Package as Weapon


Packaging. It can be used for good… or for evil. One particularly evil use is as a weapon in a barroom brawl.

The first time I ever saw a bottle used this way must have been in a movie or on TV. Probably a saloon fight in a cowboy movie. Movie cowboys of a certain vintage always had a penchant for breaking liquor bottles over each other’s heads. (Of course, they’re supposed to use breakaway bottles for that.) The jagged, broken-bottle-neck weapon seems a natural extension of that.

The most recent movie I’ve seen with a broken-bottle-as-weapon scene was Superbad. (Remember Seth’s paranoid fantasy about being fatally busted—with a broken bottle of Vodka—in his attempt to buy liquor from the supermarket?)

I found this bottle of Rolling Rock (intact) at the edge of a lawn in my neighborhood. (Either it rolled out of the recycling or it was left there overnight by some pedestrian drinker.) For the photos above, I tried to make my hand look as menacing as possible, but I have wee, small hands, which I am afraid may be miscast for the part. On the other hand, maybe it’s fitting. This is not the sort of weapon to be held in the hand of a leading man. More like a weapon for some scoundrel’s cowardly last stand.

Sadly, life sometimes imitates art in stupid ways. In 2005 actor, Leonardo Dicaprio was seriously injured by a woman who wielded this type of weapon in an unprovoked attack at a party.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Interactive Packaging

I love packaging that actually does something—that changes or becomes part of the experience when you use the product. There are three classic examples of packages that I think do this. All were patented in the 1950’s or 1960’s and all are still in use today… 1. Stripe Toothpaste, 2. Jiffy Pop popcorn, and 3. Pillsbury spiral-wound refrigerated dough containers. I know there are other examples I haven’t thought of, but these are three that mean something to me.

Stripe Toothpaste

Left: original Stripe Toothpaste packaging from Toothpaste World
Right: the making of a “Freshfonts” typeface from Autobahn

There is something cool and surprising about seeing a pattern emerge where you would ordinarily expect a homogenized substance. Kids will always want to know how it was done. The original brand was “Stripe” (and “Super Stripe”). Super Stripe’s print ads had the word “News!” spelled out in striped toothpaste. More recently the Utrecht-based design firm at AutoBahn created a free Truetype font based on the same concept. (Today striped toothpaste lives on via the Colgate and AquaFresh brands.

(Jiffy Pop and Pop’n’Fresh after the jump…)

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George Arents Jr.

One of the more ironic “Age of Power and Wonder” cigarette cards (published ca. 1935-1938)

To continue with a digression from my Tobacciana post of June 21,

“George Arents Jr., besides being the heir to the American Tobacco Company, was an avid book collector, my great-aunt’s boss and a race car driver, but that’s another story.”

(Here’s the story…)

Cigarette Cards
George Arents, Jr.’s great great uncle was Major Lewis Ginter, who formed the the Allen & Ginter tobacco manufacturing firm in 1875 with John Allen in Richmond, Virginia. Their company created the first cigarette trading cards inserted into cigarette packs as a protective stiffener and advertising opportunity. Predating kid’s trading cards by many years, these cards worked the same way encouraging brand loyalty (at least in order to obtain the entire set).

(more cigarette cards, race car driving, and Lou Reed after the jump…)

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Packaging and Tobacciana

ElproductoraulrandPaul Rand’s 1954 El Producto “Cigar Album” assortment box

I don’t smoke, but I don’t let that stop me from indulging in some “tobacciana” from time to time. (Reading about the history and packaging of tobacco.)  My great aunt, Sarah Augusta Dickson, was the first curator for the George Arents Collection on Tobacco at The New York Public Library. (Arents, besides being the heir to the American Tobacco Company, was an avid book collector, my great-aunt’s boss and a race car driver, but that’s another story…)

Getting back to the tobacciana at hand… I especially don’t smoke cigars, but I’ve recently spent some time taking in the early cigar packaging at the The National Cigar Museum’s website. Although their collection represents a history of product packaging for one specific industry, so much of what they have shows the overall graphic design trends of the times.

Paul Rand’s 1954 cigar box (above) is a good example. Graphic and to-the-point with a photogram of cigars and an ash tray. No borrowed interest with eye-catching, but irrelevant other subjects here!

But the Cigar Museum’s web site has a wealth of other images and information dating from the 1800’s on. Lots of vintage illustration and Victorian typography.

(there’s more, not to inhale, after the jump…)

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Shopper’s Parkour

DarzarcqAbove are three photos from Denis Darzacq’s Hyper series. (hypermarket is French for supermarket) These, like his earlier portfolios, have gotten plenty of online attention. (I learned about him via swissmiss.)

On the one hand, these photos put you in mind of some sort of shopper’s parkour, but the shutter speed is so fast, the people in the photos look more like they’re suspended in aspic than exerting themselves in any way.

Is it anti-consumerist commentary? Or more like another empathetic demonstration of how strongly we identify with the products we purchase?

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Grocery Store Circulars

It used to be a thing with pop music producers—after they had recorded and mixed a potential hit song, they would re-evaluate the recording by listening to it on a cheap car radio (or other worst-case-scenario speakers). The idea being, that if it sounded good there, it should sound good anywhere—and that, to be a hit, it really needed to sound good there.

Grocery store circulars can serve a similar purpose. If your brand’s package design is able to withstand being shrunk down to thumbnail size, printed with color plates out of registration on the cheapest possible newsprint and still look like something worth buying, then you just might have a hit on your hands.

(another grocery store circular image after the jump…)

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MundaynytimebookLast April, at the end of a post I wrote for the Dieline about ethics and package design, I digressed a bit and brought up the subject of bottled water:

I’m not into bottled water. Seemed like a crazy idea to me when it first came out—like selling air. Today it’s a huge (and unsustainable) industry…

Today’s NY Times Book Review section reviews a book that will finally explain to me how and why this came to pass. Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, by Elizabeth Royte is, therefore, going to the top of my reading list. 

The insidious underlying issue, which I never gave much thought to, is that (like oil) the bottled water juggernaut represents the privatization of a natural resource. As such, there are now special interests who stand to profit from the neglect and decline of our public water infrastructure. 

I also really admire Oliver Munday’s illustration (on the cover of the Book Review section) with those droplet-like water bottles filling the glass. (See the close up detail after the jump…)

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Art by way of the Ferry

Lots going on on Staten Island this weekend and next. Art by the Ferry stands to pretty much take over St. George—(the neighborhood on Staten Island, closest to the ferry)—with exhibitions in ad hoc gallery spaces and music performances, both indoors and out.

One particularly excellent show will include Tom Bogaert, Debby Davis (partner at BEACH), Steve Foust, and Tom Ronse. Missing this show would be like, uh… missing the boat?

My own little adjunct performance will be held at an entirely different location—(but within walking distance)—on Saturday morning (tomorrow, June 14), across from the Staten Island Farmer’s Market.

(“X” marks the spot after the jump…)

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Johns Bronze

JohnssavarincanIt might seem at first glance like another poster child from my series of abused packages—(See Plinking and Plasma Pinching)—but really it’s nothing of the kind.

This 1960 painted bronze by Jasper Johns touches upon another way in which used packages (occasionally) find a new and useful purpose. This humble Savarin coffee can got a glamorous second life as:

A. a place to clean paint brushes
B. an artist’s model
C. a work of fine art
D. all of the above

(Another Jasper Johns bronze after the jump…)

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