Bud Light Speaker Box


Lower photo from DrunkenTailgate.com

Part of Bud Light’s new “Tailgate Approved” campaign: a 24-Bottle Case “Speaker Box” with a built-in, disposable speaker. Not their first excursion into audio gear, but a milestone, perhaps, in “convenient” disposability. And a strange counter-insurgency for Budweiser to be promoting a disposable sound system at a time when DIY recyclers are making home-brewed speakers out of tin cans and the like. (See: Tin Can Amp)

Some have compared the audio quality of the single speaker to that of a novelty greeting card, but maybe it’s a monophonic teaching moment for tailgate party-goers to fully appreciate those vintage, pre-stereo mixes.

(Some earlier Budweiser audio gear, after the fold…)

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Liquid Lustre-Creme

LustreCreme On left: photo from Mankatt’s Flickr Photostream; on right: a detail of a magazine ad from Melanie’s Flickr Photostream

Liquid Lustre-Creme: the amber shampoo with the star-shaped label. Their ads featured a coterie of female film stars of the 1950s & 60s.

While five-pointed stars are not used as often on packaging as the more the rounded ‘sunburst’ shape, a star-shape of this type has its own set of associations to impart. Hollywood “stars” in this case, but it can also imply a western theme (sheriff’s badge) or even Communism.

(Another Liquid Lustre-Creme commercial, after the fold…)

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From Mankatt’s Flickr Photostream: a Roche Advertisement from the January 26, 1976 issue of Advertising Age (or maybe it was from Food Product Development Magazine). Either way, it illustrates another reason why an existing package might acquire an added graphic burst.

Roche, with the tagline, “The food improvers,” sought to promote their vitamin additives by suggesting that a product with flagging sales would benefit from a graphic burst with a product claim such as, “Now Fortified with 8 Essential Vitamins.”

I believe that “Groppers” is a fictional product because it seems doubtful that any of Roche’s clients would have wanted to be portrayed as the poster boy for declining sales.

The “how to claim a heath benefit” aspect of this ad also seems pertinent to the recent dialing down of the Smart Choice Program, now under scrutiny from the FDA. (The Smart Choice Program had provided manufacturers with voluntary nutritional guidelines, under which the children’s cereals with the highest sugar content, for example, were somehow able to claim a health benefit.)

(A close up of the Groppers boxes, after the fold…)

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History of the Graphic Burst

1905 sheet music; 1940 Halo Shampoo ad; 1927 Oxydol Detergent box

A “history of the graphic burst”—that’s what this post would be if I really knew anything about the subject. I had imagined that the burst, so ubiquitous on packages during the 1950s and 1960s, might have started much earlier—perhaps at the dawn of the in-your-face packaging of patent medicines. I could find no evidence, however, to support this idea.

So lacking any real authoritative information… I will here define the “graphic burst” as any jagged, radial shape containing a typographic message—(sometimes with an exclamation point)—or a picture. Burst messages are usually short… (as in: “FREE” or “On Sale!”)

Sometimes the burst is part of a product logo and an integral part of a package’s design. More often, it is a “violator” in the sense that it’s a sort of graphic intrusion, temporarily violating the integrity of the more ‘permanent’ package design. But where did this device come from? Who used it first?

I would hazard a guess that the graphic burst may have evolved from a number of different sources, because it seems to be associated with different symbolic meanings. (Here are four that occur to me.)

1. Ballistic Bursts  As in fireworks and “bombs bursting in air.” The idea being, to convey some dynamic sense of excitement and urgency. A lot of popcorn packaging seems to feature bursts of this type.

2. Bursts of Light Sometimes used for light-related products (light bulbs and the like) but also used to lend a dynamic excitement to the proceedings. Behind a product or a person’s head, this kind of burst can imply a sort of heavenly aura. I think the Statue of Liberty relates to this idea. While one might assert that the radial spikes behind her head are a hat or a crown, I think the effect is a classic “burst of light.”

3. Seals of Approval (Think: Good Housekeeping.) This type of burst must have regular, not-too-jagged spikes, and was probably intended to resemble the sort of gold stickers one sees (or used to see?) attached to official documents.

TornPaperBurst 4. Illustrative Bursts Sometimes a burst, while still a graphic device, is also an illustration. It may be an illustration of something from nature, (like a sunburst or a star burst) or anything that lends itself to a spiky, radial motif. (Sometimes even daisy petals can be given a flower-power, burst-like aspect.) The “ballistic burst” can also be more on the more literal, illustrative side—and less in the symbolic, comic-strip style. I recently saw this guitar package (see inset on right) with bursts that were trompe l’oil illustrations of torn paper. These “bursts” are like faux die cut windows bursting holes right through the package. (Similar to the splat-shaped bursts of some recent Starburst packaging.)

These days the burst is mostly looked down upon. Crass and vying for attention. Sometimes used with a hip irony, but inappropriate for tasteful, upscale merchandise. As such, some say it’s overdue for a big, recessionary comeback.

(Lots more ways to burst your inflationary bubble, after the fold…)

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Can Cars: 2 types

On left: this photo of Stephen Hooper’s “Canvertible” car is from Sweet n' Sour’s Flickr Photostream
; On right: Sandy Sanderson’s “Buggy

Following the threads of vehicular packaging (and other beverage can vehicles)... Here are two types of aluminum can car:

1. The Canvertible by NJ-based art car guy, Stephen Hooper (AKA: Hoop). His Canvertible is a Fiat 850 decorated with aluminum cans, and although he has a penchant for gold and silver spray paint, some of the original beverage branding does show through in spots.

Mr. Hooper, who goes by the name Hoop, is an artist who uses cars as canvas, making what he considers a public art form. He refuses to give his age, but when a garbage collector who stopped to gawk at his works guessed 45, he allowed that it was not a bad estimate. He has created dozens of car-based artworks over the last 15 years, sometimes putting the same vehicle through several incarnations.

The consistent threads in his works are imagination, recyclable materials and contact cement. Beyond that, every creation is one of a kind, and usually relates to more traditional artwork he is doing at the time...

…Although he used to work in studios in Manhattan, on 14th Street and Prince Street, Mr. Hooper returned a few years ago to the Clifton house he grew up in when his mother had a stroke and needed care.

His vehicles, unusual in any setting, seem all the more surprising on his prototypical suburban New Jersey street.

Artist Takes the Ordinary For an Extraordinary Spin
By Roberta Zeff
The New York Times, Sunday, October 22, 2000

2. Buggy is a model of a beach buggy made by New Zealand-based Sandy Sanderson from 30 Waikato Beer cans. For Sanderson, the beverage branding is a key feature of his “can cars.”

When I was 40 years old I started to play the electric bass and joined a local band for more than 12 years. This led me to change from model aeroplanes to designing and building electric stringed instruments. It had been my intention to retire from teaching and carry on full time as a luthier.

Unfortunately, I had an accident on the bike that shattered my left wrist. This required reconstructive surgery, 4 plates, 8 screws, and a bone graft off the hip, to fix it. The great news is that I can still ride the bike and do stuff like that. The not so great news is that I have lost the sensitivity, fine control, and strength that was there previously. No more working with woodworking power tools! No more sensitive bass riffs!

While I was off work recovering from the accident I picked up the drawing instruments and started taking a serious look at the Coruba and Cola cans that I had held back from the recycler. I have seen pictures of some very fine model aircraft made from drinks cans but they had the plain aluminum from the inside of the cans on the outside of the model. This defeats the purpose of using the drinks can as far as I am concerned. You want everyone who looks to be able to see instantly what your basic resource was. Celebrate the fact, don't hide it!

from Sanderson’s Can Car website

(Photos of each artist and more of their work, after the fold…)

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Art & Politics of Prescription Pill Bottles

Dawnwheelbarrows Got an email from MoveOn.org that included this tiny photo of wheelbarrows full of prescription pill bottles. It’s a good example of how packaging can be used as a political symbol. Really, I guess it’s a symbol of health care (or consumption of health care), but in the sense that health care has become a politicized issue, I figure these prescription pill bottles are also a political symbol. There are supposed to be 20,000 of them and each one contains a written message (a message in a bottle) in support of Dawn Smith who has been denied coverage by CIGNA for treatment of her brain tumor. I was surprised not to be able to find other, larger photos of this image. Quantity is powerful and, had it been up to me, I might have wanted to make more of this image. (The video posted yesterday now seems to be doing this.)

On the other hand, maybe 20,000 pill bottles is not really “on point” for their message since Dawn is being denied medical treatment. Mass quantities of pill bottles might tend to suggest the opposite. So many pill bottles implies a prolonged, ongoing treatment of a chronic illness or condition. The pills that you must take for the rest of your life—in order to go on living. And wheelbarrows full of prescription pill bottles, perhaps, speak more to drug company profits—(rather than to insurance company profits).

Another thing that inevitably comes to mind (when you see huge amounts empty packaging) is consumer waste. I’ve written before about my own negative feelings as a consumer of diabetic supplies. Every time I use up another small canister of test strips (or other diabetic supply that I will presumably be using every day for the foreseeable future)—I feel a certain remorse about the packaging waste. Considering Dawn Smith’s situation, I know that I should count myself lucky that my health insurance continues to pay for my medicine and supplies. And yet glimpsing the cost that my insurance company actually shells out for all these supplies, never fails to give me anxiety about how much longer it might continue to do so. It doesn’t strike me as sustainable.

On left: “Corporate DNA” a helix shaped sculpture by Ron Jones; on right: Rocky Stroup’s “Borrowed Time (13 Years of Pill Poppin’)”

Jean Shin’s “Chemical Balance”

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Buckyballs Packaging: Before & After


Maybe you’ve seen the YouTube videos of someone’s expert hands, artfully wrangling these magnetic ball bearings into different polyhedral arrangements. A fun crystal-structure teaching opportunity (and cool that it references Buckminster Fuller and fullerenes, AKA: buckyballs)

Zoomdoggle recently switched their packaging from a glass jar to a PVC box. (I met owner, Craig Zucker last August at Gift Fair and learned that the design of the new pack was handled in-house.)

(A Buckyballs display, after the fold…)

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Soup & Cigarettes: Separated at Birth?


Jeff Goran’s “A Lighter or a Spoon” conflates Campbell’s Soup with Marlboro Cigarettes

Jeff Goran’s packaging mash-up has already appeared in blogs aplenty… but I like it too!

Marlborough-KingMountain I like how, in swapping the trade dress of these two products from two non-competing categories, he creates a momentary confusion. Although not the same sort of “confusion in the mind of the consumer” that motivated Philip Morris when they took King Mountain Cigarette Company to court earlier this year:

Philip Morris claims that the appearance of King Mountain’s packaging is a close copy or imitation of its Marlboro packaging such that consumers are both actually and likely to be confused, that Philip Morris’s Marlboro trademark is infringed and diluted, and alleges that its reputation is tarnished. King Mountain, on the other hand, argues that its packaging depicts Mt. Adams—known as “Pahto” in the Yakama Nation—a mountain of spiritual and cultural significance to the Yakama Tribe and that any resemblance to Philip Morris’s packaging is inadvertent and incidental. King Mountain applied to register its package design but the USPTO refused registration, citing two of Philip Morris’s registrations.


via Seattle Trademark Lawyer

Regarding Campbell’s and Marlboro, there’s little likelihood of any confusion (under ordinary circumstances) because they are sold in different, non-competing product categories. But they are similar…

Perhaps the most successful package redesign of all time was that done for Marlboro cigarettes in 1955 by the designer Frank Gianninoto. The Marlboro cigarette had existed previously in a white pack covered with weak graphic elements and a lot of copy. It was associated with women, at a time when buyers of filter cigarettes were most likely to be women. But filters were beginning to catch on with men too, and the redesign was prompted by the desire of Philip Morris, the tobacco company, to have a filter cigarette that would appeal to all. Gianninoto’s simplification was, in fact, very like the Campbell’s soup can— red on top, white on the bottom, with a coat of arms that like Campbell’s gold medal, tends to disappear. The white meets the red as an arrow pointing upward, a very simple graphic device visible on even the snowiest television set.

Marlboro Country Was Once No Man’s Land
By Thomas Hine, NY Times, Sunday, April 16, 1995

Interestingly, it was Gianninoto’s firm, Gianninoto Associates, that in 1999 altered the iconic Campbell’s packaging that Marlboro’s packaging most resembled. (See: After 102 Years, Campbell Alters Soup Labels)


Another thing that I like about Goran’s picture is how the two packaging shapes (can and box) work together like fraternal twins. (Sort of like this can-shaped product packaged in a box.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Soup Can Columns

WarholPillarsSoup can columns on the exterior of the Warhol Exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy marking the 20th anniversary of Warhol's death (Photo by Tom Rolfe, 2007, Edinburgh, Scotland).

Credited with the idea of converting their columns into stacks of giant Campbell’s Soup cans, the National Gallery of Scotland’s “in-house marketing team” was awarded a Media Guardian Innovation Award last April.

(Another package related Warhol photo by Rolfe, after the fold…)

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Corn Baskets

Top photo: Clara Keezer’s Corn Basket from The Abbe Museum; middle photo from the National Museum of the American Indian: Theresa Secord (Penobscot, b. 1958), Ear of corn basket, 2003. Natural and dyed wicker-plaited black ash splints with wart-weave overlay, diameter 10 cm., length 42 cm. (Photo by Ernest Amoroso); bottom photo: a corn basket for sale on eBay

As with the acorn baskets, these “corn basket” are of the woven, corn-shaped type. (But there are also baskets that are called “corn baskets” because they’re used to hold corn.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design