Popular Posts



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 […]

Popular Posts

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”.

Jun 01

Tasty communication

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

One day, I was asked by a Swedish Food Journal to give my views on how to best communicate taste on pack design. The title in Swedish was “Do you speak a food language?”

Before I start, I should like to say that I am one of the lucky few who, during my education and later, in my professional life, had to work both verbally (as a journalist) and visually (as a designer).

My advice will be divided in 4 categories:

  1. the visual language, i.e. appetite appeal
  2. the symbolic language
  3. the verbal language
  4. the layout and how to maximise food appeal on a pack

Appetite appeal

The Tesco orange box and the Swiss Kambly biscuit tin say it well: “a picture is worth a thousand words” which was coined as early as in 1911 in a US newspaper article about publicity.

Mon Chéri and the bag of bread are here to show that, in order to have taste, you must come closest possible to the product. Small food illustrations do not taste!

The symbolic language

It is very powerful to use a symbolic language. Can strength be better expressed than on the Tabasco ad? I doubt!

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut and Nestlé’s CRUNCH show that there are several ways of expressing crunchiness.

The verbal language

McDonald’s is, in my opinion, the master and I could give many examples. I’ll select just one on their cartons for Big Macs.

Another way of telling a story are descriptive brands (Gusto Italiano, Utterly Butterly and Seriously strong).

If “chocolat” is good, “aux pépites de chocolat” is certainly more tasty!

Monoprix has an assortment where each pack says exactly what it is. I would say that, if you have a powerful communication, you do not even need a brand, as in the case of “sans arêtes” Sardines.

It is important to have the best words on the pack design. It is even more important on point-of-sale and in advetising.

Snickers’ “affamé” (hungry) says it all and so does Le Parfait bread spread “spread it quickly, but savour it slowly”.


Here is where most designers and brand managers get it wrong. Most of them believe that the logotype must be on top when in fact it is the product that should be there. The illustration will always stand out better if it is in the foreground, as on the Chinese fruit cake pack or in the case of McDonald’s BIG TASTY.

The product I prefer by far is the Swedish version of KitKat, i.e. Cloetta’s KEX which is not so crunchy, nor chocolatey, but I doubt a design can express the product and its taste in a better way. Now that’s my opinion and as the saying goes: “De gustibus non est disputandum” (there is no disputing about taste).


LW/May 2017

May 26

No two consumers in the world have the same opinion, nor is there any consumer who knows your positioning… so all you can test is whether or not a consumer likes a design.

This being said, I am in no way against testing, as that is one way of measuring  certain forms, colours, icons, etc. in relation to communication.

So what then should you test? First of all, start with one thing at a time. If you have designed a new brand logotype, ask the consumer’s opinion about it when it is not yet on the pack, but in isolation, with no disturbing elements around. You may then find out things you would not have seen by yourself, as you might be too close to your own project.

Another thing you can test quite easily is the appetite appeal of an illustration, also here in isolation. You may, as above, test one illustration against 2-3 others, as you then get a more elaborate answer.

Don’t test copy, as your copywriter knows very well the value of the words used and don’t test the type of pack if you already have decided which production line you will use (for economical and practical reasons).

By the way, we all know what the various materials express: plastic is less ‘noble’ than glass, an aluminium can feels colder than a glass bottle, etc.

Once you’ve got feedback as to your brand logotype and/or icon, the illustration, the best-selling call-to-action, a good designer knows how to put it all together to obtain a design with

  • – optical size impression
  • – easy readability
  • – maximal contrast
  • – correct hierarchy
  • – respecting legal requirements, etc.

Learning: Measure likes or dislikes to individual parts of a design by asking the consumers, but never ask their opinion about the full pack design.


LW/November 2016

May 23

The reality check

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

I have recently updated my “advice to a brand manager”, as I noticed that I had, at stage 3, forgotten the importance of the reality check!

The reason why I bring it up in this article is the following: with the arrival of the design computer, indeed a facilitating tool, there is more than ever the tendency that a design is being judged on a computer screen and not in reality.

By the way, one thing I learned quite early during my Nestlé years was to constantly update guidelines which is what I am doing with the “5 step formula”. I would hate to hear that young designers and brand managers  make the same mistakes the previous generation did.

The McDonald’s ad, compared to the other two, is an excellent example of an outdoor ad that can be read and understood from a distance. I’m sure that the designers who did the other two ads never checked how legible the message would be in reality, i.e. understood when passing by, driving your car. They were ok in the design studio, but not outside in a busy environment. So, folks… do it BIG or stay in bed!

LW/November 2016

May 18

More about Creativity

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

A dictionary will tell you that creativity is the ability to make new things or to think up new ideas. Also, we should never forget that what leads to creativity is knowledge. In other words, the more you know, the more creative you can be. I know it sounds pretentious, but I believe that I’m more creative today than when I was younger. I have collected far more knowledge thanks to being curious!

Where do we need more creativity in pack design or, rather, in which area are we missing it?

Going back to my friend Robert Monaghan who said that package design is like a decathlon, here are the 10 areas in which we need to have maximum knowledge:

1.     materials

2.     graphic design

3.     photography and product illustration

4.     printing/die cutting/molding, i.e. all technical areas of pack production

5.     typography and readability

6.     ergonomics and functionality, i.e. opening, reclosing, etc.

7.     marketing in general and segmentation in particular, i.e. sociology

8.     copy writing

9.     retailing basics, i.e. the hot spots on the shelves and product classification

10. secondary packaging, as for instance shippers, shelf-ready displays, etc.

It goes without saying that you do not have to be an expert in all these fields, but you must have the basic knowledge and know to which specialists to go for further information. In order to stand out on the shelf, your pack must obviously look different and yet, still obey to the category norms to be quickly understood.

Take the special edition of the Lion Bar Easter egg… how do you design such a cardboard pack to be erected by machine and not by hand in order to keep costs down?

Another example, this time from the highly creative bag-in-box sector, is how to imitate wood in order to stimulate the traditional wooden box for wine bottles.

Should you have a paper label, a plastic label or print directly on the glass? The result is very different.

How far can you form a standing pouch to give a unique shape in order to appeal to children?

Of course all your competitors can learn this and it is therefore very important that you master the ability to learn faster, as it is often the only sustainable competitive advantage you can have.

Here is a list of what attitude and behaviour you need to become more creative:

1.     Ask more and better questions. By asking a good question, you almost have the answer.

2.     Trust the unexpected.

3.     Learn the guidelines and company policy; follow their meaning, but not more.

4.     Question the briefing. Know how to forget it and leave the door open for a surprise. If you don’t surprise, you do nothing.

5.     Create a more relaxed environment where laughing and smiling are main ingredients. Be serious in what you do, but not in your attitude and behaviour. Fun uses the same ingredients as creativity.

6.     Limitation encourages creativity, so do not see it as a disadvantage.

7.     Creativity is the destination, but courage is the journey.

8.     Provocation is an essential part of creativity… use it with moderation.

9.     If you are not passionate about your task, you have no chance.

10. As a creative person, you are committed to risk.

11. Creativity, according to Toscani, implies an absence of security, a willingness to do the opposite of what established value systems suggest.

12. You must have a certain ability to communicate your imagination.

13. Creative people are doers. They recognise a good idea right away. They add their own personality in the relentless execution of the idea.

14. Creativity is the ability to generate something unique, functional, beautiful and it must generate value for the society.

15. You have more time to be crazy and creative if everything is very organised (Mathias Ruegg).

16. Your organisation’s most valuable assets are people’s intuition (Tim Brown).

17. Once the mind gets curious, no law can stop it (Larry King).

18. Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing (Salvador Dali).

19. To be creative requires divergent thinking, thus generating many unique ideas and then you need convergent thinking to combine these ideas into the best result.

20. Reasonable men adapt themselves to the world; unreasonable men adapt the world to themselves. That’s why all progress depends on unreasonable men (G.B. Shaw).


LW/May 2017

May 09

Numbers that count

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

One way of developing a new brand is to choose a number, be it a year, just a figure or a number with a special signification.

As I live in Europe, I have selected some local brands, but I suppose there are similar ones in Asia, as well as in the Americas.

I’d like to start with what I believe is the most well known one, the Kronenbourg 1664. This is the preferred beer brand in France and 1664, first used as a number alone since 1988, obviously dates back to the year Kronenbourg was founded as a brewery. In fact, Kronenbourg 1664 was created in 1952 in honour of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II, therefore its ‘royal dressing’.

There are many stories about this brand as, for instance, the breakfast in Bruxelles shared by François Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl and Tony Blair when François Mitterand asked his neighbours which was, for them, the turning point in history, whereupon Jacques Chirac was quick to answer 1664, Kronenbourg! Eric Cantona was one of the many VIPs who promoted this brand.

6ème SENS

Also a French brand from the Gérard Bertrand winery in the South of France, more precisely the Pays d’Oc. Under this brand, you’ll find white wines like  Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache and reds like Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, as well as rosé wines.

A great, unique storytelling design that is, as any good design: unforgettable. Not to forget either the yearly Jazz Festival at L’Hospitalet, where Norah Jones will be the star artist this year. Didn’t somebody once say that great wines and jazz go hand in hand?


… which stands for the tax roll number of the Scansano region and which has become one of Italy’s much appreciated wines from the Tuscany region, even if still in the shadow of Chianti, Montalcino or Montepulciano. Morellino is the local name for the popular sangiovese grape.

Le 1921

Another French brand from Ortolan, promoting the Franche-Comté region was one of the first brands in the new popular trend to ‘buy local’. It celebrates the memory of its origin year 1921 and their slogan reads “L’amour du fromage depuis 1921”.

No 1 to No 6

The brand John & John is German and designed in Hamburg by Peter Schmidt. It highlights the six numbers which makes the design more unique and has a greater impact than the John & John brand. It follows my advice that an icon (in this case No 4) is stronger than a brand logotype. As the crisps market is a typical impulse buy category, the DESIGN will always play a big role.
LW/May 2017

May 05

One of many things I learned from Peter Brabeck (ex CEO and Chairman at Nestlé) was to put as much effort into keeping your existing customers and having them hopefully consume more of your products as looking out for new consumers.

There are many ways of achieving increased consumption, as, for instance, constant improvements of a product (taste profile or crunchiness) in order to keep it top of mind or make big investments in advertising.

Another way is to build in more convenience into your pack and, as a possibility, concentrate on easy openings. I have two examples to show you:

Bonne Maman Petits beurre

If the pack is more convenient, i.e. easy to open and reclose (without looking as overpacking) and if the product size is smaller, making us feel less ‘guilty’, you will nibble more often… and consume more! At least that’s what happens to me!


If management really wants to have a pack that is easy to open, it can be done. I believe that among the millions of cubes that are produced daily, there is not one that opens badly. I have used this product during many years as an example in my teaching and can confirm: easy opening can’t be done better! So eat more cubes! That’s what I intend to do!

X  X  X

I hope these two cases have convinced the reader that to concentrate on improving convenience is worth the investment!

LW/April 2017

Apr 12

Together is more

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

There are many types of promotions, as for instance “3 for 2”, gifts, etc., but one I’d like to promote in this article is what I would call ‘combinations’.

What can you add to make your product more attractive? I have chosen two examples, but I’m sure you can find other, maybe even better offers out there in your supermarket.

For a brand manager, it’s a little bit like ‘thinking outside the box’. How can she (yes, today we have mainly female brand managers in FMCG, especially in foods) look around to find another company willing to participate in this game: 1+1=3? This is stimulating, challenging and fun, as the new pack design must preferably give equal visibility to both items without overloading the pack.

The mistake most brand managers do is to repeat branding two or even three times (Parmigiano Reggiano) instead of highlighting the new benefit.

The Wyssmüller kit design is not much better so here, again, great progress can be made if you follow my basic advice “Do it BIG or stay in bed”, i.e. amplify the one or two words that sell the concept/combination.

We still have a lot to learn in pack design communication!


LW/April 2017

Apr 01

The Check Out Facilitator

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Young brand managers, to you I say: store check, store check, store check… there is so much more to learn by analysing brands, packages, POS material in the stores than in an office behind a computer!

The other day, I visited the local ALDI and got once more the confirmation that retailers seem more creative, these days, than brand owners! I can give many examples, but today, I wish to just speak about one thing and that is how to use the bar code in a creative manner. Yes, I’ve done that before, so it is nothing new for those who read my books or this website.

Speed is important at the check out, whether you do it yourself, or if the cashier does it. So, the bigger the code bar can be and the more visible, i.e. on two sides (or more), the better. Here are two examples:
LW/February 2017

Mar 30

Where are you from?

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Walking up the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich the other day, I passed the Davidoff Cigar shop. It struck me once more that one of the most visible trends in marketing, these days, is to inform the consumer about the origin of a brand or rather a company. It is clear, for me, that adding … of Geneva is more positive than just writing Davidoff. There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Geneva has a positive image (it’s Swiss, it’s the home of the UN, the WHO, etc. and it’s known for quality watches);
  2. it stands for quality, as new consumers might believe that Davidoff is Russian. In fact, it is a Ukranian immigrant coming to Geneva as a child at the beginning of last century that became the greatest cigar specialist worldwide;
  3. in a world with more and more misinformation, it is a positive point to state where from you are!

By the way, I bought a bottle of water in Zurich and what did it say: “local water”.

I can give many more examples – you’ll find them in another article on this site under “from global to local”.


LW/February 2017

Mar 14


Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

There are many ways of improving what you do. The best is no doubt to be curious of what’s happening around you by looking at competition, doing the obligatory store checking, visiting Dieline or why not

Another approach to knowledge, perfection and being ahead of others is no doubt to… compete!

If you win prizes and maybe even stardom… you most likely wish to stay on top! To do that, you have to constantly improve, i.e. learn more in order to be more efficient, faster and hopefully make more money.

There are different competitions to take part in, the Pentawards being the ‘nec plus ultra’. But there are also other ones such as the Red Dot Design Award.

Why not look beyond and even create a design for the future to inspire the world of packaging? A new competition has just been launched by the European Packaging Design Association.

Some of you may say “we have no time for that”. To this, I usually answer: “if you do not set aside time for improving, close your business!”

Luckily, a design agency is not like a factory where you have to be at your work station from 8 to 5 (or whatever), but an environment where flexible hours are a must, as creativity is something that comes and goes. Participating in a competition? Well, you may do this when you are inspired, on a Saturday afternoon, on a Monday evening, well even over lunch time while eating your sandwich and drinking your Coke or your Red Bull!

A new competition has just been launched (, so why not try to do something exceptional, as, this time, there is no brand manager holding your pen and telling you to stick to the guidelines! Good luck!

PS:   please note that the competition is open to any designer!

PPS: an advice from Lars: “Do not forget that the role of a pack design is to sell, so this is not just a beauty contest.”

LW/March 2017

Packaging Sense by  wordpress themes