Packaged Water Towers

PackwatertowrsThe Brooks Catsup bottle water tower in Collinsville, Il.; The Campbells Soup can water tower in Shepparton, Victoria (Australia) from Chris Gregory’s Flickr Photostream; The Old Forester Bourbon bottle water tower in Louisville, KY from Agility Nut’s Flickr Photostream; The Dale Bros. Coffee can water tower in Fresno, CA from Matt (mistergoleta)’s Flickr Photostream; The Hoffman/Pabst bottle water tower (now demolished) in Newark, NJ via Roadside America web site; The Guaranteed Pure Milk Co. milk bottle water tower in Montreal from the Quebec Dairies web site.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

PuntbottlesI saw this Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur bottle (on left) in the NY Times recently and was intrigued by the clever way in which the designer turned the bottle’s “punt” into a credible (but inaccessible) juice squeezer. It appears to be the work of London-based Stranger & Stranger.

The original purpose of “punts” (those concave depressions usually found on the underside of wine bottles) is endlessly debated, but unless one is an aficionado of vintage wines—one might tend to feel that the only intention is to make the bottle look bigger than its actual capacity.

Turning this negative space into an interesting feature, certainly helps to dispel any such lingering suspicions. How many other bottles are out there that make the “punt” into something else?

I remember recently on the Dieline seeing the Lanjaron Water bottle with an iceberg-shaped punt. And I found one other example: this Absolut Mandarin bottle (on the right) from around 1999.

There must be plenty of other bottles out there that make interesting use of this negative space. What am I missing?

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Packaging Costumes

Promo-packaging-costumes_2Dancing Old Gold Cigarettes[1] from early print ad; Pringles promo costume by Facemakers, Inc.; Miracle Whip costume by Total Fabrication

Package as costume. Anthropomorphic packaging shows us how we identify with the products we purchase. (Why wouldn’t we? They’re so like us, it’s uncanny.) But some go further…

Consider these “packaging impersonators” who actually dress up like product packages. Now I grant you, for many it’s just a job. Say, you’ve just graduated college and the economy’s not so hot. Maybe your Doctorate in English Literature—(or your Masters in Art History or your Bachelors degree in Package Design)—are not the keys to the kingdom that you once imagined. So you make a lateral move and accept a freelance gig doing “promotional product walk-arounds”. You appear in costume at grocery stores, trade events, television commercials—whatever the market requires. Does that make you a packaging impersonator? Hey, if the shoe box fits…

Anyway, it seems fitting this Halloween to acknowledge this overlooked subculture of cross-dressing consumers. Total Fabrication, the company that made the Miracle Whip costume above, also made the costumes that appeared in the funny RC Cola commercials directed by Christopher Guest.


Director, Christopher Guest giving his actors their motivational cues

All of the ads in the series feature the travails of the “walk-around” promo RC bottle, but the commercial below seems particularly relevant to our subject at hand…

Of course, it’s not just professional performers who are dressing in “trade dress” drag. Many consumers are indulging in amateur packaging impersonation this Halloween. Dressing up as their most beloved retail products, perhaps hoping to get some of that good consumer love and loyalty beyond reason for themselves.

(“Joe Six-Pack” and dancing cigarette packs, after the jump…)

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Existential Marginalia

(See the wide screen version here.)

My older son (Robert Ludacer*) recently graduated from SCAD with a BFA in animation. I'd been after him for a long time to make a “€œmusic video”€ of one of my songs, and he finally did!

Marginal Existence tells the story of his parents’ threadbare, but happy times in the early 1980s on the lower east side—€”Allen Street, to be precise. I love how he’s envisioned the place, based entirely on his recollections of our descriptions. Stories & anecdotes that we’€™ve probably told him too many times are cataloged here into a sort of storybook mythology…

  • the time I had the dog off the leash and—€”alarmed by the noise of the gate coming down—€”he bit the owner of the liquor store as he has closing up. (Thank you for not suing!)
  • Debby making her casts of pig heads (purchased at the butcher on Stanton Street)
  • her coming out of our front door and spooking Keith Haring, doing graffiti on the other side of the door (Note the eyeglasses.)
  • the burglar (who we actually interrupted trying to break into the liquor store and who left behind a hammer that we still use today)

What has any of this to do with packaging? Well, you can be pretty sure there was packaging in our kitchen and in our fridge. (Jolly Time pop corn and Brown Cow yogurt, come to mind.) And check out those bottles downstairs in the liquor store…

And about those fireworks at the end: I remember after one particularly incendiary holiday (4th of July or something) taking our very nervous dog on a walk with the street completely awash in red paper from exploded Black Cat firecrackers.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

*Check out his most recent animation here.


Life Savers at War


Anthropomorphic packaging on the march. (from a wartime Life Savers ad) During World War II it was de rigueur for companies to tout their contributions the “war effort” in their advertising. This candy-as-cannon-fodder ad was pretty typical of the time. 

Now a subsidiary of Kraft Foods, Life Savers got its start when chocolate manufacturer Clarence Crane in 1912 invented them as a "summer candy" alternative that could withstand the summer heat without melting. Noting their resemblance to miniature life preservers, he named them Life Savers. (The ring-shaped life preservers were a new safety device instituted after the sinking of the Titanic.) He registered the trademark, but wound up selling the rights to his peppermint candy to Edward John Noble for $2,900.


The Life Savers sign that now graces Gouveneur, NY’s village green, was originally one of the five giant Life Savers packs that decorated the company’s former headquarters in Port Chester, NY.

Edward John Noble (1882–1958) was born in Gouverneur, NY and educated in the public schools. He attended Syracuse University and graduated from Yale in 1905. He founded the Life Savers Candy Company in 1913.He was the first chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. He also served as Undersecretary of Commerce under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1939–1940. in 1943, following the FCC’s decree that RCA divest itself of one of its two radio networks, he founded the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) when he purchased the NBC Blue Network.

from the Gouveneur, NY Chamber of Commerce Web Site

(See the entire wartime Life Savers ad, after the jump…)

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Richmond Road Show

NewgustavmayerGustav Mayer House ©2008 Debby Davis

Photo above is by Beach Packaging Design partner, Debby Davis, from her new show, “This is What Time Does: A Year of Walking Richmond Road,” which just opened today at the Wagner College Art Gallery.

The show chronicles changes on Richmond Road—teardowns and new construction over the past year, and over the past century. One of 32 artworks included in the show, this one features the historic home of confectioner/inventor, Gustav A. Mayer.

While his home was on Richmond Road, in the neighborhood of New Dorp, Gustav Mayer’s business was located in Stapleton—the neighborhood on Staten Island where we live. Nowadays, there is not a lot manufacturing going on here, but in the 1800s Stapleton was quite the industrial hub.

…by 1880 there were eight breweries on Staten Island. Also, German immigrant Gustav A. Mayer moved his confectionery establishment from Manhattan to Stapleton. His creations were served in the finest restaurants, including Delmonico’s and Sherry’s. Mayer introduced the sugar wafer, later popularized by Nabisco.

Jeffrey A. Kroessler
New York Year by Year: A Chronology of the Great Metropolis
Published by NYU Press, 2002

Not only the inventor of the “Sugar Wafer,” Gustav—(see top photo: the one on the left with the beard)— also obtained patents for a number of other products and machinery.

(His typographic confectionery machine & candy cigarette labels, after the jump)

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Maverick Branding?

MavericklogosSome “Maverick” brands, including automobiles, boats, bikes, wine, e-books, Madonna’s record label, Monsanto’s herbicide, and cigarettes

In an earlier post about the packaging of Sarah Palin, alluding to the Republican campaign’s efforts to redefine themselves as the “maverick brand,” I had not fully realized the irony of using the words “maverick” and “brand” in the same phrase. Both words have, over the years, acquired new meanings.

Maverick started out as the name of real person, Samuel Augustus Maverick—

…a Texas lawyer, politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His name is the source of the term “maverick”, first cited in 1867, which means independent minded. Maverick was considered independent minded by his fellow ranchers because he refused to brand his cattle.


The term, branding, as we in the package design business use it—brand identity, retail brands, brand packaging—comes directly from the practice of American ranchers branding their cattle to distinguish theirs from the herds of neighboring ranchers.

The unbranded cattle of Samuel Augustus Maverick came to be known as “Mavericks” and the word has gradually become a generic term applied to “anyone who could not be trusted to remain one of his group.”

As someone who preferred his cattle, non-branded, Samuel Augustus Maverick might almost be compared to Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo(an influential book in the anti-branding movement—see: Branding in Your home)  The fact that his name has become a generic term and no longer refers specifically to him, is sort of reminiscent of what happened to the Band-Aid brand.

(More about mavericks and branding, after the jump…)

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Packaging Cityscapes

Rayart154Another Ray Patin artwork from Dan Goodsell’s site. This one, a storyboard for a proposed RC Cola ad, shows a nighttime cityscape transforming into Royal Crown Cola bottles. Don’t know whether this commercial was ever made, but its analogy comparing a city to beverage packaging cuts both ways. See Sunset over Manhattan, a 2003 artwork by Tim Noble and Sue Webster below.

NoblewebsterIn the first example the city changes into brand new bottles of soda. In the second example used and discarded packaging is transformed into a city.

But what about a city contained within a bottle? A search on Google for “city” and “bottle” turns up quite a bit about Kandor, the miniaturized, fully-populated city-in-a-bottle from Superman comics. (Protective packaging for a city and its miniaturized inhabitants.)

And with Kandor, all roads lead to Mike Kelley, the Los Angeles-based artist* who created a number of works based on Kandor’s bottled architecture. (See Kandor: Kandor-Con 2000)


(More bottled architecture, after the jump…)

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Pic’n’Save Stories

PicnsaveLeft: a Pic‘n’Save receipt from RoadSidePicture’s Flickr Photostream; right: a gold Pic‘n’save employee pin (with ruby) from eBay


a discount superstore known for its fabulously white trash appeal

I done gone pick me up one of them outfits at the Pic‘n’Save after I get off work from Denny’s.

Urban Dictionary

In the mid-sixties my family used to shop at the now defunct Pic‘n’Save in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Besides buying several seminal albums of of my youth there—(Sergeant Pepper’s, Between the Buttons, et al.)—there were two interactions with other customers that I’ve never forgotten.

1. Foodstuffs: My two younger brothers—one pushing the other down one of the food aisles in a shopping cart—were scolded by an unusually well-spoken grey-haired lady saying, “People put their foodstuffs in there!” We knew what “food” was and we knew what “stuff” was, but that was perhaps the only time in our lives we’d ever heard anyone speak the the word “foodstuffs” out loud.

2. The Dress: My mom had a yellow & orange, 1960s sun-dress—(that I believe was purchased at J.C. Penney)—with pompoms along the hem. She was wearing this dress one day when we were all grocery shopping at Pic‘n’Save, and my youngest bother got briefly lost and then, catching sight of her dress, he ran up and hugged her. Noticing that his hands, for some reason, were not reaching completely around her, he looked up. The woman looking down at him was not Mom, but a much heavier, somewhat perplexed woman, wearing the same dress.

(A possibly fake, foreign Pic‘n’Save store, after the jump..)

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