Monday, December 19, 2011

Small Pleasures

Frank Chimero is one of my favorite design writers/thinkers.  The way he puts his thoughts together is graceful.

A couple weeks ago, he put out this list of small pleasures.  Today, I'm putting out my own.

An Incomplete List of Small Pleasures
  • Dixon Ticonderoga pencils
  • Mexican mochas: cinnamon, chocolate, and pepper
  • Nicknames
  • The sound of cars on pavement after it's rained
  • The color of autumn leaves against the sky
  • Vermillion
  • Lazy Sundays

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HP Rebrand

Hewlett Packard, a 72-year-old company, is considering a major brand evolution.  For any brand, that's a big deal, but given that HP is Ranked 11 in the Fortune 500, has 324,600 employees across 170 countries, and generated $127.2 billion in revenue in 2011, it's significant news.

What's interesting is that for being so big and successful, HP has never really grabbed me as an icon.  If you put me on a witness stand and asked me what they sell, I'd tell you "printers!", but that's not actually what their biggest product is—HP is actually the world's leading PC manufacturer, and has been since 2007.

How did I not know this?  Some of it is surely my own ignorance, but part of it too is that the company is so large and its product assortment so varied that it's hard to get a solid grasp on it.

Armin Vit at Brand New has a great and elegant article on the HP rebrand, with in-depth coverage of the process.  Here's the current iteration of the rebrand:

Moving Brands is responsible for the rebrand and redesign.  About this change, they've said:

The defining signature of the system is the 13° angle. 13° represents HP’s spirit as a company, driven forward by ingenuity and optimism about the future and a belief in human progress. It also refers to the world of computing by recalling the forward slash used in programming. 13° exists within the brand identity, in the graphic language, product design and UI.
— Moving Brands
I don't know how much I buy that 13° represents optimism and belief in human progress, but there is something about leaning forward that's nice here.  Forward-thinking, forward-moving, progress, momentum, innovation: all ideas appropriate for a tech company.

I also like the stripped down abstracted logo.  It feels appropriately techy, but also old-world.  Like something my grandfather would have found on a cocktail napkin at the Clover Club in 1947.

Brand New likes the new logo too:
HP’s logo has been around for so long that it’s not really questionable anymore, it just is and it just exists. And it’s not a bad logo at all, especially in its most recent, simple incarnation. The accentuated angle of the two letters is recognizable and unique and serves as the basis for a possible new abstract logo. One that happens to be really, really great. It’s an elegant and bold evolution, using the simplest of forms: four sticks. Sure, it might not be instantly readable to someone that has never seen an HP product before but that’s why HP has millions of dollars to build a brand and engrain this in people’s mind without missing a bit. As a logo change for a massive company this would be pretty courageous to implement demonstrating that a mass audience can handle some abstraction, even if the poor audience still uses PCs.

Check out the post for even more on the logo, the collateral, and the roll-out.  Be sure to catch the video on how Moving Brands came to the brand position on "human progress."  It's really interesting when a major company does a rebrand, because the implications are far-reaching.  And because of that bigger scope, the rebrand stirs up the cultural stew pot of core values about what a brand is and what it should feel like.

After all, remember GapGate?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Macaron Packaging

I haven't really jumped on the macaron trend.  Macarons are okay by me as cookies go, but they lack a certain substance, a meatiness, I really enjoy out of dessert.  That said, I love them design-wise.  They have a great shape and come in a panoply of colors and flavors.

What I like about this packaging for Point G, a boutique in Montreal, is that it tantalizes the consumer with the colorful and delicious macaron without veering into the overly precious.

It's so easy to go cutesy with macarons because the saturated and pastel palette reminds us so much of childhood. But the angular and minimalist box and the sans serif font give this a high level of sophistication, while still remaining fun.

Big success by Chez Valois

Originally seen on Lovely Package.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where I've Been

It's not that I've lost interest in this blog; it's that I've lost time.  The good news is that the time went towards something really rad.

I've been playing roller derby for a start-up league in the bay area since February.  This fall was our first competitive season.  I made the roster, which was pretty amazing, since I never put on a pair of skates until 9 months ago.

It's been incredible. I've learned a lot—about the sport, about teamwork, about my own strengths and skills.  I wouldn't give it up for anything.  But that, coupled with an extremely busy season for my day job killed my posting schedule for the last couple months.

I'm going to get back on the wagon very soon.  I've been feeling renewed the last couple days, now that it's derby off-season, my coworker is back from maternity leave, and I have a little more room to ponder identity, branding, packaging, function, and design.

I thought about not even writing about this, but derby is me too.  And ultimately, this blog is about me.  It's about design and art and messaging and all the rest, but it begins and ends with me.

See you soon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Job, Netflix

It looks like Netflix listened after all. I got an announcement via email today that said that they're not going to split services, and instead keep everything under the Netflix brand.

Today, CEO Reed Hastings announced that both services will remain under the same website, due to widespread unpopularity of users having to maintain accounts over two platforms.  So that means no Qwikster.

This is very smart.  Also smart?  No more price increases.

Netflix, you're starting to move in the right direction.

More coverage:
Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times

Monday, September 26, 2011

Student Work: Tim Sumner

Tim Sumner's work is clean, modern, and lovely.  I especially like this cheese packaging:

His self-created brief was to create packaging based on a myth.

Taking inspiration from the children's fable of the Moon being made up of Green Cheese, the idea is using the surface and cycles of the moon to replicate the strength of the Green Cheese.

The overall unique look of the packaging will set itself away from the modern day supermarket brands.  (via Tim's personal website)

Super fun and clever concept for both the design and the fictional product.

Also seen on Lovely Package.

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I got an email in my inbox this morning that said, in the first line, "I've messed up," I thought it was going to be that long-awaited mea culpa from an ex who had broken my heart long ago.  But no, it was a message from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, on how he could have communicated better about the price hike.

Well.  Okay.

But still, prices went up for a service I was happy with.  I stuck with the DVDs and got rid of streaming because honestly, Netflix's offerings for streaming are pretty weak.  And so it surprised me when Hastings announced that the direction of Netflix was to move more into the streaming sector, and portion off the mail-order DVD sector into a new business called... Qwikster.

Yeah, it's a bit of a headscratcher for me.  For one thing, the name makes me think of this:

But also, it's pretty much brand suicide to take a beloved service and raise the price, while making it more complicated.  You've botched your brand promise.  Now you're seen as unreliable, expensive, and untrustworthy.

I feel for Netflix.  They spend a lot on postage to deliver us our DVDs.  Plus, there's been a lot of buzz about online video, streaming TV, and all the rest, so it makes sense for the business to go this direction.  However, I think the transition is reading as haphazard at best.  It would have made sense to hold off on this particular bent until they had more to offer on the streaming channel.  Right now it looks like they want to get out of the DVD by mail business altogether, and that's going to alienate a lot of brand evangelists who got into Netflix in the first place because they liked that model.  They run the risk of severing off their bread and butter consumer, and that's problematic to say the least.

CNN Money points out that their stock has already taken quite a dip.  They face some stiff competition from Amazon, Google, and Apple—even more so if one of those companies acquires Hulu. 

Even after last week's huge sell-off, Netflix remains a very pricey stock that has room to fall. Shares trade at about 35 times 2011 earnings estimates and nearly 25 times profit forecasts for 2012.  If you are willing to pay that much for Netflix, you can't afford mishaps like lowering subscriber targets by a million. (Paul R. La Monica for CNN Money)
 So bad timing, not a great idea for a split, a kooky name... is Netflix doomed?

Weigh in.

Other coverage:
Angry Netflix Customers React to Qwikster
Qwikster: Let's Make Fun of Netflix's New Service
Qwikster: the new name for something that takes several days 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chiki's Kettle Roasted Popcorn

Fatpack is a South African design and packaging blog.  I love seeing the design that comes from the other side of the world.  This packaging from Chiki's popcorn strikes a balance between modern (black, modular, sleek) and retro (typeface, illustration).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Student Work: Orbit Toothpaste

Love this design of Orbit toothpaste and whitener packaging from Veronica Clauss via Lovely Package.  There's a toothpaste you use in the morning and a whitener for nighttime.

This is a great fit with the Orbit brand, which has a spacey, 60s feel. It's retro and modern at the same time. Plus, the colors really pop.

Someone wondered in the original post how these products would fit on the shelf.  The unique design might take a little tinkering to fit on the shelf, it's true.  However, most of these get their own pallet display, so I'm less concerned about the shape.  I do think the main font could be changed to reflect something a little more 60s and space-age.  As it currently stands, it feels more 50s to me.  I love that, but it might fit better with Orbit's brand.  The colors, however, are bang on.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Design for All Generations

On my vacation last week, I read a copy of Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, a book about remaking the way we make things.

The book's main premise is that the way we manufacture nearly everything is inefficient and completely unsustainable for the environment long-term.  It reflects our history of purely opportunistic design that grew out of the needs and desires of the Industrial Revolution, and never questioned that the earth might be a finite resource.  While that lack of foresight was unintentional, it's resulted in tragic consequences: our air, waterways, and land is polluted, depleted, and packed with inefficient industry that takes from the Earth without giving anything back.

We all know this.  I was fully expecting to have that feeling of "Oh, this again?" and feel bad about my own consumption; however, Cradle to Cradle is ultimately all about ideas, innovation, solutions, and, of all things, hope.

Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, the authors write, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun's energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.
-Cradle to Cradle site.

Instead of placing the blame all on the consumer ("Consumers CONSUME!  Stop consuming consumers!"), the authors posit that many of our problems today are simply inefficient and uneducated design: the design of the products put into our marketplace do not consider the life cycle of the product, nor the life cycle of the resources that support the creation of that product, i.e. when we go to manufacture carpeting, we may not fully consider the efficiency of the energy needed to make it, the toxicity and sustainability of its ingredients, how the carpet off-gasses in the home once it's abraded by our feet,  how it will degrade in a landfill, the quality of effluents from the factory it was created in, how that factory itself was created and what it takes out of its landscape, plus the harm to its workers in working with toxic materials.

We didn't think about how massive production might hurt our earth; we always assumed she'd continue to correct our mistakes and keep giving to us.  But that time is rapidly coming to a close—we can no longer pretend that there isn't a cost to the health of our planet and to our health as a people.

All of this can be addressed, the authors posit, with patience and thoughtfulness.  It just takes being willing to approach design without assumptions.  It means being willing to consider the life cycle of the product from start to finish, and incorporate ecologically intelligent design at every step.  The authors created a factory, for example, that used solar power, open windows, a living roof, a cooling system that cooled people, not the building itself, and a water cycling system that was so effective that the effluents were cleaner than the water coming in to the factory.  It was so successful that employees that left the company for a higher salary at the competitor's factory eventually returned—the factory was so pleasant, it was worth it to them to work for less money.

More and more companies are thinking about how to make a product the best it can be, not just "less bad" than it was.  In my favorite example of this "good" vs. "less bad", the authors asked how you would feel if you went over to a friend's home for dinner, and they presented you with a beautiful homemade meal that had "Now with less arsenic!" written on your napkin.

This firmly illustrates that we must not just settle for "less bad".  For removing more but not all toxic chemicals from our products.  That's certainly a necessary start, but it's not enough.  Why not entirely rethink the product so you don't have to include toxic chemicals, or all the filler chemicals that negate their effects?  We can have shampoo with 9 ingredients instead of 30, and that shampoo will be easier and probably cheaper to make, because you don't have to store, handle, and ship toxic chemicals or irritants.  And even if the better ingredients cost more, there's fewer of them, so less costly overall.

It all starts with design.  And that makes me hopeful, because I believe that good design can change everything. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anthology: Issue #4 Sneak Peek

I'm a big fan of Anthology Magazine.  With the death of my beloved Domino, as well as Blueprint, there was a dearth of glossy home mags in the market for a year or two, and Anthology has filled that gap beautifully.  I attended their launch party last November, and since then, I've been pleased as punch with all the gorgeous, curated, and on-trend content.

Issue #4, The Great Outdoors, is about to be released.  Here's a sneak peek, a cute stop motion film of the stories featured in the issue.

If you haven't already subscribed, I'd do so by tomorrow (otherwise, you'll start with issue #5).

Anthology has also branded their product well.  The title typeface is both classic and current.  The layout is clean and modern, but still retains friendliness and approachability.  If their predecessors are any indication, I'm in their target audience (30s, creative professional, right income level, interest in home & design) and I find the magazine and its advertising entirely appealing.

It's gratifying to see a magazine succeed.  I'm hoping to receive Anthology for many years to come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Go Local: Rare Bird

I had the good fortune to sneak a visit to Rare Bird the other evening, while my husband was at the comic book store.  It is now my favorite indie shop in Oakland. That's saying a lot—we have many good places to choose from, but Rare Bird has found that illusive balance of on-trend clothing and accessories, rotating artwork, varied and well-curated gift items, plus their ace in the hole: a well-edited and affordable vintage section.

In other words: it's the holy grail.

(Photo courtesy of Rare Bird)

There's an amazing collection of jewelry, all by independent makers. The showcased artwork was pretty fantastic.  Each month, the shop's owner, Erica Skone-Rees, hosts a party celebrating an artist and a designer.  This keeps the focus local and also showcases new artists and designers.

(Photo courtesy of Rare Bird)

I found myself without my camera, so I'm borrowing some photos from their site to give you an idea.  Erica is a jewelry designer herself, and it's clear how much thought she puts into design and curation.  The shop is very well-edited.  I could have browsed for much longer. 

In the end, I bought a piece of art and some fantastic vintage earrings.  I'll definitely be back for more.  With a constantly rotating collection, there's every reason to make repeat trips, plus I think I saw a floral shift that was calling my name.

Do check out Rare Bird if you're in Oakland.

(Photo courtesy of Rare Bird)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lighting It on Fire

I just write what I want. There’s so many rules right outside the door. What good’s a blog if you can’t light things on fire?
-13 on The Black Hockey Jesus via Frank Chimero
So. In a month or two, this tiny blog will be 1 year old.  And I was thinking the other day about what drives me to do it.  Lord knows, it's not my reader base (ha).  What is it?

It all started out with thoughts about branding; thoughts I wanted to write down somewhere.  Then, it kind of became about wanting to have an online visible presence; to have relevance when I went to events with other designy people.  That was probably sort of superficial, but I think human beings are all driven to belong, somehow.  And this became my calling card in that way, too.

But neither of those things are really enough, now that my life has been consumed with roller derby.  It means that I have to be pretty specific about what I want to do, and driven my something more than a pretty logo.  At first, I thought that wasn't going to be good.  I'd committed to writing about branding and logos—ONLY THAT or I would be disingenuous.

But what about design?  The thing that drives me about all of this is that nothing we do matters in a commercial market unless it functions well.  If it doesn't give the consumer or customer satisfying results on a reliable basis, that product is screwed.  Design matters.

You might see more from me, now that my focus has expanded.  July was a tough month, with derby injury, family stuff, and a general feeling of lack of direction, but I'm feeling freer now.  I hate to be all meta about What One Can Expect from me, but I did want to talk about the process of creation and how sometimes we get roped to a vision, and then that vision changes.

In that case, the best thing we can do is stay flexible and roll with it.  There's a difference between reliable and rut. I aim to find the middle ground.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Miguel Molina hit it out of the park with this one.  In student work for Bitter Chocolatier, he created sophisticated packaging cut through with sardonic humor.

He says of his design:
The brand has an edge. The elegant look contrasts sharply with its ironic humour. Poking fun at himself, The Bitter Chocolatier tells his tales of misfortune throughout his life through the different flavours. The product differentiates itself from other brands while entertaining the consumer. 
(via Lovely Package)

I like how this is clever, but not overly precious or convinced of its own importance.  The stories also give a personal touch, and something as decadent as chocolate is personal.  This kind of branding wouldn't work so well if used for buying gasoline or printer paper.  Both of those products are consumables, and you probably have a preference as to which brand you buy. However, we connect deeply to what we eat, especially if it's something we very much enjoy eating. 

One wants their experience of chocolate to feel luxurious, because we consume it for pleasure.  Having sophisticated, elegant packaging with a piquant message adds to our delight.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quick Hit: I.C.O.N. India Oil

I don't have much to say about this, other than I love it.  Elegant, rich, and clean—even though there's a lot going on in the design.

Design by Version X Design, via Lovely Package.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Collecting vs. Curating

I just came across Frank Chimero's blog yesterday and I feel like I stumbled in on a divine secret.  Frank writes such great stuff about design.  His writing is so elegant—clear, focused, and totally current.  He wrote this fantastic post called Sorting a Mass, which is about how we collect, identify, and sort information on the internet.

We all bookmark, flag, collect, and classify items that are important to us.  Much of the content generated is the amassing of things we've seen elsewhere.  The web makes it possible to classify information like never before, but it's also an inefficient system.  What it seems to come down to, at least where personal content classification is concerned, is the difference between collecting and curating.

In Chimero's post, he sends out a query on the difference to Twitter and receives many responses.  Everyone seems to agree that:

Collection is additive. Curation is subtractive.
Collecting is for yourself, curating is for others.

A mass of items and an audience seem to be the commonalities, but it gets tricky: one can have a collection viewed by many (a Pintrest wall, a collection of Flickr favorites).  That collection has an audience, so is it curated?

Chimero posits that the delineation should lie with intent (italics mine):
I think the thing that separates the two is intent, not in the size of the pool of stuff or in the presence of an audience, but rather in the implied purpose of the gathering of content. To me, collecting is usually about propagation—the collection grows in quantity and diversity. Curating seems to be about illumination, and having that set of selected items, no matter the size, come to a point.

I’ve recently launched another blog called The Mavenist, which could be considered a collection, but it feels to be squarely in the realm of curation. What is the difference? It is in the arrangement. Collecting is having all the pearls lose on the table, curating is stringing them together into a necklace. (Of course, there is no better or worse between those two situations. One just has an extra pass of arrangement.)
I love this.  One of the reasons why I blog is because I like going through that process of selecting a design I like, processing through why I like it (or don't), and explaining that reasoning in this space.  Curating takes more time, more effort.  It is an art, very much like editing.

I remember that in a past writing class, we were instructed not to say "I like this" or "I don't like it."  Offering the reasons why something worked or didn't inside the story was the only feedback allowed.  This kept things objective, and taught us to examine why some things fit and some didn't.  That process has become very useful for curating.

It should be noted that I do also really enjoy collecting.  I have a group of Flickr favorites and a number of Pinterest pinboards.  I agree with Chimero that we are prone to collecting, rather than curating, and with the web muddying up how we do both, that presents some interesting challenges:
I think it’s important to note that while we may collect for ourselves, those collections are being published, creating incidental audiences. I collect my Flickr favorites for me, but they are accessible to you, so what obligations do I have to you when I consider to favorite something? What happens when sharing is the default rather than purposeful? It blurs the line between curation and collecting into something more of a gradient than a binary this-or-that. And that’s why those neat definitions in the tweets seem slightly off. The situation isn’t as tidy as it used to be.
He's right: it's not.  We used to just have museums with big collections and curated exhibits of those collections.  But now more information is accessible than ever was before, and what are we going to do with it all?  Especially since the mechanisms to analyze all of it are heavily skewed towards chronology and popularity.

Google has attempted to make it so that it indexes usefulness, and I suspect that is the ultimate goal; however, frequency of keywords can only do so much.  If there was a way to index not just whether or not someone "liked" a piece of information, but also could show that it helped them, or that they found it useful, that would be the golden ticket.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dieline Design Awards 2011

Dieline's 2011 Design Award Winners are posted on their site.  There were many fantastic winning ideas this year, including a salad green company's piquant design:

Design by Big Fish:
We were asked to create a brand for Britain’s finest salad growers. We found a man in the company who had a degree in watercress. His name was Steve Rothwell. He was clearly the mastermind behind their delicious, tender baby leaves so we suggested naming the brand “Steve’s Leaves”. They loved it. At the time, the salad fixture in supermarkets was one big impenetrable green hedge-like wall where everything looked the same. We seized the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and depicted Steve’s hand picking the leaves on the front with bright colours that reflected the intense flavours of these naturally delicious little leaves. We made the bags "one serve" portion size, which allowed people to mix and match varieties instead of just buying one big bag. (via The Dieline)

Love this concept—great example of thoughtful branding.

On the flip side, I was surprised at a few of the winners.  Coca-Cola's packaging wasn't that impressive.  It's hard to be innovative when you're a very established brand; those companies are often tied to iconic traditionalism.  Still, since the Dieline seems to award innovation and new ideas, the summer flip-flop motif doesn't seem like it would put Coke over the top.

Kleenex won for packaging tissues as pie:

That gave me pause.  I'm pretty used to companies packaging non-food as food, and food as non-food.  It doesn't seem all that avant-garde to put the product in a wedge and package it as pie.  Cute, sure, but not award-winning.  Coming up with a more sustainable way to package a paper product, or even a more efficient dispensing mechanism would have been a clearer win for me, but this reads as overly precious and a bit twee.

Other than that, there are a lot of really good examples of interesting and inspiring packaging.  Check out the winners on the Dieline.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fancy Fins

Check out these adorable craft scissors and their even cuter packaging:

This is student work by Melissa Ginsiorsky, via Lovely Package

“Fancy Fins is a line of quirky decorative craft scissors that is guaranteed to make a splash with artistic youngsters. The packaging itself acts as a safe and reusable carrying case with an easy lock system, and reveals the cut pattern of each pair of scissors through patterning and use of a die cut.”

Awesome work Melissa.  This packaging is both functional and charming, and its aesthetic totally suits its intended audience.

Friday, June 17, 2011


There's a a very interesting article up on Mashable about a new website, Consmr.  Consmr aggregates reviews from consumers, bloggers and a couple of editorial publications and ranks products based on an average of these reviews. 

The site also has a game layer, much like foursquare: users are awarded badges (called "pieces of flair") for engagement and ascend through different levels as their involvement increases.

I think reviews sites are a brilliant idea for brands.  Without investing much time or money, brands get direct feedback from consumers about what does and doesn't work with their product.  And consumers benefit from having information before they buy.  Many of them are looking for that information. 

A recent survey by consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail supports [Consmr's] vision. The report found that one-fifth of consumers research food and beverage purchases, nearly one-third research pet products and 39% look up information on baby products.

Yelp has been a massive success for businesses and clients.  I consult its app regularly when I'm in an unfamiliar area and need to find a restaurant, coffee shop, gas station, or place to buy red cowboy boots.  There is no app for Consmr yet, but its founder, Ryan Charles, envisions creating one to allow customers to access its information in-store, allowing for more informed purchasing choices.

I can't wait to test this out.  I'll probably test out a Consmr profile and see how it goes.  Once the site gets larger, brands other than Coke and Mars Candy will be represented, and my choices about what to buy might become smarter. 

I do wonder, long-term, about marketing information being so open.  In general, it does help marketers tailor to my preferences, which saves me time and money.  But what's the cost of so much purchasing information about me circulating around?

What about you?  Would you sign up for Consmr?  How do you feel about review sites?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I think with the coming of summer, I've been super keyed into all the golden hues around us.  This packaging really hones in on the good of gold.

This Nanatsukahara butter cake packaging designed by T-Square Design Associates is lovely, sophisticated, and warm.  The bottom of the 7 looks like a drop of golden butter.

It's also surprising.  Inside are trees. 

And a cake!

“This cake uses special butter from Nanatsukahara farm, Hiroshima Prefecture. We wanted to use the package as a vehicle to communicate where the cake was made and coming from, enjoying the scenery of the farm and of course, the butter cake too.”  (via Lovely Package)

I love how elegant this is, but also how the interior landscape catches the viewer off-guard.  That element of surprise is winning.

This next package wins points just for being beautiful, simple, and refined.  It's

Ecological beer design, from Dídac Ballester, via Lovely Package.  Just lovely.   And that's something I don't expect beer packaging to be, so it's another instance of surprise and delight. 

Surprise and delight are good things to inspire in an audience.  They're second only to consistency and trust, which we all crave.  Hopefully the products inside match the quality of their packaging.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Safe is Sexy

I really like this design from L. condoms.  It feels smart, sexy and chic, which is what this kind of packaging should make you feel.  Often, it feels like the packaging is about bright colors or back alleys.  This is understated and sophisticated.

(designed by the awesome Adrian Gilling, seen via Lovely Package)

L. is a condom company with a cause: to empower women globally by supporting the human right to safe sex. For every condom you purchase, one is distributed in a developing country. L. not only provides those in need with safe sex options, but also educational programs in order to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS within communities highly affected by the disease. The initial packaging is designed to spread the message within developed countries in order to facilitate the “1 for 1″ mission of the company, through the “SEX – CAUSE – WORLD” message, and bold shelf presence.” 

I love that this is a product with a great cause.  Providing condoms to those in developing countries along with educational programs is a 1-2 punch to disease and overpopulation.  Often, people just throw condoms at the problem, which is a great start, of course, but if you can't make the recipients care about using them, then it's ineffectual.

The one very minor quibble I have is why does the box have a handle on it?  Is it meant to look like a purse?  Because 12 condoms aren't that hefty.  Did someone go, "Oh, it's for ladies, so it should look like a purse!", because if so, that's dumb.  We don't only like things in lady shapes. 

To learn more about L., visit their website and read about their mission.  You can never be too prepared.


And if you like packaging, you can see a whole lot more of it at Lovely Package.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Brand is in your Guts

I love reading the Nubby Twiglet archives.  Nubby is a perceptive, talented, on-trend designer and brand consultant that writes a blog about design, fashion, branding, and typography.  Her post on personal branding was one of the catalysts that sparked my interest in branding as a whole.

Her review of The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier is excellent, but it caught me off-guard.  Some of the first words of the book are:
First: A brand is not a logo.
Second: A brand is not an identity.
Finally: A brand is not a product.

I had no issue accepting the first and final statements.  I know from experience that a brand is not those things.  The second was harder to swallow.  My thought had been that a brand was the total represented identity of a business, product, or service, not limited to the logo or product, but certainly inclusive of them in its overall identity.  When people ask me what I do, I tell them Brand Identity Marketing.  Taking identity out of it seemed extreme.  If a brand isn't the identity of the company, what is it?

A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.

It's a gut feeling because people are emotional, intuitive beings. It's a person's gut feeling because brands are defined by individuals, not companies, markets, or the public.
True to form, I got hit in the gut when I read that.  It's true.  We buy and act emotionally, because those decisions come from a primal place.  When we are satisfying our needs, even if we think we're doing so logically, our needs come from a primal place.  Those decisions are partially rational, but driven by an emotional need. 

The best brands tap into that need, provide a well-designed product to meet that need, exceed customer expectations time after time, building customer trust and loyalty.  Trust = reliability + delight.  Great brands take time, because they create trust, and building trust takes time. 

Check out Nubby's post for the graphic illustrations of this book.  I don't want to bust anyone's copyright, so I'm not reposting, but half the awesomeness of the book is in its design.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amy's Rebranding

Amy's is a brand I work with quite a bit in my professional life.  It's a range of natural, organic, vegetarian frozen products—convenience food that's actually pretty good for you.  That's hard to find in the frozen sector, an area not known for its quality.

There was a post yesterday on The Dieline discussing a recent rebranding the company underwent for the British market.



Honey Creative, in charge of the redesign says:

We approached this by looking at how little we needed to change to create a brand that spoke clearly to the British, albeit in an American accent. Stronger branding, using the full Amy’s Kitchen name against a holding device, the use of health claims, anecdotes and personal recommendations, create constant interest and novelty.
Using a very informal structure, we give space to the health claims, personal recommendations and anecdotes, varying these by pack so that there is always something interesting to read. The collage structure supports the handmade proposition. The design uses many of the best fresh or chilled food cues to emphasise the quality.

I like the redesign, though what I find interesting is that it looks "too American" to me.  If you check out the original post, there's lots of gingham, American flags, and picnic table backdrops in the redesign.  In a British context, this works at visually setting apart an American brand and making it distinctive, but I feel like those visual signs are so redundant in American branding that the new Amy's would fade into the background.  It reads like another Trader Joe's product.

There was a comment that the original packaging felt really dated.  That's true, although there's a co-op homeyness to Amy's that I love.  It feels like the kind of 70s natural health food that my mom would have heated up while looking through the Moosewood cookbook.  If, that is, my mom was into all-natural, vegetarian food, which she decidedly is not.  That woman loves her microwave, and luckily Amy's, regardless of packaging, provides delicious, healthy meals in seconds.  Everyone wins.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Antrepo's Public Gothic

These awesome vintage oil cans have been repurposed to showcase Public Gothic, a typeface from Antrepo, a design company in Turkey.

In most cases, packaging advertises the product inside.  Antrepo wanted to revitalize an item that's been out of public use for some time to advertise their font. 

"Vintage metal oil cans are much better than today’s plastic oil cans like many other old things! They are more powerful, more impressive and more iconic. These days, the relatively few metal oil cans that survived that familiar pattern have become collectibles. These cans not only served as containers, they also gave oil companies one more opportunity to advertise their brand name and logo. These vintage cans are also really good source for reflecting power of Public Gothic, Antrepo’s condensed, vintage and industrial font family."

I love how these iconic cans now serve a new purpose.  Where they once served a brand, they now display a typeface.  I have to admit, I did a double-take when I didn't see the expected American gas company logos.  And I agree—the font is a perfect match.

Clever, and pretty interesting.  Originally seen via Lovely Package.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stakk It Up

Designed by Phil Wareing, a British designer based in the Netherlands, this packaging for Stakk Ceramics is both functional and approachable.

The outer box can be opened to show the inner construction, which holds the stack of products in place. 

The most winning element of this design, for me, is the handle as a nose.  The playfulness of that element is a great touch.  Plus, holding china steady is not easy, as you'll know if you've ever moved any.  This design minimizes overhandling and breakage at the store level, while showcasing the product enough for the consumer to make a buying decision.

Originally seen on The Dieline, the premier site for all things package design.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bee Mine

Nothing all that astute to say on this one, but I really love this honey packaging.  It's homegrown, well-designed, and lovely.

Seen originally on Lovely Package.  And mad props to them: they're still my favorite branding blog out there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Coffee Packaging

In the 1990s, coffee exploded into a niche, boutique product.  What used to be a working man's drink became a $3+ luxury item.  Given the elevated status of coffee as a designer commodity, it makes sense that coffee packaging designers have gone high-concept.  Coffee is easy to package and lends itself to a current design.  Here are some examples I really like, all originally found on Lovely Package.

First up, Jed's Coffee Co.:

The purpose of this packaging is to demystify the process of coffee making.  It shows plunger/filter coffee vs. whole bean coffee, and the numbers signify both by order and color how dark the roast is.  It's clean and straightforward, and not at all precious.

This next set is from Sussner Design Company.  Every year, Sussner designs and sends out a survival item to their clients, friends, and new business leads.  This year it was a ceramic coffee travel cup and instant coffee.

This is a product a lot people use, especially clients of design firms.  Making your own survival item puts your brand constantly in front of your customers, reminding them to use you the next time they have a project.  Genius.

The design is super cute too.

The last one might be my favorite on design.  This is from Good Company Coffee:

"To give the brand its voice, we took inspiration from the shops’ office lobby locations and borrowed the corporate speak that a professional endures daily. The name we chose, Good Company Coffee, or Good Co. for short, is a dual play on the ideas of “being in good company” and “enjoying good coffee.” Language plays an important role in the expression of the Good Co. brand, and through the use of double meanings and wordplay, we turned business jargon into dryly comedic, relevant commentary that also describes the varieties of coffee. The brand voice works in tandem with a black-and-white illustration–based visual style that similarly draws from corporate culture with infographics, iconography, stylized charts, and graphs. From the store environment, menus, packaging, and barista behavior—it all adds up to a strong and entertaining experience.” (via Lovely Package)
I think this one is the most designed, and the most clever.  All of them are aesthetically solid, but this one has a little humor injected into it.  While many take their coffee very seriously, it's nice to have some fun with it.  Just one of the perks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why You Should Care About Branding, Part 2

Are you a brand?  Do you want to be?

These might seem like bizarre questions to ask, especially in a time where the idea of commercial brands being emblazoned on our bodies is all too real. But what about creating your own brand?

We are all recognized by individual identity markers: personality characteristics, unique physical traits, abilities, monikers, and memories others have of us. These signifiers create the way we are seen by our peers, families, and those who come into contact with us over the course of our lives.  They change as we grow, but some stay the same forever: a laugh, a love of death metal, or, in my case, the use of the word "dude" way more than is appropriate or necessary.

Everyone already has a personal brand.  And the good news is, you can create it.  You can mold and develop it depending on how you want to be seen, experienced, and understood.

In Part 1, I talked about why branding interests me: because the communication of identity and purpose matters. If you can more readily identify what the purpose of something is, you can easily categorize its relevance in your own life. If my goal is to market my services to the public, than branding myself as an ambassador of those services will better help other people determine whether or not they are interested in those services.  That's the great thing about branding—it more easily connects those who provide a product with the people that want/need it, and it successfully communicates the benefits so that those who think they want it can decide.

Nubby Twiglet has a great post called The Power of Personal Branding.  She cites Jessica Simpson and Donald Trump as examples of personal brands. So those two celebrities aren't as hot as they were in 2008 when she wrote the post, but they still have marketable, very visible personal brands that build on their personal identity markers—Jessica Simpson's products are all marketed as part of her laid-back, breezy, glam California lifestyle. Trump's products are all high-wealth, audacious, and ballsy. He's known for the comeback, for high-risk investments and returns. People find that tantalizing, and buy into his books and his lifestyle because they aspire to be like him.

You can use personal branding to attract other people with similar identifiers. This should come as no surprise: we look for those who look like us in the hope that they are like us. People who dress similarly, or have a projected similar attitude, tend to find each other at social events.  It's a handy tool.

Now for the darker side: you can also create a personal brand that gets you in with the people you want to be like and socialize with. It's nearly primate-level behavior: if we camouflage ourselves to look like members of a group, will be more readily accepted as members of that group. Sneaky! And effective. It sounds pretty manipulative honestly, but this is how marketing works.

The truth of human life is this: we are all insecure. Without insecurity, marketing wouldn't work. The lie that consumerism has taught us is that we will never be satisfied with who we are, hence the power of the aspirational brand.  So what do we do about that?

I know some who would rather not play the game altogether.  I have a relative who questioned why I'd even write about this stuff, since other pursuits (politics and non-profits where the ones she suggested) would be far more worthy of my time and energy.

That might be true, but the reason why I examine these issues is this: branding and marketing will always exist.  Having critical awareness of what branding/marketing is trying to push is necessary.  If we're not critical of it, if we don't examine it and question its motives, we fall prey to its worst elements.

Personal branding has the same issues as commercial branding.  If you are selling yourself based on true criteria and marketing yourself effectively, people will get a clear picture of your services, products, or your personal character and they will trust you.  That brand will last. 

If, however, you market yourself as someone you're not, if you go too far out of your comfort zone, if you try to reach too high and too wide, that illusion will eventually fail. 

It's important to think about who you really are and what you want to communicate about yourself to the world.  I'll tackle how to do that in another post.  For now, who do you know that brands themselves effectively?  What brands do you trust?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Go Local: Bells & Whistles

Bells & Whistles is a small, friendly boutique that opened in Oakland this year.  They source locally made artisan products, mostly jewelry, clothing, beauty, art, and gifts.  I don't think they have a super-strong branding campaign yet, but their aesthetics are super cute.

The local, modern aesthetic translates through their merchandising for sure.  Many items were also upcycled or repurposed materials, which is obviously very current and ethically fantastic.

Earrings on a frame with chicken wire.  I really want to go home and do this myself.  (Mine are hung on a narrow bulletin board.)

This is Casey.  She's the owner.  She's super friendly and very passionate about sourcing local products and sustainable goods.  Bells & Whistles has a website if you want to check them out.  They also appear to have an event called Cupcake Sunday that sounds too good to miss.