packaging as toys

So hi flip cutout 

So-Hi Marble game cutout from back of Post Cereal. Uploaded by Neato Coolville.

Nowadays toys get packaged with things (think Cracker Jack, McDonald's Happy Meals), but I really like the idea of packaging being turned into (packaged as?) a toy. It strikes me both as a retro form of upcycling and a lot more eco-friendly than manufacturing a bunch of little plastic doodads that inevitably get thrown away.

The designs for toys on packaging could be really resourceful sometimes. Most of them utilized only the small surface area of tagboard to design a whole spectrum of different types of toys and games, from simple masks to complex flying saucers.

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Teastar: Stella Octangula


This Teastar pack has appeared on a number of other pack-blogs recently. (I first saw it on Lovely Package.) I wouldn’t even bring it up again, except that I have a thing for extreme polyhedral packaging.

This shape is a stellated octahedron (also called “stella octangula”). As two intersecting tetrahedrons, it’s the simplest of the regular polyhedral compounds. It can also be thought of as 8 small tetrahedrons arranged on the surface of an octahedron. The octahedral inner portion of the package, by the way, appears to be bisected into two additional pyramid-shaped packs. Bringing the total of separate tea compartments to 10.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Colombian Milk


Packaging from my recent trip to Colombia. These are bags of milk, sold room temperature without need for refrigeration. The milk is packaged at a very high temperature, thus killing any microbiological agents. This eliminates the need for coolers in the store, refrigerated trucks to ship, and allows the milk to be kept for several weeks if unopened. Not exactly stackable or easily poured from.


I like the splash of milk with the cow shape formed from the negative space.

Daniel Wangelin
[re]noun creative

Package as Metaphor (Part 3)


Top right: Orangina bottle texture detail from Andrei Conţiu's Flickr Photostream; below that: Claire Courtade’s Minute Maid juice box project (via the dieline); below that: 3 faux fruit-skin tetra-paks by Naoto Fukasawa—strawberry, banana and kiwi (there’s a real kiwi in that photo,also); bottom 2 rows: packaging for Nutral by Argentina-based NNSS (via Packagings of the World) Note: Nutral’s powdered drink packet boxes look very similar to the earlier student project by Claire Courtade, above.

3. Package as Skin

The package is an epidermal layer of protection around the product. Fruit skins are the most obvious. Long hailed as “nature’s perfect packaging,” orange rinds, banana peels and the like, are frequently used as texture and pattern to identify natural (and artificial) fruit flavors.

But other types of metaphorical “skin” also show up in packaging.

(See more metaphorical skin, after the fold…)

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Package as Metaphor (Part 2)


Top row left: Vonnegut Dollhouse’s CD jacket by Jeff Harrison of Rethink Communications (via the dieline); on right: a Motown box set CD package; 2nd row, left: Log Cabin syrup 100th Anniversary tin (recreating their earlier log cabin shaped tin containers); on right: a house-shaped honey bottle; 3rd row, left: house-shaped milk carton design by Selim Ekmen; on right: an antique biscuit tin; bottom left: cage-themed box for a Vivisect Playset character; on right: house-shaped realtor-swag

2. Package as House

The package is a little house where the product lives. Here, as with the “package-as-clothing” metaphor, the consumer is invited to identify with the product. I’m sort of surprised there aren’t more packages built on this idea. There are lots of house-shaped antique tins containing maple syrup or cookies—or house shaped bottles for syrup or honey—but I can’t tell you how long I searched for a gable-topped Tetra Rex carton designed to look like a house. I can’t believe that some dairy somewhere—sometime—hasn’t used this cute idea, but the only examples I could find of it were Selim Ekmen’s milk carton design concepts. (Has no one ever sold milk or juice in a carton designed to look like a house?)

The Vivisect Playset, I suppose is more of a cage, than a proper house, but if that’s where the product lives, then I say: the metaphor holds. It’s rare to see packaging with barred windows. I would have included Animal Crackers, but that box is actually a circus train car with wheels. (Look for it in an upcoming package-as-vehicle post.)

(One more “package-as-house” example, after the fold…)

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Package as Metaphor (Part 1)

The title may sound like I’m trying to be Susan Sontag or something. But what I have in mind—(or in the leaky container that I call “my mind”)—is really not so highfalutin.

While the structure and graphics of packaging often invoke metaphors to convey what they contain—(honeycomb-shaped honey jars and the like)—there are a number of metaphors that are used in packaging that point more to the roles that the packaging, itself, plays. (As product container, protection, brand advertising, etc.)

As often happens here, I began looking for a few examples to illustrate a short list of fundamental packaging metaphors, but then I found way too many for just one post. This will, therefore, be the first in a series of posts, each focusing on a different packaging metaphor.

1. Package as Clothing


Rocombe ice cream packaging by Reach Design, Ltd.; middle row, left: “Absolut Masquerade” bottle; on right: Nusa Kitchen soup containers by Thirdperson; bottom left: Zipp's Fruit Infuzions bottles by Parker Williams; on right: an Eristoff Vodka “Christmas” bottle

This relates directly to the anthropomorphic package concept, but in a more subtle way. Trade dress. The idea being, that packaging a product is like getting dressed. (And conversely, that opening a package is like undressing.) That’s the basic metaphor of it. And although it’s a clear example of how people identify with products & brands, it’s not quite as literally anthropomorphic as putting arms, legs, & facial features on a package. It’s more like the products here have somehow donned clothing—(the same as we, humans, do)—while still remaining inanimate, albeit well-dressed, objects.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Octagonal Vodka 4-Pack: Russian Roulette


Art direction by Cindy Kouwenoord; winner of a 2003 Pro-Carton Award

Surprisingly ‘politically-incorrect’ branding from Dutch vodka brand, Russian Roulette. Not for referencing Soviet era hammer & sickle—(I’m totally fine with that)—but for glamorizing such a deadly game.

Indeed, the game is in integral part of the product concept since each octagonal box contains 4 small bottles, one of which will dye your tongue green. Hence: “Four shots. One Victim.” So it’s dye, not die. (But, still!)

Polyhedron-wise, I’m slightly irritated by the inconsistency of the numbers. 4 bottles in an 8-sided box that’s meant to resemble a 6-shooter. If the boxes were hexagonal, they would close-pack with no wasted space in between. Those square holes, however, look like they’d be useful for lifting a box out of the display carton with two fingers. So maybe those square spaces serve a purpose after all.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

herrell’s hot fudge dripping wax top


I spotted this unique dripping wax seal on a jar of Herrell's hot fudge at Cardullo's a few weeks ago. It's unlike anything I've seen. Alas, when I checked out their site, I found a note saying that the packaging would be discontinued! But why?!

Judy Herrell wrote in an email that there were several reasons why Herrell's will no longer be using the tops: 1) people found them difficult to open or "too pretty to open" (thus making it self-defeating), 2) Herrell's discovered that the scented wax is not recyclable and they are committed to offering a 'green' product, and 3) the wax tops were made by hand-dipping, which is labor-intensive and expensive.

I'm torn. It's such a clever and eye-catching idea. It's a communicative visual ploy that really makes one want to eat hot, rich, luscious, chocolatey, drippy fudge. When I mentioned to the
cashier that Herrell's would be discontinuing the packaging, he exclaimed,
"Oh no! But that's what was so cool about them!" Though he immediately
followed by saying, "It's really great fudge though."

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Miracle Whip Anthro-Pack


From RoadsidePicture’s Flickr Photostream: an anthropomorphic Miracle Whip jar manning the cash register. This illustration is from a 1960s grocers’ magazine ad. (The idea being, that Miracle Whip will sell well in your store.)

I like the way the illustrator has drawn the arm and face as if they were on the surface of the jar. It’s also interesting to note how, in this world, Miracle Whip has attained cognition, while the lesser, generic packages of tuna, ham and cottage cheese have, apparently, not.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Product Packaging as Propulsion


On left: Quaker Oats “Jetpack Man”; center: Glenn Jones’ T-shirt design referencing the Diet Coke/Mentos thing; on right: vintage Russian cigarette poster (via:

The new Quaker Oats “Go Human Go” campaign reminds me that it’s not the first time a product package has been used as a means of air travel. I’m sure there are other good examples of this concept, but who has time to look for them?

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Ambigram Branding


“Truce” Cognac/Vodka & Liquor label designed by Turner Duckworth; redesigned “Danup” logo & packaging by Landor; “New Man” logo designed by Raymond Loewy in 1969.

If you look at websites specializing in “ambigrams” you will find lots of devilishly ingenious typography work. Most ambigrams rely so much on old English letter forms or eccentric scripts, however, that they become sort of puzzle-like and perhaps not so well-suited for consumer product branding. The three above are exceptions.

These three ambigram/brand logos (in my grade-book) deserve high marks for legibility and typographic integrity.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

(Note: see our earlier post about ambigrams here)

Rainbow Array Packaging


Top left: Jones Soda photo from Desirable Redhead’s Flickr Photostream; on right Sanity by Australian design firm Percept; 2nd row: scented Pine Sol; 3rd row left: Naturapoteket vitamin packaging by Swedish branding and design firm BVD; on right: Jean-Louis Bissardon fruit juices labels by French design firm, Caracas; bottom row left: Uno Hair Wax jars by Shiseido in Japan; on right: Mr. Clean

No question, color is a useful way to differentiate between varieties in a product line. Sometimes it’s to help communicate the contents—(fruit flavors, vegetables etc.) Other times it’s more about how great the products will look all together on the shelf. (a rainbow assortment of iPods, etc.)

Colors may speak to the consumer on a more emotional level, but clearly all the colors will not sell equally well. Some colors will not be reordered as frequently. Some may be discontinued. The multi-colored product line has lately become so de rigueur, that I wonder whether a spectral array of products really stands out much any more. Do multi-colored product lines sell better?

Some product line packaging, while still multi-colored, shuns the obvious choices (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) in favor of more subtle, not-so-intense pallets: pastels, tertiary colors and beyond. That may be a step in the right direction, but I applaud those that experiment with different means of differentiation—patterns or typography for example.

If it’s food your selling, I get it. The oral/visual appeal of appetizing color cannot be denied. But why the delicious-looking, candy-colored cleaning products?

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design