Reversible Jar

EasypbjarDesigner, Sherwood Forlee’s concept of a reversible jar for peanut butter makes good sense to me—especially for natural-style peanut butter which tends to separate. (See Cream Nut)

Labels on this type of peanut butter, typically advise “stirring” the product to mix any separated peanut oil back in. I never do that. What I do instead, is to turn the jar upside down and wait for the oil to settle at the other end. This way, the oil gets mixed in just through normal usage and I don’t have to try and stir a full jar of peanut butter. If I have my wits about me and I’m planning ahead I’ll store the jar upside down to begin with.

Forlee’s jar, named the “Easy PB&J Jar” is perfectly suited for my consumption habits. My one possible caveat about his jar: leakage. When storing an opened jar of peanut butter upside down, I have been known to set it on a saucer—just in case I haven’t twisted the lid tightly enough. But, come to think of it, since peanut oil tends to rise to the top, maybe I’m worrying for no reason. The beauty of his elegantly simple solution is that, with this jar, I could always open my peanut butter at the end where the oil was not. Naturally, the label for this peanut butter would need to be an ambigram!

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Bottle Cap Collecting

Bottlecaps1_2 Maura Cluthe has a beautifully presented bottle cap collection on her Flickr site. (Check out her extensive collection at a higher resolution than I’m showing here.)

Interesting how people like to collect things that are all the same, only different. Bottle caps are classic example.

Our tendency to collect things and our desire for completeness, has long been something that savvy companies knowingly exploit. Even if they don’t specifically say, “Collect all 12!” there’s still an impulse to do so. When you see an array of products, all in the same packaging—but in various colors and flavors—doesn’t a part of you want the whole set? It’s like, “How on earth do I make an informed choice without trying them all?”

I remember as a kid, being encouraged to collect 6 Royal Crown Cola
bottle caps in order to gain free admission to a matinee movie in
Sarasota. But I was never well-organized or motivated enough to amass more than 6.

What movie did I use my bottle caps to see? Attack of the Puppet People.

(more bottle caps after the jump)

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Flower Bombs and Beverage Grenades

FlowerbombbombaThese bottles, both based on hand grenades, have been around for a while. Seems to me, with packaging like this, that the concept is largely metaphorical — as if to say, these products are “bursting” with explosions of goodness. (floral fragrance, fruit flavor, etc.)

Interestingly, the word “grenade,” itself, has a fruity etymology. Based on the French word “Pomme-grenade” for pomegranate, this type of hand grenade was also called a “pineapple grenade” during World War II.

I doubt that these two companies truly want to be associated with war and weaponry. Culturally, we like to watch things blow up and we have a fetish for dangerous objects like hand grenades. Simultaneously militaristic and radical-chic. Not sure if consumers are more inclined or less inclined to accept this during wartime. The human toll of explosive devices (improvised and otherwise) might strain our patience for this particular analogy.

(More photos & more about hand grenade packaging after the jump)

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Burn Energy Drink

TurkeyburnBurn Energy Drink from Coca Cola has been around for a while, but is not generally available in the U.S. This is the version that’s sold in Turkey. I was surprised by the playful type treatment for the ingredients on the back. (Here in The States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not permit this sort of incendiary type treatment for ingredients!)

Just learned that the design is by Ergo ID. (Thanks Rob!)

(See two other novel burn packs after the jump…)

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Packaging as Imprisonment

SpiderjarWhen I was in 5th grade my mom encouraged me in a small study of spiders. We had discovered a mother spider and her egg sac somewhere in or around our house. We made a jar like the one shown above with air holes hammered into the lid. Mother spider and egg sac were captured and placed in the jar.

Everyday I would check the jar to see whether the blessed event had yet occurred. I don’t remember what was done about food and water. Perhaps my mom was handling that.

One day I picked up the jar to see if the eggs had finally hatched and it took me a few moments to comprehend that the babies had indeed hatched out. They were much more numerous and much smaller than I ever expected. So small, in fact, that they had no trouble fitting through the air holes in the top of the jar and were at that moment crawling all over my hand!  Realizing this, I screamed and dropped the jar. Habitat, smashed to pieces on the kitchen floor.

(After the jump: tiny spiders)

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Product Placement at Gitmo

DetaineepackagingBloggers Unite for Human Rights is today.

On display for press consumption, the products in these images of detainee goodie bags and edible largess were intended to show the world how well  America feeds its enemy combatants (held indefinitely without charges).

Much has been made of the idea that detainees have gained weight at Guantanamo, as if to say, “They’ve got it so good there, they’re getting fat!

Most of the world, however, knows that to be incarcerated without charges, for who-knows-how-long, is a violation of human rights. (To say nothing of the supposedly non-torturous waterboarding.)

I’m interested in the retail brands that show up in these pictures. Not saying it’s bad to feed people. Yoplait and My Own Meals—(and the other brands pictured above)—have nothing to be ashamed of on that score.

Still, not exactly the kind of product placement a company would hope for, I don’t think.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Rauschenberg 1925–2008

CerfewOn left: Curfew, 1958 combine painting; on right: detail

I scanned this reproduction of Curfew from the 1965 coffee table book by Andrew Forge. Rauschenberg was a favorite artist of mine when I was in high school and I’ve had this book for ages.

Yesterday he died and every obit I’ve read is using the same quote…

I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly, because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.

Robert Rauschenberg

And now—(apropos of life, aesthetics and brand packaging)—I’m joining the pack and using the same quote.

One thing I’m noticing, though… in every instance where this quote appears, it’s always attributed as “he
once said,” but nobody seems to know when he said it or to whom.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design


In her post (on The Dieline) about Celestial Seasoning’s rebranding, Yael Miller recently raised a good point about how changes in a product’s packaging can sometimes toy with a loyal consumer’s emotions. Pathetic perhaps, that we humans actually have emotional energy to expend on such things, but true none-the-less.

As a regular consumer of health-food-style peanut butter, the Cream-Nut Peanut Butter label speaks to me on that kind of emotional level. The weird thing is, I’ve only just recently learned about this product, so it’s not like I’m accessing a deep well of childhood memories or anything. But the jar in this photo is my second, so I am now a “repeat customer”.

Judging from the history section of Cream Nut’s web site, their label’s design has changed very little over the years. A hodgepodge of type treatments… the word “Natural” in Brush-Script… metallic gold outlines…. Maybe I should be disdainful, but I find the design strangely comforting. And I really like the colors.

This just in: Cream-Nut’s tin packaging shows that their graphic design has changed at least once between 1910 and now. (See photo after the jump)

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Close Packing


Packaging-wise, we live in a rectangular world: big box stores with products stacked on square pallets… retail space, measured in square and cubic units… rectangular boxes on shelves, stacked efficiently in rows with no wasted space.

But rectangular boxes are not the only shapes that can stack efficiently. There are lots of other interesting shapes that can do this.

Toblerone’s triangular prisms, will fit together snugly in a packing carton. As will the hexagonal prisms of Droste. (2nd time I’m mentioning Droste—see my earlier post about the Droste effect). Add a rectangular toothpaste-tube-box to these two examples and you have the three regular prisms that fit together like three dimensional tiles.


But this is just the tip of the polyhedral iceberg. The real story of close packing starts with spheres.

Maximum interior volume + minimum surface area = the sphere. If that were our only calculation then all packaging should be spherical. Put your “sphere packs” together, however, and right away there are inefficient gaps!

In the produce department: rectangular arrangement = big gaps; triangular/hexagonal arrangement = small gaps.

(more pictures & more to read after the jump)

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Polyhedral Models

Various collections of polyhedral models culled from online sources

I used to have a shelf filled with polychrome, polyhedral models, similar to the collections pictured above. My interest in making multi-color polyhedra was connected to minimal art and the idea of reducing color and form to logical fundamentals. To other artists with minimalist sympathies, however, my growing collection of models did not appear minimal at all. Minimalism was cool and understated. (The art gallery as a white box.) My polyhedral models, on the other hand, were kind of nerdy and sci-fi. They looked horrifyingly complex—the opposite of minimal! I knew how they felt, but I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated by the the surprising symmetry of these forms. Still, I had to admit: they did look sort of alien

Recently I’ve been thinking about those models and how they relate to
packaging and paperboard box construction. To the extent that products strive for packaging that “cuts through the clutter” and stands out from others in their category—looking a little alien might be a very good way of doing that.

(more after the jump)

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