Friday, February 25, 2011

Magongo & Marula

A pretty post to lead into the weekend.  I love this Africa-inspired beauty line from Woolworth's.  It's vibrant, inviting, and taps into the spirit of African design (at least, how this westerner perceives it).

I got wind of this from The Dieline, one of my favorite new design blogs.  This packaging was created by Todd Anderson.

Todd played an essential role in the products concept, overlooking constructs, development and print production. Chromatically it was important for the product to represent the vibrancy and culture of the African continent, adopting rich tones of orange, yellow and dark brown balanced alongside lighter shades of green and purple. Todd chose to use jar shapes that resembled traditional clay pots and to screen print the African inspired ingredients to the outside. The two phase bath oil beautifully represents an African Sunset while the tubes take on a rich earthy feel.
(via The Dieline)

It's nice to see African aesthetics represented beautifully by a major distributor, with respect to traditional design.  I think we're seeing a lot more interest in the continent from the design sphere.  There's currently an exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York called The Global Africa Project, which examines the broad spectrum of contemporary African art, design, and craft worldwide."  Shows like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency have also brought more of the African design aesthetic to contemporary audiences, to great benefit.  I love the brilliant colors and bold designs, and hope to see more of African design in a wider product offering.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sterile Tea

Here's how I feel about tea: it's a widely consumed beverage and often somewhat poorly packaged.  Celestial Seasonings is a bit too woo woo for me. Bigelow and Stash are mediocre.  Tazo is fine, though a little too esoteric and convinced of its own preciousness (their website, however, is really fun if you've got a minute).

Both Mighty Leaf and Republic of Tea give me what I want: packaging that connects me with the experience of drinking tea.  The color palate is warm, and both show the ingredients that differentiate the types of tea. I get a firm experience of what I'll be drinking beforehand and that experience draws me in.

This All About Tea packaging, however, totally misses the mark.

This packaging looks like the prototype for office supplies for a tech company, not tea.  It's entirely sterile and unappealing.  Sometimes I feel that in our quest for slick modernity and the paring down to essentials we lose the visceral attraction of the things we enjoy consuming.  Where is the pleasure in this?

The agency that did this design, Moving Brands, says:

[All About Tea's] ambition was to hone their wholesale offer while satisfying the need to reach new audiences. They wanted to keep the warehouse feel but also establish a loyal consumer group who felt they were getting premium quality at wholesale prices.

Moving Brands were tasked with creating a new identity that would stand out in a “sea of sameness.” The identity needed to work effectively across their existing wholesale market, and enable them to grow into retail channels. It was also vital to communicate the founder’s passion for the art and intricacies of tea.
(via Lovely Package)

I'm not buying it.  The wholesale element grants it a little more credibility, but come on—does anything about this packaging communicate the founder's passion for the art and intricacies of tea?  There is no art to this.  No intricacy.  Every single variety of tea looks exactly the same. 

And it's entirely lacking in passion.  Passion translates best in crescendo, in color, in hedonistic abandonment.  The only people that could be passionate about this are Philip Glass, Calvin Klein, and the cast of Gattaca.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

El Paso

El Paso Chile Company has a following for their fantastic salsa and marinades.  They're trying to expand their margarita and cocktail mix brand, and with the help of the Charles S. Anderson Design Company, came up with this functional and creative idea to package their cocktail mixes in glass martini shakers.

Super cute!  And very easy, because you just add ice and alcohol. Totally genius.

Check out Charles Anderson too.  All of their stuff has a midcentury design aesthetic that's very on trend.

via Lovely Package

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Soul of Staples

I'm finishing out my Mission Statement series this week after a little hiatus.

Staples is next on my radar.  Staples is interesting, because their mission statement doesn't align with what I think many of us would have gone for:
"Staples Soul reflects our commitment to corporate responsibility. It's a holistic approach to business that recognizes the close connection between our financial success and our desire to make a positive impact on our associates, communities, and the planet by joining together the following areas: diversity, the environment, our community, and ethics. It's how we do business—that's Staples Soul."
I'll echo that "soulful" and "holistic" are not normally used to describe office supplies.  I'd expect that in a wellness retail chain—a natural, healthy, or organic brand, but office supplies?

Corporate responsibility is hip right now, and sustainability and eco-friendliness are hot buttons to push.  I wondered if this was all corporate greenwashing, but apparently, Staples has some solid legs to stand on.  On their website, they outline what each of the pillars of diversity, environment, community and ethics means to them.  They've invested in workplace diversity, comprehensive recycling, efficient and renewable energy, and community giving.  They even have a foundation, the Staples Foundation for Learning.  Their corporate governance and reporting also looks pretty transparent.  You can access annual reports and statements easily from their site.

I'm impressed.  Staples not only has a very efficient, user-friendly site and retail format, but they also aspire to and achieve a lot of pretty fantastic goals.  This looks like it's translated into some great dividends.  Staples achieved $24 billion in sales in 2009, and they rank second worldwide in e-commerce sales.  It looks like ethics, sustainability and a great selling platform will get you far.  Well, and a superb mission statement, but you didn't need me to tell you that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tea Doesn't Sell Itself

The packaging I'm reviewing today represents a new product from an established brand that's testing out a new product.

This packaging was created for a new line of naturally caffeine-free teas from Marks & Spencer, a mainstream department store brand from the UK.  The illustration is by Stuart Kolakovic and it's lovely.  What strikes me about this is that there's very little in Marks & Spencer branding on this packaging, plus there's not much that immediately says "tea".  I usually take a pretty hard tack on having the package represent its interior content, but here that wouldn't be a good choice.

The difference is that food is visceral, tea is not.  Ask yourself—why would a consumer buy decaffeinated tea?  It's not because it's especially tasty or satisfies any one of our primal needs.  The purpose of this tea is wellness, which is a more heady, intellectual, and ethereal purpose.  With food, it's simple: you see the food; you want to eat the food.  That's why packaging that showcases as much of the positive sensory information of the food is so successful.  When you see the bright colors, appealing textures, and mouthwatering ingredients of a food you like, you're far more likely to buy it.  But when the purpose is to be a better you?  Well, that's where aspirational marketing comes in.

The ladies on the packaging are slim, calm and composed.  They're also pretty, visually appealing to the viewer.  Also, the color palette is soothing—the opposite of a frenetic, caffeine-fueled world. We want some of that serenity.

Wellness means being calm, tranquil, slim, pretty.  Since those things are represented on the package, and we connect with that idea emotionally and intellectually, we're far more likely to buy this tea than if it were packaged as just a picture of tea, because when we buy tea, we hope that it will make us more like what's represented on that box.

Tea isn't that compelling; pretty ladies always are.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I’ve been interested in Swoon, a street artist out of New York, for several years.  I think I’d seen one or two of her wheat paste cutout prints around Brooklyn, but I didn’t register her work until I saw a couple pieces photographed by Corie of Callalillie during her walks all over the city.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

What compels me about street art is the intrinsic link between tagging and branding. A tag is a brand: you’re literally labeling a public space with your name. Often, the name is also the art itself, and this creates an interesting interplay between name, brand, art, and space. Tagging is lo-fi, democratic, and usually illegal, since you traditionally have to pay to get space.

Photo credit: Kelly Knight

Graffiti is incredible when done well.  And it’s pretty anti-consumer, which flies against what branding is typically about—getting a brand name or product spread as far and wide as possible in the interest  of consumer awareness, which then translates into sales.

Tagging is all about merit and notoriety: there is no sale associated with getting your name out there.  Since your tag is your art, you’re judged purely on its aesthetics.  Where it's similar is that it's also judged on frequency, since becoming known is all about how much exposure you have.

Swoon started out as a street artist trying to get her name out there, but as she says in this video, her art matured into something more.  It became collaborative.  Her wheat paste cutouts incorporated everyday street people and landscapes.  They became personal, more hidden, more interactive.  They were created not to broadcast the name "Swoon", but to contribute to and become part of the street landscape. 

Instead of the statement-based traditional tag, Swoon’s art became part of a conversation.

What would happen if consumer brands found a way to become part of the conversation I wonder?  What would happen then?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Packaging Will Self-Destruct

I love student work.  The student environment is one where innovation and creativity are prized. The cost of production, effect on bottom line, and the other, more dreary bits of the business don't stifle as many great ideas.

I adore this biodegradable packaging from Ben Huttly:

Easy indicators of each vegetable allow it to be properly and quickly identified.  Also, it has the location of origin, which is quite important in our political food landscape these days and the focus on eating food grown locally.

Best of all, the packaging is 100% biodegradable and recyclable.  There are seeds of the original plant in the tag, so once you've consumed those delicious carrots, you can turn around and grow your own.  This is well-designed, eco-friendly, and even a little whimsical—it doesn't seem entirely practical, since the labels would get mushed in transit, plus be kind of a bear to produce.  And the packaging doesn't so much protect the product, which is what packaging is meant to do. 

But, see above.  Conceptually, it's brilliant.  And look at this sexy asparagus, just waiting for you to eat it and plant its seeds. 

Sounds a little dirty, but that's the way of nature.