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…]

Can Cannon


New breakthrough in beverage can launching: X-Product’s patent-pending Can Cannon. Serving the same constituents as the beer can mortar

The Can Cannon is a patent pending launching device for soda cans and other heavy, thin walled objects. A proprietary gas ported barrel and pressure tube reduce the exposure to high pressure gasses which could destroy relatively delicate projectiles. The Can Cannon is currently configured for launching full, un-opened 12oz soda cans. When used with standard mil spec blanks and fired at an optimum angle it can reach an average distance of 105 yards!

Why launch soda cans instead of drinking them?  Because you can!  Projectile options are only limited by your creativity and local laws.  Our BATFE approved design is not considered a Destructive Device or firearm.

Not technically a firearm although the photograph above shows it with machine gun belts. (See also: Kinetic Packaging)

Certainly the Can Cannon is more gun-like than, say, the Targeteer Beer Can Launcher. And like the Targeteer, it enables a person to use air born beverage cans for skeet shooting.

(Another “Can Cannon” video, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Nathaniel Donnett: the off-center of invisibility

"the-off-center-of-invisibility" Nathaniel Donnett

Nathaniel Donnett has a new installation entitled, the off-center of invisibility, on view in Houston, Texas until June 21.

Donnett has used shopping carts before. In this case he writes us that the context is an abandoned row house… “where I had the inside looking like the outside.”

From the Project Row Houses site:

Donnett is interested in the idea of nowhere being home… Many within the diaspora have had to mediate between ephemeral senses of home and non-homes. This negotiation is constant: the existential (im)migrant must imagine and create artificial spaces in order for existence to become tolerable or to unearth possibility. Through the off-center of invisibility, Donnett investigates the psychological impact of homelessness, existential migration, and belonging and the spaces that settle between, around, before, and after these conditions.

More photos, after the fold… [Read more…]