Packaged (past tense): Ken Cato’s Prize Bottle

Ken Cato Prize BottleThis skein-shaped Prize Bottle — a “bottle styling for detergent specially recommended for woolens” — was designed in the early 1980s by Ken Cato (formerly of Cato Hibberd Design., now of Cato Brand Partners)

We have a soft spot for packaging simulacra like this. A bottle shaped like a skein of yarn communicates something essential about the product and provides an easy hand grip. What’s not to like?

For years we’ve been noting timeless (or, at least, surprisingly current) packaging ideas like Ken Cato’s Prize Bottle. Why not make it a regular feature?

Therefore: Keep up with the latest “Packaged (past tense)” Fridays on box vox.

+ One more thing…

[Read more…]

Re: our new backwards logo

If you’ve been to this website before you will have noticed that we’ve made a number of changes. One of those changes is our formerly frontwards, now backwards logo.

We tossed out the box. While I (personally) loved the hexagonal symmetry of the symbol, it’s one of those ideas that tends to reoccur. See: Karma, Coincidence & Container Corporation of America (See also: Dropbox)

And too many people were contacting us, incorrectly assuming that we manufacture boxes. It seemed likely that our previous logo had something to do with that. We needed a logo that emphasized the branding part over the physical package.

Deborah’s backwards BEACH design did this in an aggressive, attention-grabbing way. Perplexing enough to raise questions, but also rich with metaphorical possibilities.

The term “branding,” as we hear it used most often today, derives originally from livestock branding. And, as anyone who does livestock branding knows: the letters on the branding iron must be backwards for the “brand” to read correctly.

We also added the question, “Why is your logo backwards?” to our FAQ. (Our answer there supplies a different metaphor.)

Oh, and one more thing: click on it.

There’s still a lot we need to do on this project. We need to add BEACH’s new backwards logo to the slug that we include in all our mechanicals.

And where the Beach Packaging Design box ( OldBoxFavicon ) made a great favicon, we haven’t yet figured out how to make the backwards logo work in that tiny space. (  backwards-logo ? )

Kuttrolf Bottles

Kuttrolf bottles
On left: a photo from “Antique Colored Glass”; on right: bottle from Corning Museum of Glass (1300-1499)

Not new, but new to me: Kuttrolf bottles from the Middle Ages.

With their intricate topology these hand-blown glass bottles are reminiscent of Klein Bottles.  Many Kuttrolf bottles were asymmetrically bent over, as if tipsy. (See also: Tilted Bottles)

According to Wikipedia, “Drinking from such a vessel is intentionally a bit difficult.” In this regard, they’re like other, more recent deliberately anti-ergonomic packaging.

The name Kuttrolf is probably derived from the Latin gutta meaning “drop.” The shape of this bottle with its separately drawn, entwined tubes that form the neck suggests that its purpose was to impede or slow down the flow of its liquid contents.

Inventories of the late Middle Ages are unclear as to its use. The Kuttrolf has been noted as a drinking bottle for spirits, a storage bottle for tinctures of herbs and flowers, and a distillation bottle.

The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages

Another fun fact from the “Dark Ages”: the relative inaccessibility of their contents made Kuttrolf bottles an anthropomorphic metaphor for chastity…

In the Middle Ages the Kuttrolf also served to signify a bride’s virginity, whereas a wine bottle with a wide neck… was used for a non-virgin.


“Kuttrolf were used as containers for precious liquids (perfume, alcohol), but also as urinals.”

The urinal through centuries, Jean-Pierre Martin

As anachronistic as these uses may seem, Kuttrolf bottles have found some contemporary —even futuristic— uses. [Read more…]

Re: Box Vox Hiatus

You may have noticed that our last post was back on Thanksgiving. This is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without putting up a new post since launching box vox back in 2007.

“What’s up?” you ask?

It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas (or package-related content.)

It’s just that we’re in the process of updating BEACH — (the firm, the brand, the web site and the blog)— and I’ve been asked to avoid adding any new content to the blog’s database during this transition. (It’s a lot of data to export and you don’t want to do it twice.)

Of course, the blogging hiatus has lasted longer than expected: 16 days and counting. If I had to predict, I would say it might be another whole month before box vox is again fully operational.

“John Doe” Thanksgiving candy packaging


From Nathan Edwin Covel: a 1927 “Package” patent.

Covel was co-founder of Lovell & Covel, a Boston confectionery manufacturer. His invention was like a Halloween mask for candy packaging — a box cover for transforming generic “John Doe” brand products into seasonal, holiday-themed “John Doe” brand products.

It is customary in the confectionery trade to pack candy and the like in special boxes, designed for seasonal events, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Such boxes are decorated in a manner appropriate to the particular occasion, and, after the occasion has passed, the merchant may find himself with a stock on hand, which, to render salable, must be removed from the special boxes and sold in bulk, or repacked, or disposed of in some other manner. In any event, considerable annoyance and expense is involved, and it is the object of the present invention to avoid this in a novel and effective manner.

The invention consists, briefly, in the provision of a special cover, decorated appropriately to a desired occasion, which may be placed over ordinary stock containers. The cost of such covers is negligible, and as they need only be applied as required, all loss is avoided and any surplus may be carried over from one season to another without any deterioration.

–Nathan Edwin Covel

I like the anonymity of his “John Doe” brand Thanksgiving candy packaging, combined with the menace of the turkey-beheading hatchet in the illustration. I also like Covel’s pragmatic vision of surplus gift products, continually re-gifted with an added layer of packaging. (See also: Yesterday And Today)

Thankfully, I’m still diabetic and do not anticipate receiving (or eating) any John Doe Thanksgiving chopping block candy.

Three different brands: one chubby arrow logo


Three different brands: one chubby arrow logo.


For those of us based in the United States, Target’s chubby “Up & Up” trademark will be the most familiar.

In South Africa and Russia, however, there may be other brands more strongly associated with this north-easterly pointing, color changing arrow logo.

In countries where consumers read left-to-right, I suppose the meaning of the arrow’s direction is something positive like, “onwards and upwards.”

(Details about all three brands, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Marlboro Beer on Craig’s List


This just in: another bottle of Marlboro Beer is currently for sale on Craig’s List ($500).

Looks like you’d have to be in Dover, Pennsylvania to purchase it.

How do I even know about this? I have a Google Alert for “Marlboro Beer.”

Why do I care? Marlboro’s 1970s contemplated brand extension —extending their cigarette brand into the realm of alcoholic beverages— has been an ongoing interest of ours…

“…although the idea was reportedly killed in 1971, it has been periodically resuscitated.

Cooler heads always seem to prevail, but, I tell you, this idea has traction!”

The Marlboro Beer Memos

The idea was (again) floated internally at Phillip Morris as recently as 1994.

The artifacts of their test marketing are oddly fascinating and pretty rare.

What do such objects suggest? A heightened brand loyalty, where devoted consumers purchase an array of matching possessions, each bearing the same trademark.

See also: “Our Rarest Can”


Bernard Bazile’s Les Royco et Poulain

Bernard Bazile, “Poulain”, 1988, Collection Frac Rhône-Alpes (via Claudine Colin Communication)

More packaging-related sculptures by Bernard Bazile: Les Royco et Poulain

The satirical version of these microcosms was Bernard Bazile’s Royco et Poulain (1988), human-height reproductions of boxes containing powdered mixes for soups or chocolate drinks, the basic food of the bachelor (the solitary individual) containing the furniture from the artist’s apartment (the creator’s world), also enlarged to a scale of 1 .5: 1 .

Catherine Millet, Contemporary Art in France

Not many photos of these sculptures to be found online. Finally found one of the “Royco” sculptures in this video below from a 2009 exhibition at The Magasin: Espèces d’espace.

See also: Art in Pop

Opening the Can: Boîte ou­ver­te de Pie­ro Man­zo­ni

Bernard Bazile, “Boîte ou­ver­te de Pie­ro Man­zo­ni” (Photo via: Xavier Hufkens Gallery)

In 2008, box vox featured Piero Manzoni’s 1961 artwork, entitled Merda d’artista (“Artist’s Shit”) — a limited edition multiple of 90 labeled cans.

In the earlier post (“Packaging Waste”) I was mainly focused on the cans and their contents, but there were things I hadn’t known about Manzoni’s famous canned goods…

For one thing, I hadn’t realized that they functioned as a literal retort in a rhetorical dialogue with his father…

Supposedly, he made this work in response to a taunt from his father: “Your work is shit.” Since his father ran a factory that produced canned meats, Manzoni, in effect, paid him back in kind.

–John Miller, “Excremental value

I always figured that the cans really did contain what was claimed on the label.

Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

Not everyone, however, accepted Manzoni’s labeling at face value. Some say that the cans actually contain something more innocuous…

In recent decades, many have been wondering what the can actually contains. Certainly not the organic matter declared. If so, sooner or later, the metal will corrode causing a spill. I can safely say that this is just chalk. Does anyone want to check? Go ahead. I am not going to bother.

Bonalumi Augustine, 2007

I also didn’t know that one of these cans had actually been opened.

Ber­nard Ba­zi­le did exactly that in his 1989 artwork, entitled: Boîte ou­ver­te de Pie­ro Man­zo­ni (Opened can of Piero Manzoni)…

By ope­ning one of the tins in 1989, Ba­zi­le de­cla­red the ra­di­ca­li­ty ge­stu­re of the avant-​gar­des a failu­re that ul­ti­mate­ly led to the pro­duc­tion of ever new com­mo­di­ties and so­ci­al dif­fe­ren­ces (Boîte ou­ver­te de Pie­ro Man­zo­ni). His la­ter vi­deo in­stal­la­ti­on Ein Maß für alle (2004) portrays ow­ners of the Man­zo­ni tins, hence an ent­i­re art sys­tem ba­sed on the fe­tis­hiza­ti­on of the work.

Kolja Reichert

What precisely was inside? A “smaller can, also labeled merda di artista.”


A can within a can. What’s inside this smaller can? It would appear that no one really knows since Bazile did not open the inner can. It could well be that Manzoni’s 1961 excrement is contained within the “inner pack.” Perhaps that question will be settled in some future artwork.

Meanwhile, the FDA takes a dim view of packaging that does not actually contain what the label says. But even if the inner can does contain 30 grams of fecal matter, it might still be deemed a deceptive package, since the cans themselves were originally sold on the basis of its weight.

For the definitive essay on Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista, see John Miller’s “Excremental value.”

(A video and one more photo, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Package Design: Blair’s Reserve Collection


In observance of the holiday we call, Halloween, I thought we’d look at the outlandishly bottled Blair’s Reserve Collection of concentrated hot sauce extracts with their elaborate, skull-festooned wax seals.


We’ve looked at other trademark wax-sealed bottles (like Maker’s Mark), but Blair Lazar’s vision is singular and idiosyncratic.

There’s also something sort of anthropomorphic/post-mortem about these bottles with skulls for heads, which is in keeping with Blair’s hot-sauce-as-death-wish branding.

(More about Blair’s Reserve Collection packaging design, after the fold..) [Read more…]

Package Design: Dave’s Gourmet Pasta Sauces


Debby bought these two jars of Dave’s Gourmet pasta sauce (at Target) because she liked the design of the labels.

Some will say that, of all consumers, the design of a package probably influences purchasing decisions most of all in the demographic group we call “package designers.”  Of course, it also influences everyone else, to some degree.

The label looked familiar to me and checking the back explained why. [More about that further on…]


Part of a larger product line of pasta sauces (7 in all), the design of the label is originally by Jana Randolph. Line extensions and, I believe, some of the illustrations are by Lani Matsen.

At Target, the clean white backgrounds and colorful ingredients helped the Dave’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce labels to stand out on the shelf alongside of the busier packaging in this product category.


What was it about these labels that seemed familiar to me?

(Asked and answered, after the fold…) [Read more…]

More beer-glass-shaped beer packaging


Volksbier vs. Gold Mine Beer (more beer-glass-shaped beer packaging)

Beer cans that are designed to resemble glasses of beer have become one of our “pet” topics, but these are the first two I’ve noticed that are made of transparent PET (polyethylene terephthalate) with petaloid bases.

Historically, beer-glass-resembling packs first appeared as standard straight-walled cans of steel or aluminum which were printed with amber-colored “faux beer” illustration of bubbles, condensation and (usually) a foamy head. (See: Naked ACME and Bohack Beer)

Later there were efforts to make special beer-glass-shaped beer cans. (See: Heineken’s 1997 beer-glass-shaped can)

The two recent examples above, were designed by different firms. They have similarities and differences, but each won a 2014 Gold Pentaward.

(More about each of the PET packs, after the fold…) [Read more…]