Packaging Walk

I borrowed Debby’s camera today and took a walk to look at packaging in our neighborhood. I took 147 pictures. I could have taken more, except the memory card started getting finicky.

These are the first 12 pictures I took. Click picture to zoom in. (More photos after the jump.)

Packaging walk 12 [Read more…]

Rusty Nail Guitars

Handmade electric guitar by Ted Crocker has a starring role in John Sayle’s new movie, Honeydripper. The Honey Dripper guitar now inaugurates Crocker’s new line of Rusty Nail™  guitars.

Product line is ironically named after the rusty nail that Crocker stepped on in 2004 that nearly cost him his foot. Read his interview in the current issue of Modern Guitars Magazine. (more to read after the jump)

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Gee, your super-long product name smells terrific!

Have to say something about the product name of Sunsilk’s new value-pack, “I wish My Hair Could Borrow Volume From My Butt”…  The idea of using a sentence as a product name goes back to at least the 1970’s. Products like “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!” and “I Can’t believe It’s Not Butter!” typify the “sentence-as-brandname” trend. (Any brand name with a subject, a predicate and a verb qualifies as part of this trend.)

Usually the idea is to make the key product claim into the name, but I don’t think Sunsilk has quite succeeded in doing that here.

It seems like they’re following another, entirely different trend at the same time. The “blunt” trend. (more to read after the jump)

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Cat Toy 10-Pack

cattoypackKind of a stupid, I know, but maybe no stupider than giving Christmas gifts to your cat. Debby and I were at PetSmart and we thought it was cute the way the mice in this holiday 10-pack had their noses and tails emerging through the holes in the clam shell.

I sure felt stupid ironing 10 ribbon tails in preparation for taking this photo!

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La Morena

I took this picture a while ago, but had not posted it yet because I
didn’t know what I wanted to say about it. I could make some technical
observations about it… There is something funny about how the
illustration is vignetted at the bottom—as if a clipping path was left
over from a previous label in the product line. The woman in the
illustration looks better here, against the solid orange background,
than she does in other products where she is emerging from a bed of chipotle peppers.

none of that does justice to the iconic allure of this label. Some will
say that it’s all wrong to have her gazing off beyond her orange world
of product info. Like she shouldn’t even be looking in that direction
unless it leads the consumer’s eye to a yummy food photo. Personally,
I’ve always been drawn to images of women averting their eyes in this
way. Is that why I bought it?… for the attractive (but
non-threatening) dark-haired registered trademark? (with ® next to her earring) No matter. I am not the only person to fall for this demure registered trademark. So did this person. And so did that person.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Perils of Competitive Shopping

When package designers go to the store, they sometimes go under false pretenses: not as true consumers, but merely pretending to be. Maybe it’s for a bit of “competitive shopping” (to check what products are occupying the shelves that a client’s new product will need to compete with). Or maybe it’s to checkout the display fixtures for a product proposal to a particular store chain.

Whenever I must do this, I get a little anxious, because managers and store security, trained to be suspicious of atypical consumer behavior, often seem to detect it in me.

Once I was in a local beauty supply store, doing research for a client who already had quite a few products on their shelves. Apparently, something about me aroused suspicion. Most of the other customers there were woman, and I was a man. Granted, they were not taking notes on a little notepad while they shopped as I was—but, whatever the reason, I somehow attracted some unwanted attention. When the proprietor challenged me, I tried to put her mind at ease, but she would have none of it. I told her who my client was and explained that I worked on packaging for products that might eventually come to be sold in her store. No dice. She forbade me to write anything more down in my notepad. And even though I purchased some “Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing for Gray, White & Silver Blond Hair” — a product which I use — she still insisted that I leave the store!

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Magnetic Core Memory Door


Before there were hard drives—before there were RAM chips—there was magnetic core memory: An arrangement of donut-shaped magnets, the polarity of each could be switched by the current of 2 wires passing through the hole. In this way each magnet could be set to an “on” or “off” (binary) position. Needless to say, they don’t make memory like that anymore. I got this one on eBay a long time ago.

I always liked the geometry of the arrangement and entertained ideas of monumental sculptures with steel cables and car tires. Never did that, but in 1999 when our dog broke the glass in our front door (for the second time) in his zeal to get to the mailman, I found an application for this cool pattern.


Clearly, we needed some method of preventing said dog from putting his head through the glass. I didn’t cotton to the idea of Plexiglas or those perforated screens, so I made this door screen out of brass rods and brass compression fittings (that plumbers use) following the core memory arrangement.

I won’t go into the arcane details of how it was done, but I’ve never been what you’d call a great craftsman and it took a very long time.

(more photos after the jump)

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Automatic Composter

We consider ourselves lucky to have a decent size backyard capable of sustaining plant life. We used to diligently compost our vegetable scraps, but they never fully broke down and in the winter the whole process kind of broke down. No one wanted to trudge out through the snow to the backyard to dump the scraps in the plastic bin—where, rather than becoming compost, they’d just become frozen!

When Russ Cohn from San Francisco-based NatureMill contacted us about package design for his patented line of automatic composters, we couldn’t have been happier. An MIT alumnus, Cohn had invented the device that solved our whole composting problem. We wanted one. (more to read after the jump)

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