Old Fruit Jar Apps


MasonJarBeaterPatent Mason-jar egg-beaters.

Well-known as a DIY, food-preserving container, the mason jar was also the “universal machine” of its day. (In the same way that a computer or an “iPhone” is today’s universal machine.)

With its standardized closures, the mason jar served as the default platform for many 19th Century, third-party apps.

While we’ve already covered some of the more novel applications—(See: Mason Jar Mousetraps and Minnow Traps)—kitchen-related tools like egg-beaters are the more obvious application. (…and butter churns, mixers & coffee grinders, etc.) Inventors developed and patented lots of these
attachments—adding additional functions to the humble, “open source”

If specialized, stand-alone kitchen-appliances hadn’t led us away from this concept, we might all have more kitchen counter space today.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Medtronic Makeover

OldReservoir We’ve covered diabetic supplies packaging and Medtronic branding before. Having recently noticed that the 10-pack cartons for Paradigm insulin pump “reservoirs” have undergone a package redesign, I thought a “before & after” might be in order. Small “before” photo, on left; large “after” photo, at top of page)

First thing I noticed—and it’s a strike against the earlier package—was that it was very hard to match up the fronts with the backs, mainly because, with the old carton, it was difficult to say for certain which side was the front and which side was the back. Both cartons appear to use the same die-line, but things have been switched around. (Where the tear-off strip used to be at the bottom, it is now at the top.)

The new carton uses blue rather than purple as a second ink color. They went with a photo of the reservoir/syringe rather than the previous diagrammatic illustration. All the technical info, address, UPC, etc. is now confined to one side which is unambiguously the back. No more lifestyle photo, which I’m fine with. (I had earlier questioned the purpose of ‘lifestyle’ photography on their device packaging since it’s not as if insulin pumps or their supplies are point of-purchase consumer products.)

123 One mysterious element that I didn’t, at first, understand: the 1-2-3 trash can symbol.  Initially I assumed that the numbers, 1 and 2 were each contained in a symbol representing the Sof-Set blister packaging below. Sof-Set “Infusion Sets” are compatible with (and connect to) the reservoir syringes contained in the new carton, so it’s reasonable to imagine that there might be some reference to them on this package, but what could it mean? Throw away your empty infusion-set packs? In my 2008 post about diabetic supplies packaging I had lamented the amount of diabetic trash I was compelled to produce. But why two infusion-set packs? These things are used one-at-a-time, so throwing away two of them together makes no sense…


(Medtronic mystery, solved, after the fold…)

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The CardTalk Cardboard Record Player

TallMechanical Further clarification on the cardboard record player: the earliest patent I could find for this concept appears to have been J. Jauquet’s “Pocket Speaking Devices” (on right) filed in 1953. Another more complicated, manually-operated, foldable record-player was J.S. Weiner’s “Sound Emitting Device”—patent applied for in 1967. The more recognizable version of the concept (on left) was from the “Record Player” patent of Max Meier-Maletz, applied for in 1972.

SmallDemo Global Record Network (GRN)—the Christian Missionary organization that was most responsible for the relative success of this version—claims that development of this design began around 1964. They call it the “CardTalk” and used it, not for music, but for religious indoctrination. The CardTalk was prominently featured in a documentary film about the history of GRN.

(3 cardboard record-player patents, after the fold…)

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Soda Can Hair Rollers


On left: a still from Lady Gaga’s 2010 “Telephone” video; middle: a still from Ashanti’s 2008 “Good Good” video; on right: a still from Maluca’s 2009 “El Tigeraso” video

I didn’t have any sisters growing up, but when I was a kid, I vaguely recall hearing that teenage girls were purportedly using tin cans of various sizes—(coffee cans, grapefruit juice cans, soup cans)—as hair rollers. This off-label use for used food containers was apparently never well-documented with photos. In those days, the running cultural joke was how terrible women looked whilst beautifying themselves. (See the Heloise column at the end of this post.) I’m guessing that most teenage girls in the 1960s did not want their pictures taken while their hair was up in cans.

Three recent music videos, however, hark back to these economical, improvised hair-rollers, but with a significant cultural difference. What was once just an ad hoc technique for achieving a desired hair style—has now become a style in its own right. The idea of someone embracing the “hair-up-in-rollers” look—(a look that some would regard as collateral damage, at best)—owes quite a bit to abstract expressionism. Just as the abstract expressionist painters of the 1950s rejected the artifice of representational painting in favor of “showing the process”—(brush strokes, drips, etc.)—Lady Gaga, Ashanti, and Maluca are, in a sense, just showing the process of their respective beauty regimens.

There’s a strong undercurrent of Pop Art here, as well, given that these three performers are electing to wear branded consumer packaging as hair accessories. Lady Gaga looks a little wan in her Diet Coke rollers, which reportedly were like the ones her mother used to wear. Ashanti looks a bit prouder in her set of green (beer?) can rollers. Maluca, on the other hand, is positively fierce in her golden* soda-can headdress. She alone wears hair rollers (of various sorts) throughout the entire video. Ashanti’s and Lady Gaga’s videos both feature lots of consumer packaged goods, and both coincidentally feature Wonder Bread.

The conceptual underpinnings of some new postmodern consumer glamour? Whereas tin-can hair-rollers may have been used in the 1960’s it was generally some flowers that you were supposed to be sure to wear in your hair. 50 years later, it’s the cans.

More celebrity soda-can rollers, after the fold…

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Record Cover = Record Player


Now that hardly anyone owns a record player, record jackets today must also serve as their own record players. Hence: audio firm, GGRP’s
brilliant “cardboard record player” promotion.

Thank to Breno, who commented on the Dieline version of this post, we now know that this particular record-playing cardboard package was actually developed in the late 1960s by GRN, The Global Recording Network, a Christian missionary organization. (More about their CardTalk: here)

Using this package for GGRP’s promo was apparently the idea of Geoff Dawson, associate director
at Grey Vancouver
who handled GGRB’s re-branding. The self-sufficient packaging makes a
very low tech, yet audio-capable record player. According to Dawson,
“It’s actually shocking how good the sound quality is.”

The new promo pack also has its own 1950s-style promotional video.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Toilet Paper Tubes

Glue-toiletpaperholder-275 Tube-shaped toilet paper dispensers. A cross-category, package-related consumer product?

Maybe, as with Oldenburg‘s giant toothpaste tube, there’s some subliminal identification at work here. (toothpaste extrusion = bodily excretion?)

A product line, the manufacturer hopes to extend: from toothpaste to shampoo to cartoon licensing…

Novelty bathroom accessories like these will inevitably also contain a certain gag gift gestalt. The Coca Cola Zero tube, however, struck me as particularly odd: it’s soda, packaged in a toothpaste tube. Only it’s not really soda, it’s toilet paper! Get it?


Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Floss ’N’ Cap and Prior Art

Top: a 2004 product photo demonstrating Aquafresh’s new “Floss’N’Cap” feature (with SmithKline Beecham’s patent drawings); bottom row: photos from Cloudberrynine’s Flickr Photostream

GlaxoSmithKline’s floss-dispensing toothpaste tube cap (Floss’N’Cap™) made a big splash in 2004, taking home a number of coveted packaging awards.

SmithKline Beecham is the assignee on a number of patents around this time, but it would be a mistake to imagine that the idea of putting floss into a toothpaste tube cap started there.

The earliest patent that I could find (below) was J.K. Frazer’s “Toilet Article” (Patent filed in 1921 and granted in 1924.) Another very credible effort was A.D. Siewert’s “Ligature Dispensing Cap.” (Patent filed in patented 1925 and granted in 1927.) There are quite a few others.

I happen to see that there have been some “allegations of patent infringement asserted against its Floss-n-Cap™” but GlaxoSmithKline appears to have prevailed in court.


(More great floss-cap patents, after the fold…)

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Giant Toothpaste Tubes, Art & Dental Hygiene


OldenburgwToothpaste One of Claes Oldenburg’s “Giant Toothpaste Tube” sculptures. This one from 1964 is at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Much has been made of the sexual symbolism and anthropomorphic qualities of these artworks. Oldenburg, himself, commented on how “some people” took it as a metaphor for his own spent creativity—(as in: all used up)… “The first tube, made in Venice, California, in 1963 seemed to some people an unconscious self-portrait…”


In the context of contemporary art, the more obvious connection to draw from a giant toothpaste tube is to paint tubes. There are a surprising number of artworks drawing this parallel between dental hygiene and artistic expression. Between toothpaste tube and paint tube… Between toothbrush and paint brush… Between toothpaste and paint. Yesterday we touched on the patent history of toothpaste and paint tubes. Today: some art history.

In 1959, Jasper Johns—(also known for his bronzes of paint brushes)— made a small bronze sculpture of a toothbrush with 4 molars in place of bristles, entitled “the Critic Smiles.”


In 1968, Richard Hamilton, did an answering work entitled “The Critic Laughs” updating the concept with dentures and an electric toothbrush.

More recently Kelly Walker has made artworks using toothpaste as paint, even mentioning the brands in titles like “schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions (Regina Hall)”. (He cites Jasper Johns as an influence in this short video interview: here)

(A couple more “giant tubes of toothpaste, after the fold…)

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