at Peroni’s Nastro Azzurro, a label almost as great as San Pellegrino. This is a masterpiece in layout, typography and words chosen. I am sure Giambattista Bodoni or Aldes Manuzio would have given a great applause had they still been alive.

Speaking about typography the step over to calligraphy is not big. Italy has a number of great calligraphic label designs. I have selected two,

Vicenzi di Verona which show how great calligraphy can render a special touch to a package design. Calligraphy has to be specially made by a calligrapher and not used as a typeface as in less good examples as Col SapOri di Napoli, and Corsini’s Cantuccini.

A cross section like this would not be complete without the unique “Amaretti di Saronno Autentici“ which is not a design masterpiece, but which follows the abovementioned design style with interesting typography, a very special icon, a window and last, but not least highly traditional.

To sum up, Italy has given us a very special emotional style of package design which proves the fact that package design is folk art to a great extent whilst today retailers and brand owners unfortunately do not use art as part of package design by being too rational and global. What a pity!

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