Jul 21

Great News

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

I am a very lucky man. Not only did I learn a lot during my 40 years at Nestlé, I now have the possibility to transmit this knowledge over my site www.packagingsense.com and also thanks to well designed books printed by Göteborgstryckeriet, one of the best book and packaging printers in Europe.

It is thanks to SIG and Ecolean, that I will publish, this Autumn, my 4th book, entitled “Read my pack”. What makes me so happy is that both companies (as Bobst and Iggesund for my 3rd book) would like the consumers to not only use their packs, but also read what’s printed on them!

Obviously, neither Ecolean nor SIG have any real influence on the design, as this lies with the users, i.e. national or multinational companies. However, by sponsoring my book, these two packaging solution providers promote great communication which is my prime objective.

If Ecolean offers consumers the most lightweight plastic pitcher packages which, once empty, flatten as an envelope, SIG offers easy to pour, beautifully printed cardboard packages like the cardboard bottle “combidome”, the first bottle that can be folded!

Both companies offer different ways to handle liquid packaging and the consumers have a choice which is always a stimulation for progress.

Thank you Ecolean and SIG! You really see packaging the way it should be seen, both as a technically sophisticated container and a great opportunity to communicate with the consumer!


LW/July 2017

Aug 25

Be close to your target!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The other day, I fell on two goblets standing side by side in the rather new product category of chilled ready-to-drink coffee beverages. As I love to analyse communication, this is what I found:

One design speaks the language of the young consumer who drinks on the go, while the other design most likely follows the company guidelines which, in my opinion, are complicated and have the wrong hierarchy. Furthermore, the design is loaded with information on the front that belongs rather on the side or the back of the goblet.

Let us play the consumer, for a moment, who buys a caffè latte:

  1. What am I looking for? Well, a caffè latte macchiato… where do I find it? fastest on the Emmi pack.
  2. What brand will I choose? If I’m a fervent Nescafé consumer, I’ll take Nescafé. Now, coming to the brand name, Nescafé has chosen Shakissimo (written with rather small letters) which has little or no ‘taste’ while Emmi chose Caffè Latte which has taste! So here I am sure Emmi is a clear winner.
  3. Do I care about GDA for this type of product? I doubt! So let’s not print it in front, or not at all, as no legislation stipulates its mention at this moment in time. The light blue consumer promotion “win 1 iPhone 6…” is no doubt more interesting as a message in terms of positioning, even if I do not participate in the promotion. It signals that the brand is contemporary.
  4. What sells more today? Information such as “shake me” which is already in the product brand or communication as for instance “it’s the HMMM to your OHHH”, i.e. the language of young people? The reader knows the answer.
  5. Which gives you the strongest shelf impact? … a solid black sharp bull’s eye or a trial to communicate a coffee splash? The reader can certainly find it out!
  6. Is the back panel communication of interest? Yes, on the Emmi goblet, as the light blue colour catches the eye. As the Nescafé cup is a bit smaller, it may not be fair to compare, but why is the barcode smaller on the larger size? Of course to give space for the Rainforest Alliance logotype!

X  X  X

So what did we learn from this comparison? Mainly three things:

  1. Increase shelf impact as much as you can.
  2. Speak the language of the target audience.
  3. Make the denomination of the product as clear as possible – in this case the consumer is looking for “Caffè latte”. I often repeat: “Consumers drink products, not logotypes”!

X  X  X

PS: Comparing the two corrugated display trays, the Emmi product is even more convincing! You can read about POS material elsewhere on www.packagingsense.com

LW/August 2015

Jul 29

I believe there is no other category in a supermarket that has more creative design solutions than the potato chip sachets!

Some years ago, I would have put breakfast cereals first, but these designs have lately become overloaded and complicated, as they try to look ‘healthier’ and at the same time often carry a promotion.

The chips category has not fallen into this trap. This product is and will always be a snack, just as a bar of chocolate. In this category, the designer and the brand manager are often concentrating on being different which is what creativity is all about.

Of course it helps that the sachet surface is usually quite large, though I think it has more to do with the fact that the more we have to do with pleasure food, the more effort is put into the design to make it attractive.

The Anglo-Saxon markets have obviously the best designs. They are so good that we see them now in the big department stores all over Europe. Tyrrell’s, REAL and John & John are three good examples. The most distributed brand is obviously Pringles, here in a highly creative variation.

I am normally not a fan of human faces on pack designs, but as always, there are exceptions. Some time ago, I found Chipsters’ Lastu in Finland, a design that looked at me in the shop!

Go local is today obviously a strong design trend. Hand Made Yorkshire Crisps are no doubt a typical example.

The number of ‘Handcooked’ chips grows for each day and so do the ‘natural’, as well as the ‘sea salted’ ones (Tesco, Roger’s, Cape Cod).

The Taffel chips pack I found in Finland presents an interesting graphical solution, very 3D!

The Swiss MIGROS Farm Chips is an excellent example of useful market research. The consumer will tell them which of the two “A vs. B”  will sell most. Congratulations MIGROS!

It goes without saying that the back panels of almost all of the abovementioned packages are good examples of ‘service panel designs’, amplifying freshness, naturalness, crispiness, etc. I have chosen the Swiss Zweifel KEZZ Chips as an example which could of course have been better structured. More about that in other articles. The back panel communication is still not good enough!

LW/July 2015

Dec 03

The HaHaHa Pentaward

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

One day, I was sitting with my old friends Brigitte and Jean Jacques Evrard, chatting about humour, one of our favourite topics. I mentioned that humour seems to have no place in today’s business world. Digitalisation has made us so efficient that there is no time to lay back, think and smile. So Jean Jacques said: “Why don’t we give a special award for the most funny pack and you are the chief jury?” Said and done!

Here we are, a year later, with Springetts’ great creation “Just Laid”. For those who were not in Tokyo and don’t know the reasons why this design was chosen among several other funny packs, here they are in a nutshell:

  1. a great, very balanced calligraphic logotype;
  2. a funny word with two meanings;
  3. a well-chosen colour scheme;
  4. a simple layout with little text;
  5. a great technical solution: press behind to open;
  6. it’s not vulgar;
  7. This solution may not have been 100% according to briefing. An agency should always do better than a briefing;
  8. Yes, it is a concept only, but Pentawards are there to promote any creative pack design.

Today’s business world seems to me to have become less creative due to best practice, guidelines and the “middle management syndrome” (i.e. take no risks). It is therefore refreshing that a contest like the Pentawards can promote highly creative solutions such as “Just Laid”!


Dec 03

Is it a new trend?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

There are two brands I’ve followed closely during the last 2-3 years, as both seem to have understood how to connect with a younger generation. They are Michel et Augustin in France, and soon all over Europe and Emmi in Switzerland, starting to export as well.

Yes, their packages and POS material are busy and do not follow my basic idea which is to simplify in order to amplify, but who said there are no exceptions to the rule…?

Yes, some of the texts on the “trublions du goût” packages and POS material are almost illegible, but so what, if it amplifies the style they have chosen as part of their visual and verbal identity? If Michel et Augustin are very interesting thanks to their texts (“4 petits carrés à la queue leu leu!”), I have a tendency to prefer Emmi, as many of their texts are more action-oriented, i.e. they have a real call-to-action which no doubt has a stronger effect on sales.

The following illustrations show some examples of how these two brands connect with young mind consumers. How else could I have noticed how Emmi and Michel et Augustin constantly increase their presence in my local supermarket?


Mar 19

The origin of raw materials such as cacao or coffee is one way of promoting a country or region. This is done quite often, be it with or without quality seals as “Café de Colombia” or “Rainforest Alliance Certified”.

Packages which promote a city or a country do now and then appear as promotions during sports and other cultural events or for centenary celebrations.

This time I looked at packages both sold tax free in airports or in down town supermarkets. I’ve chosen 4 ‘destinations’: Dublin, Hong Kong, Thailand and Ansterdam.

As the design style for this type of packages needs art to heighten the value and hopefully make them to collectors’ items, I obviously like Bewley’s from Dublin least as it is a bit too ‘simple’.

So let us have a look at Neuhaus Amsterdam which takes you on a trip by boat or on a bicycle to see the famous tulips. It is interesting to notice that no product illustration appears on the front (but obviously on the back!). Same can be said in the case of the Hong Kong confectionary. This pack is today hanging on our wall in the living as we see it as a painting!

The collection of the 4 Thai Heart Made packs is a great example of storytelling packages. It can be noticed that these designs sell first the products, then the Thai landscapes and only in the third position the brand as it plays a minor role when packs are sold as memory gifts. I find the balance between food photography and illustration particularly good, seeing the product well placed in the foreground.

Package design is often referred to as folk art. These examples no doubt confirm this!

Jan 26

Once I heard that typography was a “beautiful group of letters and not a group of beautiful letters”. If you look into the Oxford dictionary to know what “beautiful” means, you’ll find “pleasing to the mind as well as to the eye”. In my opinion, “pleasing to the mind” is identical to what communication should do, i.e. reach people’s mind. Does today’s typography do this? Well, only partly, as we have never had so many ‘amateur typographers’ as anybody can type on a keyboard today, knowing next to nothing of how to put letters together for easy reading!

This is particularly obvious on package design, whereas the typography in books, newspapers and weeklies is dealt with by professionals.  It’s not me to teach typography, although I had the chance to work for two years as a typographer, using, at that time, a composing stick.

The letters we use in the Western world originate from the Greek and Roman empires. If you go further back in time, you will learn that the alphabet was invented by the Phoenicians. What has Gutenberg to do with this? He was the first (if it wasn’t already the Chinese) to produce individual cast letters which, put together, made up words that were printed in special forms and then separated, i.e. de-assembled and assembled anew, composing new words, etc. This meant mechanical handling and the beginning of book printing.

It was a bit later in the 16th Century that many type faces were cut. As those who developped the typefaces were highly skilled craftsmen with full understanding of how our eyes capture words and sentences, these typefaces are still among us. Hundreds of books have been written on this subject.

I obviously have my favourite typefaces which include mainly the serifs such as Bodoni, Bembo, Indigo Antiqua (by my schoolfriend Johan Ström from the Graphic Institute in Stockholm), Times of course, as well as the sans serifs like Gill, Helvetica and Optima.

During my Nestlé years I produced a small handbook with the title “Truths in design and typography” which explained, in a layman way, the basics of good legibility using colour, contrast, typeface and layout. I explained that positive text (i.e. black on white) is more legible than negative text (white on black). I explained what David Ogilvy told some 50 years ago that “five times as many people read the headlines as body copy”.

I explained that, unless the text is very big, lower case lettering is more legible than capital letters. I explained that the most legible length of a line is what you have in newspapers, i.e. between 4-7cm. It means that less than 20 characters or more than 60 are harder to read, unless you read a book where there are no disturbing elements around!

Never use a typeface which is so full of style or ‘character’ that it is difficult to read. Books and newspapers always utilise the most legible type, but there are other typefaces which, as well as being easily read, can reinforce whatever characteristic you wish to emphasise for the product – elegance, creamininess, high quality, childlike, simplicity, exotic, etc.

Great typography is to achieve the best balance between

  • size of letters
  • contrast against background
  • distance between lines
  • width of columns
  • choice of typeface

Lower case lettering is, as said above, easier to read as the eye needs a rugged line to follow a text as shown with the word “Information”.

There are many ways to highlight a word or a sentence as for instance

  • underlining
  • italic typeface
  • bold typeface
  • using “quotation marks”

However, before you choose a typeface, a layout, etc. the talented “copy-designer” (see article on this subject)

  • keeps the sentences short;
  • uses simple words over complex ones;
  • chooses familiar words;
  • selects carefully the verbs as they add action;
  • uses terms that the reader can picture;
  • writes to express, not to impress;
  • uses ‘loaded’ words, i.e. words that lead to action;
  • re-writes the copy several times to reduce the number of words;
  • asks a third person to cross-check the logic, the meaning and the spelling.

I’d like to add to the above some general rules regarding layout:

  • Large shapes appear closer than small ones.
  • You do not need to see a complete logotype or illustration as the reader automatically fills in the missing part.
  • Converging lines suggest distance and often give a more three-dimensional effect.
  • Dark colours appear closer than light ones.
  • Drop shadows added to typography create the appearance of volume.
  • Shapes that overlap other shapes appear in the foreground. However, too much overlapping and enlargements reduce the quality of perception.
  • Black letters on a yellow background give highest readability on distance viewing (see road signs), whereas black letters on white, as mentioned earlier, are the best for close-up reading.
  • In using calligraphy or script you can be very expressive, creative and pictorial.

Being a passionate calligrapher, I obviously favour to use the abovementioned typefaces, but mix them with a more personalised typography, i.e. calligraphy. As my professional career has been in the food and drink business, I have come to believe that there is more ‘taste’ in calligraphy. Just compare the way “Menu” is shown below:

When Nestlé inaugurated a Research Center in Singen, Germany, I was given the job to express the Nestlé company slogan on the wall. Here it is:

Hopefully, these advice will help the designer or brand manager to use typography in a more professional way to make interesting texts highly legible!

For those who wish to learn more, there is an excellent book, “Type Matters” by Jim Williams (Merrell Publishers, London).

Jan 26

I am aware that I’m going to annoy some of my fellow designers with this idea, but, as someone said, if you have no enemies, you have no character!

I have been trying for about 20 years to tell companies that if you need more than 3-4 pages for your design manual, you are reducing creativity, i.e. you handcuff your designers. What does this mean? It means that the times of producing packaging manuals with 10, 20 or even 30 pages are gone, as we live in an ever-changing world and need to constantly update designs to remain top-of-mind.

Design manuals with many pages do often contain what not to do (is it really necessary?), as well as too many package designs which, if not constantly updated, loose their attraction.

Back to the title and the logotype. How many logotypes need to be updated? Very few, unless you wish your brand/logotype to express something special.

The Pepsi logotype did not really need to be changed. That is the case with most brand logotypes, as we get used to them, even when they are not top. What we do not like at first, we start liking with the time!

However, the ‘visual language’ has to be constantly updated, especially for brands that want to be seen as contemporary. The master here is obviously the  Coca-Cola company that has not touched its iconic logotype for decades. Neither did they change the red, nor the iconic shape of the bottle.

Here comes my advice to my marketing friends. Please do not spend money on standardisation, controlling or redesigning logotypes. You will not sell a kilo/liter more, but have enormous costs changing signage, printing plates, packages, etc. Spend the money more creatively, i.e. on updating your designs to attract new consumers and occupy bigger space in consumes’ brains (see latest Heineken: same logo, same green, same star, but a very contemporary design!)

Do spend more money on design that communicates better, attracts new consumers, improves product value, becomes a talking point and increases shelf impact, etc. Do not forget that 70-80% of your consumers most likely do not have aesthetical considerations when they buy a product!

Dec 09

If you offer more than expected, the consumer will always come back. This extra,  this cherry on the cake, this bonus, call it what you want, is about adding value to the product/package. Obviously, this extra lies mainly in the product, i.e. it tastes better than expected, it is aesthetically more pleasing or it is more convenient.

Let’s look at what we package designers can do to add this extra value that leads to sales. It’s a matter of finding the right balance, because, if you overpromise, you can actually destroy a brand! In order to explain what I mean, I have selected a product which I know sells well and is appreciated by those consumers who have a sweet tooth: Ferrero’s Raffaello! Why is this pack and its tray a good example? For the following reasons:

  1. it is aesthetically pleasing, i.e. it attracts consumers thanks to its tastefull design;
  2. it has the right balance (for this category) between branding and product;
  3. it has appetite appeal thanks to the window which shows how the pralines are individually wrapped and also by the photogaphic illustration;
  4. it has the right colour scheme to underline that it is a white creamy filled shell (covered in flakes of coconut);
  5. it has the understandable and positive Italian word “Confetteria”, meaning non-industrial;
  6. it has decorative elements to render the pack more festive which is very important for a product mostly bought as a gift. These decorative elements, i.e. the red flower and the red ribbon are highly emotional;
  7. it has a brand name that says ‘specialty’. Raffaello sounds both chic, affectionate and, of course, very Italian;
  8. it has a shape which is not the standard rectangular one, so it looks more attractive and special. When you offer something, you want it to look unique!

    These 8 points on package design all together give added value to the product. Package design is, as every good package designer knows, a matter of selecting the right material(s), choosing the right shape, having the optimal layout, choosing the correct typography, optimising the appetite appeal, prioritising the information (no net weight or GDA on the front!), amplifying the attractiveness thanks to well chosen aesthetics.

    As package design is not only a question of primary, but also secondary packaging, Ferrero has chosen to print inside the tray to further add quality and value to this package/product. The cost of this is obviously minimal when adding up all expenses for material(s), distribution, production, etc. The individually wrapped pralines are not only typical for Italian confectionery, they also give the total packaging added value. Long live Raffaello!

    Dec 09

    I have repeated over and over again that the best designs are (almost) always the most simple ones. My own philosophy is that, in order to become the number one in a product category,one has to constantly simplify the design. This means that it stands out on the shelf and that the brand is remembered. Three good examples are the Mars chocolate bar in Europe, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in the UK and the Maggi Cube in Africa.

    So why then do we constantly add new elements to the designs? In very few cases, it is for legal reasons, at least in Europe, where basically all information can be on the back panel. What has Mars more than a logotype on the front?

    Unexperienced marketing managers unfortunately believe that the consumer is equally interested in the various information as themselves! Therefore they tell the designer to add and add… and add! Some of these additions will indeed help selling the product. But what about removing some information when you add a new one? What you then achieve is a more efficient design! There are thousands of such examples of over-communication out on the shelves!

    In order to explain my philosophy of removing when adding, I have chosen an Aero wrapper where the flash “New Bubbly Bar” (by the way not a very exciting design…) has been added. The impact of this message would have been far superior if, at the same time, the

    • • No artificial…
    • • Feel the bubbles
    • • GDA

    messages had been moved over to a side or back panel. The brand could have been increased in size to make the pack look optically bigger and the product illustration could have been magnified to underline the bigger bubbles.

    I hope Nestlé will forgive me for using one of their wrappers as an example! I could easily have chosen any other brand, but I happen to have recently visited Ireland where all UK brands can be bought.

    As this site is about teaching and learning, I do hope nobody takes the above as a criticism, but purely as an idea of how to improve the communication when a new message is added.

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