Numerical Packaging Design Countdown


654321Numerical packaging design. Why do some companies number their product line’s packaging?

Some brands enumerate to differentiate between product varieties.

Others number their packaging to show a recommended sequence of product use, making “instruction” a key brand component.

And, for some brands, numbering products gives them an air of hi-tech modernity, as if their products were software upgrades. This idea, however, is not really so new…

ChanelNo.5-Fragrance-Austin-Calhoon-PhotographNo Venetian nights or dreams of Samarkand for the resolutely modern Coco when she launched her extraordinary perfume in 1921. She named it “Chanel No. 5,” as if she were an aviator and this were her flying machine—like the Voisin III or the Biériot XI, two famous airplanes of her time. The world was mad for numbers in the early decades of the last century. Numbers meant setting records and calculating profits. Culture might do without mathematics, but modern life could not.

…in 1926 Vogue alluded to an American context for Chanel’s modernity. Recognizing the radical aspect of her “little black dress,” the editors, beneath an illustration in the October 1 issue, noted its affinity to that ubiquitous and thrilling invention, the automobile: “The Chanel ‘Ford’—the frock that all the world will wear—is model “817,” of black crepe de Chine.

…From Henry Ford’s assembly line to the arrangement of tiny tucks across the front of Chanel’s dress was but a small step for Vogue, the two seemingly disparate realms linked by the cachet (if not the reality) of mass consumption. it was not just the automobile industry but also the fashion business itself that offered a numerical poetry.

…Chanel, in effect, restored the utilitarian system of numbering

Kenneth E. Silver, Flacon and Fragrance: The New Math of Chanel No. 5.
Chanel (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Here are 6 interesting examples of this trend, arranged in a countdown hierarchy.

(Details of each, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): Fuzzy Wuzzy


FuzzyWuzzy-1966-boxFuzzy Wuzzy was an odd soap from the 1960’s. Shaped like an animal, packaged in an air-tight plastic pouch, the soap would acquired a “fur” when exposed to the air.

A self-rhyming brand name, “Fuzzy Wuzzy” was registered as a trademark for soap in 1966 by Aerosol Corporation of America.

Sold in a circus-wagon shaped carton with a die-cut window (resembling “cage bars”) and a circus platform depicted on the back of the box. This panel of the package was a sort of a staging area where kids were instructed to “set” their “bald” soap animal in preparation for the furry transformation that would soon take place.

A perforated punch-out was included on this panel with instructions to “PUSH OUT THIS TAB AND INSERT BASE OF FUZZY WUZZY.”

Fuzzy Wuzzy bath soap carton sold last month on eBay for $34

The question we seek to answer today is two-fold:

1. the inventor of Fuzzy Wuzzy: who was he?

2. the package designer for Fuzzy Wuzzy: who was he?

While box vox does not claim to have all  the answers, we’ve learned this much: if you choose an obscure enough topic, you can pretty much tell any shaggy dog story you wish. Which is not to say that we lie. Or that there is no interest in Fuzzy Wuzzy bath soap and the technology behind it.

Some have wildly assumed that the 1966 product manufactured by Aerosol Corporation of America contained live mold spores. (Wrong.) Others have correctly surmised that the soap’s fur is a form of crystallization: efflorescence.

Our conclusion?

1. The inventor was a German chemist named Kurt Ludwig Von Stoesser.


While we found no hard evidence linking Von Stoesser’s patents to Aerosol Corporation of America, it’s abundantly clear from reading his patents that the whole idea of an animal-shaped soap that grows efflorescent fur, was his.

No smoking gun, but just check out his 1966 U.S. patent filing for “Efflorescent Composition” and his earlier 1961 British patent filing for “Improvements in or relating to soap,” an excerpt of which is highlighted below:


Photo of Fuzzy Wuzzy boxes via: BlazenFluff

SoapThatGrowsFur-Dangerous-1966Many have have wondered what secret ingredient Fuzzy Wuzzy bath soap might have contained. The side of the carton says only that “the secret is in a safe cosmetic ingredient activated when exposed to air.”

How safe was it?  While we have not turned up any FTC or FDA documents citing hazards in Fuzzy Wuzzy bath soap, there was this troubling 1966 newspaper clipping from Pennsylvania.

New Soap That Grows “Fur” Seen Dangerous

The Wilkes-Barre Health Department Friday ordered a soap product manufactured by Aerosol Corporation. removed from the shelves of stores because it was considered “dangerous.”

Acting Health Officer Edward J. Pugh identified the product as “Fuzzy Wuzzy Bath Soap.”

…Pugh said barring of the product came after a Dallas woman complained to the State food inspector about the soap. She said her 17-month-old boy chewed the head off the soap “animal.” The baby became ill with a sore throat and his mouth started to swell. She said the child was taken to a doctor and then placed in a hospital for three days.

Directions on the soap state when it is taken from the air-tight bag, it will begin to grow “fur.” Within three days the directions state, the soap will have a “fur coat.”

May 23, 1966 Standard-Speaker (Hazelton, PA)

It’s interesting that the article implies a connection between the toddler’s 3 day hospital stay, and the 3 day fur growth period mentioned in the Fuzzy Wuzzy soap commercial. As if to suggest that it was the 3-day-long “Fuzzy Wuzzy” chemical reaction that determined the length of the poor child’s hospital stay.)

Fuzzy Wuzzy before and after exposure to air (photo via: via: BlazenFluff)

And Fuzzy Wuzzy’s package designer?

(after the fold…) [Read more…]

Clinker Pots

Clinker Pots

Bifurcated-BottleWhat are clinker pots? That’s what I wanted to know, when a Google search for “bifurcated bottle” led me to Clayton Bailey‘s 2007 Clinker Pots page.

For him clinker pots are one of his various oeuvres of self-destructing “extreme pottery.”

Native red clay is mined on the artist’s property, and is inoculated with a material containing fossil carbon. This makes the clay expand like bread dough when it is fired to 2000 degrees F. The result is the appearance of an explosion frozen in time.

But there is another definition of “clinker pot” relating to a definition of the term “clinker” as a term for… “The incombustible residue, fused into an irregular lump, that remains after the combustion of coal.”

Some coals formed clinker pots; that is, they developed a solid mass of clinker in the middle of the fire pot. This formation usually took the form of a basin, or bowl; that is, the first clinker formed near the grate decreased the air supply to the coal above it and restricted its burning, while the ash of the coal that burned at its edges built up clinker around it.

P. Nicholls and W.A. Selvig
Clinker Formation as Related to the Fusibility of Coal Ash, 1932

Clinker Pots in this context are a container-shaped residue.


Message in a Bottle

Thats-what-I-really-call-a-message-in-a-bottleMessage in a bottle? (No, not the song by The Police.)

This is the way Rocky & Bullwinkle used to introduce a commercial break on their cartoon show. When Bullwinkle archly inquired whether the bottle contained “Fan mail from some flounder?” Rocky was emphatic, “No. This is what I really call a message.”

I always thought that was a nice touch: an incomprehensible symbol for some supposedly important information.

(See also: Incomprehensible Logos in Men’s Hearts)

Animated Labels

Usually when we speak of animated labels or other types of “animated” packaging, we’re talking about lenticular packaging or electroluminescent labels or maybe holography. (See: 5 Types of Animated Package)

In this case, we’re looking at two televisions ads that use hand-drawn animation to lure us into the small, nostalgic world depicted on a jar label.

The 1980 commerical above is “Ploughman” from Richard Williams Studio was directed by Richard Purdum. In the first ad, the context of Purdum’s “old fashioned” farm was is concealed until the very end, when it’s revealed that the ploughman and his horses exist on the animated label of a Heinz pickle jar.

In the later ad (“New Range”) from 1984, the context is established right from the start: a row of three Heinz pickle jars with mostly blank labels. The surprise, in this case, is seeing each of the labels animated as the ploughman and his horses wander from one to another.

See also: Spin Labels2 Animated Packaging Patents  and  De-Branding in Name Only

Anthropomorphic Packaging in Turner Prize Film


Duncan Campbell was the winner of last year’s Turner Prize for his 2013 film, It for Others.

Duncan Campbell will show It for Others (2013) which responds to a 1953 film essay about historical African art and colonialism, Statues Also Die by Chris Marker and Alan Resnais. Diverse archive footage and new material includes a new dance work by the choreographer Michael Clark, anthropomorphic packaging and the infamous 1971 photography of Official IRA volunteer Joseph McCann.

Tate Britain, 2014

Regular readers of box vox will understand why I’ve highlighted “anthropomorphic packaging” above. It’s been one of our pet topics since 2008. (See: Anthropomorphic Packaging Mascots)

There are quite a few examples of Japanese packaging design featured in “It for Others,” and they all anthropomorphize the products. Is this of significant relevance?

Yes you’re right, the starting point for this section of “It for Others” was anthropomorphic packaging. As part of my research I used blogs and forums online that specialize in this and it was on these that I first discovered Japanese packaging.

I like it because it is simple and bold, in terms of product design — classical. There does seem to be more of this type of packaging in Japan. Having said that, from what I’ve read about how brand identity is created, most packaging is anthropomorphic. It may not have a face on it, but the shape of most consumer goods is designed to correspond to the human body. It seems that people feel innately more comfortable with objects like this, and that this applies across cultures.

There is also a link between the shape of these consumer goods and the African art objects that feature at the start of the film, which very often anthropomorphize everyday objects.

from Mio Yamada’s interview with Duncan Campbell
Video artist Duncan Campbell sees between the lines
The Japan Times, Feb 27, 2015

It the risk of highlighting my own hubris, it seems likely that our “box vox” was among the online resources Campbell mentions “that specialize in this.” (Are there really other blogs that cover this particular beat?)

I’ve wondered more than once whether I was just “beating a dead horse” with the whole anthropomorphic-packaging-thing.

So it’s gratifying to see signs that our endless analysis of anthropomorphic packaging on box vox might (in some small way) be culturally influential.

Below is a short clip of Campbell’s It for Others.

(A longer clip, another video, some critical feedback and screen shots, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): Life Cigarettes

Packaging for Life Cigarettes, designed by Frank Gianninoto (photo from: GraphisPackaging 2”)

Another cigarette pack, designed by Frank Gianninoto, perhaps best known as the designer of the familiar Marlboro Cigarettes pack.

Brown and Williamson, whose Viceroy slumped 20 per cent in the first quarter of this year, will try to recapture some of their loss with Life, a non-mentholated product claiming “the world’s finest filter.” Its white and gold package, reminiscent of last year’s striking Old Gold Straight package, features a new Brown and Williamson trade mark of gold tobacco leaves with the motto: Magna Vita Est. In an off-center position on the face of the package is a casual looking custom stamp device describing the featured filter.

Industrial Design Magazine, 1959


As with the two tall “L”s in the Marlboro logo, the letters of the “Life” logo also serve as a subtle metaphor for cigarettes. The gold inline of the font suggesting a channel — as if one could draw smoke through every letter.

This metaphor was later made more explicit, when the “L” on the King Size pack was made a bit taller.


“Life” was a Brown & Williamson cigarette brand, first trademarked in 1952, but in use as early as 1924. The Latin motto, “Magna Vita Est” translates to “Life is Great,” cheerfully exploiting the potential double meanings of a product named “Life.” (Similar to the way Life Cereal and Life Beverages both used the catchphrase, “Enjoy Life!”)

Of course, the irony of a cigarette named “Life” is more evident today than when it was first introduced…

Whereas the push for reassuring brand names came about in the 1970s with the introduction of Merit, Vantage, and other brands in response to the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, the predecessor to all of these brands was Life, introduced by Brown & Williamson in 1948. With slogans like “You get more out of Life!” or “Enjoy a longer Life!” the intended message regarding health is blatantly obvious. Still, Brown & Williamson continued marketing Life cigarettes up until 1974, when they were finally discontinued.

Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising
Stanford School of Medicine

(After the fold: more Life Cigarettes history and the Federal Trade Commission…) [Read more…]

“Double You” Flow Wrap Twin Pack

DoubleYou- flow wrap Twin Pack Design

Scaliti-Flow Wrap Twin PackHere’s a cool flow wrap twin pack design with graphics spanning both parts of a bifurcated wrapper.

It was designed last year for “Double U Coffee” by Tim Nevidim (Тим Невидим) for Lift Creative. I’m not sure what it contains… instant coffee?

The wrapper’s  structure looks similar to Pier Carlo Scaliti’s 2012 patent describing “a method for making a paired package comprising a first flowpack wrapper and a second flowpack wrapper…”

I like the idea of printing in that narrow crevice. (And it’s practicable since flow wrap twin pack wrappers are preprinted.)

A similar effect might be achieved by printing display type in the gutter of a book, as suggested by the Literatur poster below, designed by Reto Wahlen.

Literatur-Poster-twin pack design

(More drawings from Pier Carlo Scaliti’s 2012 patent, after the fold…) [Read more…]

1984 Packaging War, Space Shuttle Beer & NASA


kirinbeershuttle-smallThis Space-Shuttled-shaped beer bottle from Kirin beer was part of the 1984 beverage packaging arms race—a packaging war…

For Y. Matsui, general manager of Asahi’s marketing division, advertising was crucial in Japan’s super competitive marketplace “where neon is king and gimmickry is commonplace.” Matsui was referring to a packaging war that occurred between 1984 and 1986 when various “gadget products,” such as the Suntory Penguins and the Kirin Beer Shuttle, designed to attract consumer attention. But, by 1987, Matsui felt it was clear that consumers had become bored with sales gimmicks.

Douglas J. Dalrymple, Cases in Marketing Management

Kirin’s “Beer Shuttle” typography was clearly influenced by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn’s late, lamented NASA “worm” logo—adopted in 1974, but abruptly retired in 1992 by new NASA Administrator, Dan Golden and replaced with the earlier NASA “meatball” logo.

The Presidential Design Awards were established to recognize and honor the best of those NEA Federal redesign efforts. 1984 was the first year of the awards, and our NASA program was singled out for the “Award of Design Excellence.” At ceremonies held in Washington, and on behalf of Danne & Blackburn, I accepted this unique award from President Reagan. But in 1992, the new Administrator Dan Goldin was touring Centers and his plane was landing at Ames Research Center which had a large logo on the roof of a building. A couple of older staffers touring with him made some disparaging remarks about the “worm” and Golden commented: “Can I change that?” Naturally they answered: “Of course you can.”

Richard Danne, Dust Bowl to Gotham

(See: The NASA Design Program)



1984 was also the year that Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, (a.k.a. “star wars”) was initiated and the head of this new department was a former director of the NASA Space Shuttle program…

In 1984, the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was established to oversee the program, which was headed by Lt. General James Alan Abrahamson USAF, a past Director of the NASA Space Shuttle program.

from Wikipedia’s entry on the Strategic Defense Initiative

(Another beer brand that borrowed interest from NASA’a Space Shuttle program, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Mythological logos: Kirin versus Pegasus

Mythological logos Kirin-versus-Mobil
On left a vintage can of Kirin beer (via: Food Science Japan); on right a vintage can of Mobil “Handy Oil” (via: Etsy)

Last month, while researching cans of Japanese beer (that were designed to resemble glasses of beer) I happened to see a rather minimal beer can design for Kirin.

I was reminded of an earlier can design for Mobil oil. Both feature white backgrounds with blue, sans-serif type and red, mythical creatures as logos.


More about each of these mythological logos, after the fold… [Read more…]