German Chocolate Grenade

German Chocolate grenade — hand-grenade

…and—(just so as not to end our war-time candy bar series on too much of a positive, uplifting note)—here’s a darker WWII chocolate bar to consider: the German chocolate grenade. A hand-grenade, disguised as a chocolate bar…

…made of steel with a thin covering of real chocolate. When the piece of chocolate at the end is broken, a strip of canvas is pulled out. After seven seconds the bomb explodes

from the UK Security Service/MI5 website

(Also, check out the earlier box vox post about hand-grenade packaging…)

(A couple more examples of WWII explosives disguised as product packaging, after the fold…)

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Candy Bomber


Left & upper right: Colonel Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber; lower right: young Berliners awaiting Onkel Wackelflügel

In addition to the 1947 Five Cent War, chocolate bars were to also play an interesting role in the 1948–1949 Berlin Airlift.

Shortly before landing at the Tempelhof airport in the American sector of Berlin, Halvorsen would drop candy attached to parachutes to children below. This action, which was dubbed Operation Little Vittles and sparked similar efforts by other crews, was the source of the popular name for the pilots: the candy bombers. Halvorsen had wanted to help raise the morale of the children during the time of uncertainty and privation.

Halvorsen [gave a few candy bars to] some children watching the planes from outside the Tempelhof base. Wanting to give more, he promised to drop more candy from his plane the next day. Because the planes would arrive every 90 seconds, the children naturally couldn’t distinguish his from the others. However, Halvorsen promised to wiggle the wings to identify himself, which led to his nickname “Onkel Wackelflügel” (“Uncle Wiggly Wings”).

His actions were soon noticed by the press and gained widespread attention. A wave of public support led to donations which enabled Halvorsen and his crew to drop 850 pounds of candy. By the end of the airlift, around 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum, and other candies over various places in Berlin. The Confectioners Association of America donated large amounts to the effort, and American school children cooperated in attaching the candies to parachutes.

wikipedia entry on Operation Little Vittles

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design


Canadian Candy Bar Revolt

In the previous post I wondered what was going on around 1948 that might have made a product package carrying a picket sign seem like a cute idea. One possible answer? In April of 1947 there was a Canadian children’s consumer uprising against a post-war, 3¢ hike in candy bar prices. (From 5¢ to 8¢)

The Five Cent War” is a documentary film about this brief consumer revolt. Above is the trompe’loel candy bar/movie poster. (Note: the hammer & sickle ¢ sign!) Below is the film’s trailer.

Canadian children’s 1947 consumer revolt: the 8¢ candy bar boycott

(More about “The Five Cent War” after the fold…)

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CCCP Energy Drink

 Last month I was taken to Net Cost Market, our Russian supermarket here on Staten Island. I was amused by this CCCP Energy Drink and so I bought it. (Similar to Leninade, mentioned in an earlier post.)

What so funny about CCCP? Well, prior to SCTV’s parody of imaginary Russian television shows, I didn’t know from CCCP. As an American born in 1955 (one year after the Army-McCarthy hearings) I only knew it as USSR.

In 1968–1969, I was in high school attending a “civics” class taught by a Mr. Governol. (I kid you not.) One day in class, Mr. Governol tried a fairly progressive teaching approach. Obtaining a record player from the AV department, he played for us, the Beatles hit B-side “Revolution.” He was particularly intent that we should listen to the lyrics, hoping, I suppose, that we wouldn’t go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao.

Another Beatles song from that period that Mr. Governol did not play for us: “Back in the USSR.” The song which, with one simple lyrical trick, manages to conflate both sides of the iron curtain… “Back in the US—back in the US—back in the USSR” (Try doing that with CCCP!)

(More communist packaging, after the fold…)

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Rocks painted to look like packaging by Moscow-based artist, Sergeech. He also takes photographs, some of which feature packaging. Wish I could learn more about him, but cannot rely on Google Russian translations to provide much insight. (Here are his blog & web site.)


(Some of Sergeech’s photos, after the jump.)

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Baby Star Shoe Box


While researching Converse packaging for my previous post, I found this clever concept package by Ronny Poon: a triangular box for baby-sized Chuck Taylor All Stars. The box is held closed by a shoelace bow. According to Poon’s web site

A fun package for toddlers’ Converse shoes. It helps improve children’s motor skills by allowing the child to lace-up the box. When 5 boxes are collected they can be placed together to form the Converse star.

Nice example of a close-packaging polyhedral package. And I like that business with the laced up box closure. Not sure whether this shoe box could really assist in early childhood development, although acquiring 5 pairs of Chuck Taylors at such a young age might help a child grow up to become this guy

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Buying In

KateBingamanAbove: some of Kate Bingaman-Burt's “Daily Purchase Drawings.” Kate was profiled by Rob Walker in a 2006 Consumed column, and (like most of us) she has purchased some of the brands discussed in Walker’s book.

Journalist, Rob Walker writes the weekly “Consumed” column for the NY Times Magazine. Equally adept at addressing both the business and cultural aspects of his subject, Walker’s well-reasoned column has emerged as an unusually clear window on the murky world of branding.

His book, “Buying In, The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are” came out this past Summer. 

MethodPicturesVarious Method product packages via Method Home site and the dieline

box vox: One of the companies you write about in your book is Method. You make the case that buying one of their cleaning products is not a strictly rational decision, since so much of their product appeal is based on how cool the packaging looks, rather than how well the product works. Because of their packaging, Method seems to have inspired one of those impromptu brand communities that you discuss elsewhere in your book. Their products are regularly celebrated in package design blogs like The Dieline and I know of at least one designer’s blog (Nathan Aaron’s “Method Lust” site) that is devoted to nothing else. Of course, package designers may have their own self-serving reasons for loving Method, but they don’t seem to be the only ones who are buying Method because of its decorator packaging. Is it possible that Method has built a business entirely on a demographic of aesthetes who want every detail of their lives to reflect their own overarching good taste?

Rob Walker: It was actually one of the founders of Method who told me that their customer feedback indicated that people who bought Method products were often surprised that they worked—that is, they were attracted to the packaging for whatever reason, but had some kind of suspicion that there would be some kind of tradeoff of function for form. I thought that was pretty interesting, that people would buy a household cleaner, of all things, on that basis. It’s not like dish liquid is a good candidate for the “conspicuous consumption” theory of consumer behavior.

So I think it’s pretty clear that design was a major part of what has built Method’s business. BUT … I’m not sure that I’d go quite so far as to say they’d built their business totally on the aesthete demo. That that demo was not crucial.

Here’s what I mean. One of the things that most interests me about Method is that they have an eco-friendly or “green” story to tell—their products are (they say) made without many of the toxic ingredients common to household cleaning products. But they chose not to make that their main selling point, their main way of differentiating themselves at the shelf level. They went with the “good design” strategy instead. They don’t hide the other, eco-ish story, they just skipped the traditional strategy of, you know, putting a tree on the bottle or whatever.

And I think this strategy worked well at a time when the broad idea of “good design” was much in the air. I think there were plenty of consumers who had been in essence conditioned by a variety of cultural forces (many of them commercial) to pay attention to the idea of “good design.” And Method offered both a kind of novelty at the shelf, and an easy way into that broad idea.

I’m generalizing wildly. But still. I think it was both a clever strategy and, on some level, an admirable one. I think it’s clever because the truth is the eco/green thing is really easy to knock off—especially in symbolic/design terms. (Just add a tree to your package and you’re … green … ish.) Many consumers don’t want to “do their homework” about such issues, so devious design/packaging strategies can work. And Method, as far as I can tell, had the right facts to back up their eco claims for anybody who did do their homework.

So I think that’s clever because really striking visual design is actually harder to knock off, if it’s done right. Copycats look like copycats, and it can actually strengthen the position of “the original.”

And I think it’s admirable in the sense that there was something going on behind the “good design.” (I am not particularly impressed by the argument that buying “good design” is its own reward, which is in effect what many observers seem to believe.) There was something ethical (for lack of a better term) about the product—but they aimed for an audience larger than the one that is overtly tuned in to such issues. And it would appear that they have attained such an audience. For now!

(more about our “secret dialog” after the jump…)

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Wacky Pack Press Sheet

WackyproofI thought I was some kind of decorating genius to have framed this $22 purchase so inexpensively, but it turns out that others have had the same brilliant idea. A press-proof sheet of uncut Wacky Packs—perfect for the budget-conscious package design firm or kitchen. 

There’s also a story behind why they are not more rare and expensive: here.

I got mine from, but they don’t seem to have any more, although they do have stuffed Wacky Packs for some reason. (For the press sheets, try

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Phone Card Packaging

Like I was just saying in the previous post, phone cards are ubiquitous in our neighborhood. When I was documenting discarded packages I was torn about whether or not I should consider a discarded phone card a package. The product itself is nothing more than a card and is contiguous with the header-card/hang-hole portion so that vendors can hang them up on hooks. Contiguous until separated. This “Chief” brand phone card (with the cowboy hat) is one I see around here a lot. Definitely not the award-winning sort of graphic design that we package designers generally aspire to.

“Prepaid phone cards — which sell long-distance minutes in advance for use on any phone — fall into one of those consumer categories in which the tastefulness of a design isn’t much of an issue. To shop for one entails confronting a barrage of blunt, screaming graphic treatments, each jostling for the viewer’s eye at the newsstand or convenience store. This echoes the unwieldy nature of the phone-card business: card selections vary significantly not just by region but also by neighborhood, and new cards are released practically every day.”

from Rob Walker’s March 18, 2007 NY Times Magazine Consumed Column: “Dial Tone

Needless to say, there are people who collect phone cards. In America their hobby is called “telegery.” In England it is known as “fusilately.” Most of these collections seem to hark back to a golden age—(1970-1990?)—of relatively attractive design.

And—(if you’re looking for it)—there are lots of phone cards that feature product packaging.

Advertising phone cards, mostly from

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design