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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”.

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.

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

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

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

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


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!

Apr 23

The pack in advertising

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Great advertising, being it outdoor, weekly print or TV commercials, may  contain the pack or may not. The following advice will only deal with two aspects: the package in print advertising and the unnecessary repetition of the brand. It gives the reader a few advices of what to do and what not to do and claims in no way to cover all the various aspects of packaging in advertising.

Make your package the star in the advertisement. If your package is interesting, i.e. highly appetising, or if it has a special feature or gives a new/key message, then present the pack in an interesting, if possible surprising way.

Bring the interest to the product inside the package. People are seldom interested in a package, always in how the product tastes or what good it does to you or for instance your cat or dog. The illustrations chosen are also great examples of the importance of SURPRISING the viewer. If you do not surprise, intrigue or awake expectations nobody will remember your advertisement, nor the brand.

Change the size relations in order to surprise and, as mentioned above, make the package the key design element in the advertisement.

If the package has no reason to be in the advertisement do not show it, but if the package participates in telling a story, it has to have a prominent place in the advertisement.

Change the package to make it more interesting. The famous series of HEINZ advertisements in the UK several years ago are excellent examples of powerful copy, surprising design and strong branding. Can a package really be better in an advertisement?

Show what the consumer is interested in. How the BACI are packed (in cartons or tubes) is of little interest when looking at an advertisement, but the aluminium-foil wrapping certainly is. Therefore, show the wrapped product, not the whole carton, sachet, etc. This advertising is also a good example of showing the actual product without wrapper. People eat products, not packages!

If your package design is unique, surprising, interesting or has a call-to-action message, show only the package in the advertisement. The HEINZ squeeze bottle does not need any more text and can be shown as such in an ad. Here, as in the preceeding examples, the strong branding is not “disturbed”. See under “don’ts”.

Show the product in the most attractive manner which the package design not always can. Present it in an attractive light to create an atmosphere. What the consumer wants to take away from an advertisement of food or drink is not the package, but the taste, the lightness, etc. The viewer of the ad must remember either the name (St. Pauli), the colour (Veuve Cliquot), or the icon (Nescafé Red mug).

Show the package OPEN whenever possible if you are in the TASTE business and always  show the “end result” if it is a product which has to be prepared.

As consumers are not interested in the type of package, show a typical detail of it with the brand clearly visible as that is why we adertise. The master in having you remember the package and the brand is by far ABSOLUT with a campaigngoing on for more than 25 years.

Last, but not least, never show the actual package as it is in an advertisement. To make the communication simpler and clearer, delete from the front panel all unnecessary texts, as e.g. net weight, product denomination, other legal texts, price (unless this is the main message in the advertisement in which case amplify it), etc.

Why two when one is enough ! One of the first advice young brand managers are given at business schools or by their bosses is :  strong branding is a must. Yes, strong branding is a must. It is essential for a company to sell products or services with a profit. But it should never be forgotten that what counts even more for the consumer/customer/buyer is what the product in question does or tastes or offers. So the balance between branding and product must be optimal in all media. Optimal means that the communication of both, brand and product, must be simple, convincing and one should not disturb the other.

However, most marketing people believe that strong branding means repetition of a brand. So on a print add, a second logotype is added somewhere, although there is one already on the pack shown in the advertisement !

If a second (or third, or fourth) brand logotype appears on the advertisement it has a tendency to distract from the main message, be it the ‘first’ logotype, the product or the RTB (reason-to-buy) which can be price, product advantage, New, etc. The two illustrations prove this point and the illustration of the cat in the forest underlines that we are only interested in the main message and do not even see duplications … so why have them ?

Do not believe consumers are interested in packaging. They buy products !

Do not show many packages. Very often the supermarket does not carry the whole range anyhow. Concentrate on one package, but tell the story that there is a range of other flavours or varieties.

Do not believe that the package necessarily has to be in the advertisement. What the consumer can remember is anyhow very little. It must be the brand or brand icon along with the USP or the price (reason for purchase), flavour, taste, etc.

Do not believe that there is a formula for the ‘package in the advertisement’. The above are just a few advices. There are always exceptions to any rule. Common sense must prevail and that is to develop an advertisement that remains clear in the consumer’s mind. Therefore, some of the advertisements in this article can still be improved.

Apr 23

Easy to answer for a long-time jazz fan as I am. I grew up in the 50ies with Basie, Ellington, Armstrong, Miles Davis, etc. To make a long story short, the answer is: both jazz and package design need constant  creativity to be interesting.

Let us start with today’s real problem: the client! If the client were like an Ellington band, it would allow creativity within the melody as well as the orchestra ensemble. But most clients, i.e. big organizations, today play as a symphony orchestra according to set rules and charts. It is safer that way and safety and no-risk taking is part of today’s society.

In a jazz band, however, you play the melody more or less according to the charts, but then you add great soloists who render the music new every time, thus as interesting as a daily newspaper.

My belief is that the food packaging industry is today very performing technically with constant improvements as to material, filling speeds, efficiency, etc. while on the marketing side, i.e. what we print on the package we are ‘stuck’ in the charts like a symphony orchestra! What we need to do to render package design more interesting is to play, maybe not as sophisticated and creative as Charlie Parker, but simply and with emotion like Louis Armstrong or Stan Getz to mention just two of the jazz giants.

This means that each package design will have a slightly different story to tell, just like the Arla packages in Sweden or the back of a Kelloggs Special K. If we play the game of package design like this, consumers will look at what’s on the package and maybe learn something as they do from the morning newspaper.

Could we not put at least part of the standard information such as a lot of nutrition facts, net weight, ecology symbols, etc. on the website for those who are really interested in this type of information?

And then for those who are curious to know something of special interest about the product or how it is produced, etc. we would need a package designer like Miles Davies who constantly gives new sounds, i.e. information.

As you may see there is a link between package design and a creative jazz musician. Therefore, let us ‘jazz it up’ and make package design more interesting!

Apr 09

Trends on the supermarket shelves

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Packages in the shelves

Most design trends are obviously the result of product trends, i.e. drinking and eating habits evolve. This is also valid for non-food products such as household- beauty- and petfood products.

Trends in design also emanate from technology as the design computer is, unfortunately often, the only tool young designers use to develop new ideas. I say unfortunately as the computer is the culprit if in the wrong hands for the following five reasons:

He doesn’t think, he executes. So, before even opening the computer the ‘Big Idea’ has to be found in somebody’s head. Without a big, campaignable idea which is remembered, no good communication.

Most package designers sit in their studio and work two-dimensionally on a screen about 30×40 cm. The reality is outside in the real world with hundreds of different packages around and not against a white background as on the computer screen.
It’s such a cool tool that everybody, even the most amateur designer or employee feels that what they do looks good on the screen.

Thanks to the computer we can work fast today and we can, by ‘stealing’ images (it’s called downloading), put something together quite fast without real thinking and thorough analysis of what was done.

When we have done the job, it’s so easy to send it as a ‘jpg’ to the client. We thus forget that any creative job has to be sold, i.e. explained to the client as she or he doesn’t necessarily see the same as we. Especially as the client today is very often an ‘unschooled buyer’ of artistic creative communication. So the client then asks to do this and that and one finally arrives at the point where she or he actually designed the pack instead of the professional designer.

This being said, we progress both on the technical side with materials and CO2-reductions and on the marketing side with layout and shapes. I can count to about eight clear trends and these are:

  • The brand logotype in the middle (layout)
  • Windows, i.e. see-through packaging
  • Mat plastics for a more agreable touch
  • Smaller packsizes and multipacks. Yes, many consumers do not want quantity today, but quality in small doses
  • Shaped cartons
  • “The 3 price levels”
  • Plastic and glass bottles with a structured surface (touch)
  • Considerably more attractive POS material, freestanding or on pallets.

The brand logotype in the middle
Last time there was a real change in layout was some 15-20 years ago when Parmalat put their logotype vertically which then was copied by several other brands. I myself put VITTEL vertically at that time: The trick was to make the pack look optically larger as a big brand no doubt looks bigger than a small one (Ribena).

Some 5-6 years ago Danone moved the brand to the middle and little by little brand owners haved found out that it is a far bettter position than putting it on the top. Why? Because what interests the consumer most on a pack is not the brand, but the product illustration which on these packages has moved on top in a prominent position. Strangely enough this layout also strengthens the brand. The Royco, Nestlé, Knorr packages are some recent examples.

The consumer wants to see what she buys. In the cheese and sliced meat sections of the store this type of plastic film packaging is well known since long, but the transparent window on cardboard packaging is a rather new trend. This window can be with or without transparent plastic film depending upon the structure of the pack. If all the text on the Knorr Vie sleeve is, in my opinion, useless as half of it is almost illegible, it is refreshing to see the clean simple design of the label on the bottle!

I could show numerous other examples, but I suggest the curious reader goes to the supermarket to have this trend confirmed. My own favourit is the bread sachets at Coop.

Mat plastic films
This trend, as so many other trends, comes from the most sophisticated packaging market, i.e. Japan. If, some years ago, we were impressed to see crystal-clear plastic films, really transparent and not as the milky polythelene, today’s consumers appreciate the mat surface. It is nice to touch and also gives an impression of tradition and non-industrial. To further communicate this sense of home-made, we see more and more the combination with kraft paper (real or fake as on the GLOBUS pack).

Smaller packsizes/multipacks
Be it small Mars or Bounty bars, salami sticks from Citterio or Piccolinis from Buitoni, individual portions have come here to stay. Yes, some of us are getting fatter, but many of us are  going in the other direction and choose small sizes (Ragusa). We have understood that, as we move less, i.e. burn less calories, we also have to take in less calories. Multipacks for Babybel cheeses or two-finger Kitkats are today available in any shop. We can even find mini-Tabasco or small shots of Red Bull. As mentioned above, this is more a product trend than a design trend.

Shaped cartons
Cardboard quality and technology as well as sophisticated machinery has today made it possible to do almost any shape in cardboard. It is no surprise that last year’s Pentaward went to a new shape of Kleenex tissue packs which no doubt created some problem on the production line, but was such an outstanding design that it sold out in two weeks! The Baci carton is a further example of how we can today develop even roundish shapes in cardboard.

The three price levels
Any big supermarket chain will today offer three levels of quality or price… superpremium, standard and economy. I don’t know who started it, most likely Tesco, but you will find today simple white designs as well as goldembossed sophisticated solutions from the leading retailers. As I live in Switzerland I have chosen to show the economy designs for Coop and Migros as well as their superpremium packages. Here one can really speak of design trends as the symbolism used is similar in all markets (white-gold-embossing, etc.)

Structured plastic and glass bottles
One again, technology has facilitated the work for the designer to add structure to the bottles as well as interesting designs thanks to plastic film shrink wrapping. The tactile role of package design is no doubt the most significant improvement or trend during the last years.

As this no doubt means a slight cost increase I find it gratifying that the retailers and brand owners are accepting this to make packaging more interesting.

Point-of-sale activities
Once again, thanks to technology, i.e. first-class flexographic printing on various ‘flute-materials’ we see, mainly from Ferrero, very attractive sales-stimulating material (pallets, free-standing corrugated displays, etc.).

However strangely enough, it is in this world that far more can be done to render shopping more attractive. Trays still mostly carry logotypes and not sales-stimulating texts and the shippers, which often end up inside the store, are still designed for logistic, and not for marketing thinking.

This leads me to the great weakness in today’s marketing youth. They do not think holistically. Neither do they see the total packaging picture (primary ‘retail’, secondary ‘display’ and tertiary ‘shipper’ packaging), nor do they reach out for the synergy effect you can achieve between packaging, POS, advertising, website and other marketing activities. What a pity!

An article like this would not be complete without mentioning where we stand still or even go backwards. I see no progress in easy-open packaging. I still believe that micro-well is a material that can be used far more and last, but not least, the GDA-information on packages is no doubt a step backwards as it is not giving understandable information on how to eat and drink with moderation.

A trend which needs a special article is the considerable increase in special editions where creativity is far superior. The masters are Toblerone and Kinder.

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