4 Aerosol Paint Can Spin-Offs

Seymour I’ve got 4 spray-paint-can related items that I had been planning to ration out one at a time, but since they all seem to have evolved from the same set of cultural chromosomes, I’m now thinking that it would make more sense to look at them all in one fell swoop.

Just to remind ourselves that aerosol paint cans did not always signify renegade street art & graffiti, I give you a historical note about the father of the spray paint can, Edward Seymour. (pictured, above left)

In 1949, Edward Seymour added paint to existing aerosol can technology at his wife Bonnie’s suggestion. Initially designed to demonstrate his aluminum paint, the delivery system itself was instantly popular. Seymour of Sycamore, Inc. still produces aerosol spray paints to this day.

Wikipedia entry on aerosol paint cans


The thing about a spray paint container is that it’s not just a container. It’s also the tool used to apply the paint. And because of that, spray paint cans are natural candidates for being turned into fetish objects signifying graffiti. Like artists’ paint brushes(see: Jasper Johns)—spray paint cans have taken on the cachet of an entire creative pursuit. Although with spray paint cans there is also a kind of cultural vandalism being embraced. Spray paint is, after all, a packaged product that must now be purchased from a special locked cabinet because its renegade customers may transgress the rules of private & public property.

1. Jake Rankin’s Spray Paint Lamps


Jake Rankin turns used spray paint cans into desk lamps, with the spray nozzle as a switch. Obviously appealing for fans of graffiti and/or fans of upcycling. (Not really sure how often those two demographic groups might overlap.)

I think these lamps have an interesting counterintuitive aspect. Both light and spray paint are thought of and depicted in similar ways—as a sort of expanding, but dissipating ray. Yet the lamp’s light does not emerge from the same place that the spray paint does. The light comes from a bulb in the base of the can rather than the nozzle. I know there are practical reasons for this, but formally and conceptually… I’m just saying.

(via the unconsumption blog)

(3 more aerosol paint can spin-offs, after the fold…)

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Juice Box Style Liquor Cartons


Much like the milk packaging that I found in
Colombia, South America, I also noticed these small cartons of liquor to be
very different from what we typically see in the US. Like the Motts example
sitting next to it, we usually see these cartons in the form of juice boxes. I’ve
haven’t seen this carton style used for liquor before, I’ve only come across
small bottles that are miniature versions of their full size cousins. If
you’ve seen them used like this else ware, be sure to comment. (More pics after the jump)

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Kellogg’s Snack Pack Radio

Kelloggs Frosties/Ricicles Radio, 1970's from Roadside Pictures’s Flickr Photostream.

Another vintage transistor radio—this one designed to resemble a small British “Snack Pack” box of Frosties (or Frosted Flakes as we call them, here in the States) with Ricicles promoted on the back.

I like those perforated sound holes against the tiger & bowl stripes.

The lid/hinge construction is actually more reminiscent of a flip-top cigarette box which leads me to suspect that cigarette-pack transistor radios must have also been made in those days.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Campbell’s Soup Radio


Another faux canned food device like the Can Opener Can—(although it maybe has more in common with the Fender Amp Can): a Campbell’s Soup can transistor radio.

Another piece of evidence that Warhol’s appropriation of Campbell’s Soup branding—(and Pop Art’s embrace of commercial iconography, in general)—was instrumental in turning product packaging into a hip accessory that no longer needed to be confined to the pantry. (See: Branding in Your home)

Nice to see a can that comes in a box. Not so much for its redundant packaging irony, but for its cross-packaging/cross-polyhedral thing. The box strikes me as a cubic version of the can. Like if the Blockheads from Gumby used canned goods, they would be this shape, rather than cylindrical.

This cultural artifact can be yours (for $12 + $7 shipping) from FindGreatStuff.com

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Mr. and Mrs. Packaging


Today’s our 27th wedding anniversary so, for todays post, I’m featuring another happily married couple: Mr. & Mrs. Boowl Magic…

Boowl Magic (or Boowl Surprise) is a kid’s beverage that seems to touch on several BoxVox bases. Not sure if that makes this a home run or not. I’m not a fan of its charmless anime illustrations, but here’s what does interests me about the product:

1. Its German advertising campaign uses the onomatopoeic “Knick Klick Magic” to simulate the sounds and effect of opening the prize-concealing cap. (See: Pop Top Toy).

2. The prize concealing cap (with question marks) makes these bottles “surprise packages.” (See: Surprise Packages)

3. Obviously these are anthro-packs. (See: Anthropomorphic Packaging)

4. Among other suggested reuse ideas, their web site proposes using these bottles as bowling pins. (That’s right: Boowl-ing)

5. Plus, by calling these characters “Mr. and Mrs. Boowl Magic” the company is
doing that 1950s boy/girl gender version thing. Examples of this were
featured, but not yet commented on in the previous post. (Look at:
Sugar Specs & Nalley’s shoestring Potatoes)

(His and hers German TV commercials, an anthro-pack commercial and an English language version of the bottles after the fold…)

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Die Cut Windows


Top left: the open “O” in Organa’s label (designed by Copenhagen-based Rosenstand & Co.) works as a portal showing the product contained, and because of the darkening color at the edge of the window—looks as if the edges of the label were being somehow moistened by their proximity to the beverage; top right: Templin Brink’s redesign for Target store’s Archer Farms packaging uses die cut shaped windows —each one incorporating a view inside the box into an illustration of an animal on the outside. (Using the contents to make a kind of collage.); 2nd row left: London-based Big Fish’s design for Dorset Cereals used die cut grain shapes providing multiple windows into every box; to the right: BBQ sauce by the We Love Jam company uses a simple circular hole as a meaningful (if not actually necessary) peephole (via the Dieline); to the right: Azul Amuchastegui Bari’s concept for a birdseed box package that uses a bird-shaped die cut window to reveal contents and amount the remaining during use. (via Sylvain Allard’s Packaging | UQAM blog); Fire Road Wine (MM tells us this was designed by The Creative Method) uses a similar trick to the Organa label: ink color at the edges make it it seem as if this label’s appearance is the result of natural forces—in this case fire; bottom left: Israel-based Nine99Design’s die cut wine label uses a drip-shaped window through which you see actual wine (or not, if the bottle is empty); to the upper right: (via the Dieline) Sullivan Higdon & Sink’s design for Shatto Milk Company’s “Milk Soap” uses die cut windows to allude to milk bottles, signaling the product’s key ingredient; bottom, center: Migros meat package (by Külling Identity AG) uses a steer shaped die cut window to say “beef”; bottom right: Waitrose mustard labels (by Lewis Moberly) also speak about the contents of the jar with its dollop-shaped window.

Conceal or reveal?

Although some deceptive souls will use packaging to conceal the true nature of a product—a great deal of packaging shows that a lot of ingenuity and effort goes into actually revealing the product contents.

Plenty of boxes have die cut windows in various functional and abstract shapes. But I particularly like it when a label or a box reveals a portion of its content in a meaningful way. The shape of the opening, while technically a “negative space” where something has been removed is really an opportunity to say something positive about the contents of the package.

Some current examples above. Some vintage examples below.


With one exception (where noted) all of the above photos are from Dan Goodsell’s astonishingly useful online archive of vintage commercial ephemera: The Imaginary World. Top left: Rocket-shaped window for Brach’s Candy; top right: a dressmaker’s-dummy-shaped window for Trimtex Rayon Rick Rack (from Janet McCaffrey’s Primrose Design blog) 2nd & 3rd rows, left: 2 catastrophic, heat-related windows for “red hot” type candies; 4th row, left: Hopalong Cassidy uses a lariat/lasso to create a window into his licensed drinking straw package; to the right: a house-shaped Halloween-theme box for cellophane bags uses a square window-shaped window— (pretty much bringing the metaphor full circle); 5th row left & center: boy and girl Crystal Sugar Spec boxes, each appear to use a pair of die cut cellophane eyeglass-shaped windows, through which one views the candy sprinkles inside; to the right NuFizz instant soda pop package uses bottle shaped die cuts to reveal foil packets—using the package usually associated with soda in those day to signal a soda that doesn’t come in a bottle (its smaller-carbon-footprint was, perhaps, ahead of its time); bottom left: the box for Pactra’s water color set evokes Tom Sawyer, circa 1950s with its window through wooden fencing; Pearson’s 80 Spooky Stix box uses a die cut window that serves as a view both into the pirate’s treasure chest illustration as well as into the actual box—the same contents for both. (Now, empty.)

(Die cut TV and faux die cut windows, after the faux fold…)

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Packaging and Playing Cards Packs


A similar promotional giveaway to the aforementioned cigarette lighters: advertising playing cards. Plenty of tobacco-related packs here as well. Smoking and gambling… is there something about these vices that cries out for cross-marketing? As long as your playing poker maybe you’d also like some Farrow’s A1 Mustard? (top left) or some Reynolds Wrap? (bottom right) 

(all images from eBay auctions)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Soda Blasting


Similar to sand blasting, but with baking soda. (Remember “plinking” and “plasma pinch”?)

This soda blasted pop can is still full of soda!

Blasted at 50 PSI with sodium bicarbonate, the surface has been restored to it’s original pre-painted condition. There is no pitting, etching, warpage or heat distortions.

Soda blasting is a process in which an environmentally safe product of sodium bicarbonate… is used as a specially formulated blast media to clean and strip most surfaces using a high volume but low pressure blasting machine. The soda serves as a mild abrasive that will remove or etch paint.

from CobBlaster.com

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Packaging & Cigarette Lighters

ReddiWipLighter For those who think that carrying around branded personal effects is a recent cultural development, consider the promotional cigarette lighter. More popular when smoking was more popular, plenty of smokers apparently did not object to carrying a reminder of a product they liked. Or perhaps they just liked getting free stuff and accepted the advertising as part of the [free] package. This Reddi Wip lighter is from Roadside Picture’s Flickr Photostream. He says he got it on eBay for $20 and sold it for $150.

It certainly has its charms. Packaging whip cream in an aerosol can was a novel innovation at the time and people seem to love product names with cutely misspelled words. The miniature package must look pretty appealing, magnified in its little aquarium of lighter fluid.

I was going to leave it that, but then I got to wondering how many other package-related lighters were out there. (“Sigh”… see below.) The cigarette pack of course is an obvious one, but it was surprising how many products, unrelated to smoking, found their way onto cigarette lighters. Just goes to show how, at one time, it was a pretty safe bet that you could hand out promotional cigarette lighters and plenty of consumers had a use for them. (Think: Don Draper at Sterling Cooper)


All of these pictures above are from eBay. Since the auctions will soon be over anyway I’m not going to go crazy and link to them all. (If you want to own one of them—an eBay search awaits you!) The one comment that I’ll make is about the bottom row, 2nd from the left: “hair spray” seems an odd choice for a look-alike package/lighter, since hair spray is known to be so dangerously flammable.

(Some surprising new “packaging lighters“ after the fold…)

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Miraculous Reliquary Packaging


The nice blue photo of the hand-shaped Diesel Bottle (via the Dieline) reminded me of a medieval arm reliquary. Not that I can claim any credit for making this connection. Thomas Hine discussed arm reliquaries (and their connection to packaging) in his book, The Total Package:

“… the reliquary does not merely protect and give visual expression to a precious though inert object through visual expression. Rather, the relic is an active ingredient, a tool that the devout can use to literally accomplish the impossible… Like many packages, the reliquary expresses not its ingredients but its power.

Pictured in the top row, left: Arm Reliquary of the Apostles, (Germany, Lower Saxony, Hildesheim, about 1195) from the Cleveland Museum of Art. The x-ray to the right shows that this reliquary arm does indeed contain “One large fragment of an arm bone believed by the object’s creators to be the bone of a saint.”

Bottom row, left: another shot of the Diesel Bottle. (purportedly a cast of Diesel founder, Renzo Rossi’s hand); bottom right: an “on-going” artwork entitled “Reliquary” by John Salvest, begun in 1990  

…is constructed from a found glass hand and his own fingernail clippings, “began as a satirical homage to my Catholic upbringing and its odd history of venerating saint’s bones and splinters from the true cross, as well as an ironic commentary on the absurdly elevated status sometimes applied to artists in the modern era.”

He continues, “Every two weeks or so for the past eighteen years I have sat before the hand, opened its bright green lid, and dropped my freshly-clipped nails through its middle finger. Like an overturned hourglass, the hand is slowly but surely filled with physical evidence of my existence. What began as a light-hearted gesture has evolved into something else. Each deposit of bodily detritus into the jar is a bittersweet exercise. Generally speaking, we take satisfaction in the conclusion of our work, but in this case the completion date is unknown and not eagerly anticipated. “Reliquary” will only be finished when I am. With each passing year this habitual meditation on mortality has taken on added meaning as family, friends, and pets have been physically subtracted from my life.”

Arkansas State University news release, Aug. 22, 2008

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design