“Bottleformball” a lamp by Heath Nash—multicolour bottleform sections on hand-made wire structure

Another South-African designer of recycled-bottle-lights: Heath Nash. A lot of the lamps in his “Other People’s Rubbish” series use multi-colored bottles, cut up into flower shapes, but I especially like this one, where the packaging parts are still identifiable as handles and spouts, etc.


“Over time… by dealing with so many bottles for so long, I started to see them differently. I started to see parts of them as objects in their own right. Initially I had understood them as purely colour, translucency and size. I was essentially ignoring their most obvious characteristic—their shape.”

–Heath Nash

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Tylenol Children’s Elixir


Tylelnol1950-300x225 Another vehicular pack, this one from 1955—(the year I was born.)

McNeil [Laboratories] first sold acetaminophen in 1955 as a pain and fever reliever for children, calling it Tylenol Children’s Elixir. Appropriately for an antipyretic, it was sold in a package that looked like a red fire truck.

“A Festival of Analgesics” Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2001

And it also came in a package that looked like an orange school bus. (Or was that a yellow school bus?)

(See also: Medicine Cabinet Candy)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Bread Loaf Lunch Box


From Gasoline Alley Antiques: a lunch box that looks like a loaf of sliced bread. (Available on their website for $400)

Conceptually similar to Robert Brownjohn’s cigarette package design that we discussed earlier this month.

Or it would be if this were a bread package. The idea being: the outside of the package serves as a precise diagram of the contents, almost as if the package were transparent. Except that—(just as in the food photography for some unphotogenic frozen entrée)—there’s an opportunity to show a more idealized version of the contents than would be seen through an ordinary transparent package.

And because trompe l’oeil packaging is so fun, the consumer won’t mind being fooled.

(Bread Loaf Lunch Box also comes with a package-related thermos, after the fold…)

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Mixed Ideaz


Following up on the soccer-related recycling thing: Andrew Dombuleni from Mixed Ideaz Recycling is another South-African crafter who makes things from recycled packaging.

“He is a founder member of the Mixed Ideaz project in Cape Town, which specialises in recycled material, beads and wire.”

from: Provincial Government Western Cape website

I like how, in the piece above, he’s put colorless, up-side-down caps on some sizes, and colorful, right-side-up caps on other sides. 

The pieces below, I’m guessing, are made from aluminum or tin cans. (Similar to El Anatsui’s use of flattened-out bottle caps)


Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design


CookingDexterPhoto Illustration by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin for Cooking with Dexter

Just learned a new word: brandnomer. (brand name + misnomer = brandnomer)

The concept isn’t new to me. I’ve just been calling it by its generic name: “genericized trademark.”

It’s a dilemma for manufacturers. Good to have your product be so successful that its trade name is the first word that comes to mind. Bad when the court decides that your product’s name has become a colloquial term and can now be used to describe all products in your category—including your competitors!

When this bad thing happens they have a word for that, as well: genericide. In his column on Sunday, about homemade gelatin desserts, Pete Wells seemed to be bending over backwards to avoid committing genericide. (Hence: the crossed out Jello-O logos in the beautiful photo-illustration, above.)

We do keep at least one kind of powder in the cabinets: Knox brand gelatin. This permits us to make what I would call Jell-O, if Kraft Foods would let me get away with it… If I were English, I could call the wiggly desserts I make with this powder “jelly,” but in my country, jelly goes on toast. I am stuck with calling them “gelatin,” which sounds as appetizing as a Band-Aid.

Pete Wells, Cooking With Dexter: Wiggle Room
NY Times Magazine, Sunday, July 25, 2010

Which is a funny thing to say, since Band-Aid is, apparently, an appealing enough sounding name that—(like Jell-O)—it has had to shore up its defenses to avoid becoming a colloquial term. Cited on Wikipedia as an example of how to avoid genericide, Band-Aid revised their jingle to emphasize the brand specificity of their name. (Changing the lyrics from “I am stuck on Band-Aids, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me” to “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.”)

Meanwhile, I would agree with Wells, that “gelatin” sounds as appealing as an adhesive bandage.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Some Soccer-Related Recycling

Africancrafts-bottleball2 While researching the previous post about polyhedral, soccer-ball-shaped cartons, I found the inset photo on right, identified on the PingMag site as “a soccer ball made out of empty plastic bottles.”

I’d recently seen an article in the NY Times with a photo of an African boy holding a homemade soccer ball. (More photos of homemade African soccer balls: here)

But this ball (on right) was no impromptu, functional solution—(at least not to the problem of wanting to play soccer and not having a ball.) According to PingMag this ball was part of an initiative to help South African crafters find business opportunities in connection with the Wold Cup games. Hence: “Some crafters got commissioned to create big soccer balls out of a whole range of different materials, like bead, wire, paper…”

While there’s no credit identifying who made the crafted soccer ball, it does looks strikingly similar to the sputnik-style pendent light below, made by South African design studio, Magpie Design. (See also: Dodecahedron-shaped Box)


(More soccer-related recycling, after the fold…)

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Polyhedral World Cup Redux


Top, left: Nestlé Cheerios—(1998 600 gram World Cup Football Pack) by Field Packaging and Mayr Melnhof Karton; top, right:  Anita Nyotosetiadi’s 2010 Weetbix Socceroos Conceptual Packaging; middle, left: Midori soccer ball stationery; bottom photo: Coca-Cola Football 6-pack (India) Source: Worldstar Awards 2002 (from Global Package Gallery)

I know. The World Cup is over and this post might have been more topical a couple of weeks ago.

I just couldn’t let another year slip by without comparing these polyhedral packages. So I’m coming back to the subject of World Cup, ball-shaped packaging, after the fact. And since I’m American, I’ll be calling it a “soccer ball”…

For package designers wishing to construct a soccer-ball-shaped pack, the underlying geometry is the truncated icosahedron (i.e.: an icosahedron with its vertices cut off). The die-line of a true truncated icosahedron shaped pack will be pretty complicated. While a normal rectangular carton has 6 sides, this box will have 32 sides! Adding in a number of tucks and glued flaps, your looking at a difficult and expensive printing and folding project.

Photo on left: from Electric-Eye’s Flickr Photostream

Consequently, carton makers will make geometric compromises to bring costs down. The Cheerios box and the Weet-Bix concept box are simplified soccer balls. Some panels of the boxes are square, they have no pentagons, and some of the soccer ball’s hexagons are merely printed. Still, they’re fairly symmetrical and look enough like soccer balls to appeal to World Cup fans.

The small black & white “soccer ball” with the writing is a folded novelty-stationery/invitation thing. What’s striking about it, is that the geometry of the dodecahedron shape and the printed soccer ball pattern don’t match up at all—although they could have been made to. (As a result, the pattern looks a little like the Gateway cow spots.)

The only one of the packs that is geometrically a true truncated icosahedron is the 2002 Coca-Cola polyhedral six-pack. Clearly demonstrating that the soccer ball was never a good shape to efficiently contain six cylindrical soda cans.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Karen Shapiro’s Ceramic Packaging


Descriptions of San Francisco-based artist, Karen Shapiro’s work often speak in terms of “every day objects.” As in 2006 when Neatorama said: “Karen makes super-sized every day objects in raku ceramics.” I’m not exactly sure why people want to use as vague and non-specific a phrase as “every day objects.” The great preponderance of these object are packages.

Whether packages are, in fact, the type of objects you’re mostly surrounded with on any given day, kind of of depends on who you are, what your life is like and what type of day you generally have.

If you’re a package designer or stockboy, then, yes, these are every day objects.

If not, then maybe Shapiro’s choice of subject matter is not so happenstance. The heading on her website is “American Pop Icons” and the connection to Pop Art is pretty explicit. One of her sculptures is of a Campbell’s Soup can; she’s done a Brillo box, etc. In Warhol’s day, however, these packages were contemporary and charmless. Most of the sculptures on her site—based, as they are, on vintage packaging—have a nostalgic charm that Pop Art did not originally enjoy. Not that she’s necessarily sticking to only vintage packaging. I’ve also seen a few examples of her using more contemporary—(i.e.: charmless)—subjects. Like her Trader Joe’s salsa jar. (To my knowledge, no one is citing that jar’s label as an American pop packaging icon.)

We’ve talked in the past about Pop Art’s role in making packaging more acceptable in the home, and perhaps because of this, Shapiro’s sculptures have found easier acceptance as home decor.

“Collectors tend to buy two and three pieces and then put them on a

kitchen counter or vanity, places where the actual items would go.”

Chris Winfield, Winfield Gallery

The crackle glaze does give Shapiro’s sculptures a very different vibe from that of 1960’s Pop Art. It tends to legitimize their claim as valuable objects deserving permanent counter space—as opposed to disposable packages. In some cases, however, the crackle effect may be a little alarming. If the jar is cracked like the windshield of a crashed car, how wholesome can the mayonnaise be?


(More of Shapiro’s work, after the fold…)


Die-Cut, Package-Shaped Recipe Booklets

Front & back of the “White House Cereals” booklet (via eBay)

Sometimes food manufacturers put out promotional booklets of recipes.
Sometimes these booklets are shaped like packages.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s the printing industry developed a new technique for producing attractive books. First marking an outline of a product or an illustration on wooden rollers, printers then inserted thin blades on the outline, which cut out shapes on paper. The end result was a recipe booklet that caught the consumer’s attention, helped with product identification, and promoted sales.

Vintage Cookbooks and Advertising Leaflets
by Sandra A. Norman and Karrie K. Andes
(via: Months of Edible Celebrations)

(Many more examples, after the fold…)

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Presidential Packaging as Op Art


NixonCigarettes(Not optical-illusion “op art,” but opinion/editorial op-ed art.)

Yesterday’s batch of editorials in the NY Times, about President Obama’s prospects for a future term, were illustrated with satirical cleaning products.

By no means is this the first time we’ve compared our President to packaged goods. These black & white packages above (by Abbott Miller and Kristin Spilman from Pentagram) hark back to an earlier book cover for The Selling of the President 1968 (on right).

One thing I’m puzzling over—the illustrations are definitely black & white in my edition of the the paper and online, but in Richard Shear’s copy, the illustrations were apparently in full color, or so he claims.

Either Connecticut is getting a much fancier edition of the NY Times than they deliver here on Staten Island, or there is some powerful, packaging/color synesthesia at work here! (Such that: we’re so accustomed to seeing brightly colored packages that, even when they are reproduced in black & white, our minds supply the color.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Chris Von Szombathy


Chris Von Szombathy  Part of his “77 Bottles” series—glass and/or plastic containers, acrylic (2008–2009)

Fire-away Some package-related artworks by Vancouver-based, audio/visual artist, Chris Von Szombathy. Above, one of his the bottle/jar sentences lined up in rows. Like those sentence structure diagrams we had to do in Junior High School—only creative. Word-choice as consumer-choice: the bottles & jars that you keep on a shelf in your head. From which to choose your words. Carefully. (A limited vocabulary of 77 words)

“What I … work at is trying to keep my mind even to maintain a decent quality of life. But when that’s steady and I'm feeling good I like to go to toy stores and grocery stores. I really love to collect things that have the proper guidelines so I love looking for old tins. I have tons of old soda cans, boxes or various bits… Anything old.. especially if it’s orange, light blue or pale green. I really like things in those colours. Good speaking colours.”

Chris Von Szombathy (from an interview on

Below: red paint-as-ketchup and ketchup-as-blood—(as in: the blood of the tomato)—and we’re always happy to see anthropomorphic packages like the graphically-effervescent “marching” bottle, below.

It’s also important to note that the jar of peanut butter on the right, is the cover of his new book, “Fire Away.”


On left: “You'll Always Get What You Want If You Invent What Already Is”—acrylic on board (2010); on right: “Creative Condimentality”—polymer clay, wood, card, brush, etc. (2010)


Upper left: “Flav'R Full”—acrylic on card (2008); lower left: “the Shape of Things to Go”—polymer clay, styrofoam, inkjet stickers, etc. (2009); on right: “March”—digital painting (2006)

(More bottle/jar sentences, after the fold…)

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Brownjohn vs Cooper

Following yesterday’s thread about Robert Brownjohn’s conceptual-art-style stationery for Michael Cooper, Painter, Bobby Gill has suggested that Michael Cooper was so unaccomplished, that having had Brownjohn design his stationery was, perhaps, his only accomplishment.

“It was very much the style then to have a witty letterhead. Brownjohn designed one for this guy Michael Cooper, who was somebody who hung around, but he didn’t have much personality. The only thing this guy had done was to ask Brownjohn to design his stationery.”

Bobby Gill
(via: Robert Brownjohn sex and typography: 1925-1970, Life and Work)

Smells like hyperbole, right? Well, I thought so, and a little research shows that, in fact, Cooper’s life and accomplishments, when compared to Brownjohn’s, match up in a lot of ways.

1. They both designed album covers for the Rolling Stones.

Cooper photographed and art directed the cover (the first 3D album cover ever) for “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” (above, left)

Michael Cooper was in charge of the whole thing, under his leadership. It was handicrafts day… you make Saturn, and I’ll make the rings… People always ask, Are John and George in there? … They are all in there. And Paul and Ringo… we had to put a stop to it. We were getting the whole of Sergeant Pepper in there, just for the hell of it. It was getting late and Michael finally got Saturn suspended… It was really funny… we should have done a gig that night.

Keith Richards, 1971 (via: Time Is On Our Side)

(Regarding “Satanic Majesties” see also: Tony Meeuwissen)

Brownjohn designed the album cover for “Let it Bleed.” (above, right)—(Photography by Don McAllester; Cake by Delia Smith)


2. They both had smoking habits (also heroin)

They both were smokers. In yesterday’s post we showed photos of Brownjohn and Cooper, as young men. Details from those photos, above, show them each with a cigarette in hand. See also: Brownjohn’s design for a Bachelor’s brand cigarette pack. (Note: we have an ongoing interest in photos of celebrity smokers. See: George Arents Jr. and Bridget Riley’s Rolling Papers)

Robert “Bj” Brownjohn had already made a name for himself as a designer
in 1950s New York when he arrived in London in 1960. He claimed that he
came over for the city’s creative energy. His girlfriend, the
super-chic fashion designer Kiki Byrne, remembers it differently. “You
could get heroin on the National Health back then,” says Byrne. “And Bj
did have a problem.”

Via: Matt’s Morgue

Cooper has been described as “A heroin addict whose worsening condition confined him to a wheelchair.”

(More similarities, after the fold…)

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