Thursday, September 23, 2010

What You See Is What You Get

To create instant visual recognition, depict the interior product on the outside of the packaging.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people sacrifice that click of recognition in the service of a pithy concept that ultimately falls flat if the packaging is unclear.

I talked in my last post about how desire got lost in the abstract design of the Terra Kunza packaging, and then, as a counterpoint, how the Naga bar persuaded the customer to give an avant-garde food a try by including a well-styled photo of the ingredients.

Another approach to creating product recognition is using illustration.  Take a look at this quail egg packaging:

It's clean, functional, modern, and pretty cute.  Quail's eggs aren't a weird food, especially in the Czech Republic (which is where this originates), but they're speckled and a bit ungainly. The illustration connects us with the edibility of the egg—it makes it familiar, comfortable.  (via Lovely Package)

Obviously, this works better with conventional foods (have you ever tried to draw Chicken Paprikash?), but this concept actually performs ingeniously when you're going for visual recognition with an indistinguishable food.

This is Pearlfisher for the Jamie Oliver line.  I have a whole post of love coming about that line and the J Me brand.  In this particular example, spreads are given a very simple but effective treatment.  Each label shows the primary ingredient of each spread as an iconic stamp, creating visual connection.

This is especially important with products like sauces and spreads because it's difficult if not impossible to figure out what they are without some kind of call out.  Because this packaging is so visually effective, you don't really even need words (though the typography is awesome).

Keep it simple, keep it clean.  Visual recognition is vital.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fancy Packaging Won't Always Save You

I can't remember where I first saw this Terra Kunza cookie packaging, probably Lovely Package, but while it is indeed a lovely package, I am unimpressed. 

Terra Kunza is a line of high-end cookies, made from non-traditional ingredients like quinoa and olive oil.  They're taking a page from the current trend of incorporating eccentric ingredients into haute cuisine, a la Vosges chocolate.  I think Vosges does this well; I'm not so sure about Terra Kunza.  And the worst part is that I don't even want to try their product at first glance, because nothing about the packaging entices me.

Please don't misunderstand: it's very pretty and it absolutely says high-end to me.  What it doesn't say is delicious.

Food packaging should look delicious.  If it doesn't look delicious, it should be approachable at the very least.  This packaging is too abstract, too floral.  I don't want to pick up the product and take a bite out of it.  Even worse, I can't tell from first glance what the product even is.  That's a sin.

On the box it says "Quinoa and Oregano Cookies."  So far, I'm really not excited about it.  If the picture was the cookies and they looked enticing (or bizarre, even), I'd probably give this a shot.  Heck, I gave the Naga chocolate bar a shot, and it's got curry powder in it.  But, you see, the packaging for the Naga bar looks like this:

Is the Naga bar comprised of some unusual ingredients that one might consider unappealing at first glance?  Yes.  But look at the packaging!  There's the sensuous chocolate, the flakes of sweet coconut, the non-intimidating sprinkle of curry spice.  I can see exactly what I'm getting into, which takes away my resistance.

Ultimately, that's what you want in a new product: people willing to try it.  Hopefully they love it and spread the word.  The packaging gets in the way here, which makes this a miss.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Design Solves Problems

The most successful kind of package design is one that solves a problem while appealing to its intended audience.  If you've got the latter down, you're in the game, but the former is where you can really take your design above and beyond.

Neal Fletcher, a student designer in the UK, was asked to design a concept for a difficult item to package.  He chose spaghetti.

via Lovely Package: "We were asked to choose one of five difficult objects to package, I chose spaghetti. I wanted to address a problem I always have when cooking spaghetti, that problem being that I always use too much. So I somehow wanted to build something into the packaging that aided portion control, so I came up with this Hexagonal Prism, 6 sided; thus there are six servings. It’s refillable and reusable and there’s also the potential for more shapes, for example triangle: 3 servings, octagon: 8 servings etc."

I think Neal's design is fantastic: it solves a common problem, it looks modern and neat, and adaptable to nearly any brand.  Aesthetically, it could use a little work.  Pasta is warm, hearty and comforting, and Neal's color choice is a bit too industrial, too contemporary—more suited to alcohol, mens fragrance, or a hot new beverage, than pasta.  If he warmed up the palette, I think he'd have a true winner here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Real Campaign, Real Connection

Dove is a cosmetics brand, most well-known for its Campaign for Real Beauty, launched in 2004.

The Campaign for Real Beauty began as magazine spreads and billboards featuring the bodies of ordinary (i.e. non-model) women.  Different ethnicities, ages, body types and sizes were represented and  celebrated.  It was a huge eye-opener for many women, because it made their beauty visible and accepted in the public sphere.

The ladies in the ads flaunted their wrinkles, curves, skin tone, tattoos, muscles—a lot of things the beauty industry had been demanding that women cover up.  It was a pretty earth-shattering campaign and elicited a lot of buzz.

What's interesting is that Dove's parent company, Unilever, doesn't have a spotless track record when it comes to beauty ethics.  Hindustan Unilever is the maker of Fair & Lovely, a skin lightening cream.  In India, having lighter skin is equated with being of a higher caste, more attractive, and thus, more marriageable.  The ad campaign for Fair & Lovely shows a depressed darker skinned woman finding success, love, and happiness through the use of lightening skin cream.  It's been argued that this campaign reinforces racism.

It's why, by contrast, the Dove campaign is so powerful—it turns the "You have an intrinsic physical flaw.  You should feel bad about that.  Oh but here, we have the answer!  You can be happy when you shell out for this product!" message right on its ear.

Make no mistake, Dove is a for-profit company, but I like that they're making their money by convincing us of our innate beauty, rather than trying to convince us that we are inherently flawed and they have the miracle cure.  It certainly shows that there's a disconnect in priorities among the international factions of Unilever, but hey, different markets, different goals. 

The best part of all of this is that Dove has taken The Campaign for Real Beauty one step further: they're partnering with The Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, and Girls Inc. to encourage self-esteem globally.

They have many resources on their website for girls, parents, and mentors on how to cultivate self-esteem at an early age.  You can watch videos, take workshops, and join a Dove self-esteem community.  I don't know how really in-depth or useful any of these programs are, but the content is there and the campaign does promote working against the kind of self-hatred propagated by an industry that has to convince you of your flaws so it can sell you something.

Dove gives you feeling of connection, a sense that they do actually care what you think about yourself and wants to help you maximize your own awesomeness.  And really, can we ask for much more from a brand?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Welcome to emblemist. The impetus behind this blog about brand identity is my obsession with presentation, packaging, and identity design. When I was a wee little kid, how the present came wrapped was just as important as the gift inside. Call me superficial, but packaging matters.

How you wrap something—the context in which the interior is displayed through the exterior—is more important than one might realize. First impressions are lasting, and in our frenzied society, you have bare seconds before the imprint of your identity, brand and message is set for the viewer. Developing a strong brand is crucial, vital to the success and longevity of your business.

With all this in mind, it’s my intention to explore what makes a good brand, gut feelings on particular promotions, the theories behind brand identity marketing, and the ethics of marketing and media as a whole.

To kick things off, here is my favorite find of today: froosh, design by Pearlfisher:

This is a strong, clean visual statement. Plus it’s a bit quirky, which fits with the brand’s name. The declarative statements keep it easy to understand and the colors and treatment feel friendly, bright and approachable. Plus, it looks delicious, which isn’t always easy to do with perishables. Love it.