Packaging & the Saint Bernard Barrel


On Left: a photo by Daniel Steger showing the rescue cognac/brandy keg commonly associated with Saint Bernard dogs; on right: homemade St. Bernard gear, apparently made from a brown plastic “Barrel of Monkeys” toy container—note the logo. (Photo via:

Above: details from two vintage magazine ads, both substituting the traditional keg/barrel with more contemporary alcoholic beverage packaging. (Both ads in their entirety are shown at the end of this post)

According to Wikipedia, although bred as rescue dogs, “The monks of the St. Bernard Hospice deny that any St. Bernard has ever carried casks or small barrels around their necks.” Apparently this is just a popular myth, possibly started by a painting.

Nevertheless, the myth has been perpetuated and stoked by brandy brands like Hennssey and others…


The implied health benefit—the idea of brandy that could be used as a life-saving elixer—was not lost on other alcoholic beverage manufacturers. Hence, the tongue-in-cheek use of St. Bernards in Michelob Beer and Smirnoff Vodka advertising.

Still, packages that refer to St. Bernard dogs are nowhere near as common as references to barrels in general. I couldn’t find any St. Bernard shaped brandy bottles, for example…. although the “Booze Hound” decanter below left is cute. (Its nose is a cork.)

On left: “Booze Hound” decanter; on right: ubiquitous Avon cologne bottle—their contribution to this concept—(and nearly any other figural bottle theme you can think of)

(More St. Bernard packaging, after the fold…)

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Randy Ludacer graduated in 1977 from The Rhode Island School of Design. As a freelancer he worked for a variety of ad agencies, design studios and publishers such as Kass Uehling, Weiss-Watson, Emerson Wajdowicz Studios, and McGraw-Hill, and was formerly an Art Director for Christie's auction house. In 1990 he and Debby Davis teamed up and co-founded Beach Street Design—(now named Beach Packaging Design). Over time Beach Packaging has grown from a tiny, shoe-string operation to a slightly larger shoe-string operation. Randy has worked with manufacturing clients in a variety of product categories. (hair care, home decor & accessories, toys & novelties, gaming accessories, and small kitchen appliances)
Randy’s blog is box vox—Packaging as Content. He also writes songs and likes to pretend that he still plays in a band. His “Songs About Packaging” CD can be purchased: here.
email Randy

A store shelf is my gallery   I am a designer specializing in retail packaging for 20+ years. I love my work. I enjoy creating a need for a product through new design ideas, photography and words. Although I understand that packaging is only one factor in why a product sells, I get a lot of personal satisfaction seeing my work in a shopper’s cart.

After graduating from Hartford Art School with a BFA in photography, I worked as a designer for Gross Townsend Frank, Cline Davis, Mann and William Douglas McAdams, all pharmaceutical ad agencies. My retail packaging experience began at Macy’s Corporate Graphics Department. In 1990, together with Randy Ludacer, we founded Beach Street Design. As our packaging work grew, we decided to re-name ourselves Beach Packaging Design.

email Debby



Wooden Toy Packaging


Toy blocks of wood, painted to look like packaging.

Usually, when one thinks of wooden toys, one thinks of wooden train sets or wooden cars—the idealized “authentic” toys of an innocent childhood—devoid of plastic or commercial branding. The gravatational force of commerce is strong, however, and not even “authentic” wooden toys can resist its pull. (Not that play shopping toys are such a new thing.)

All of the toy packages here are no-name, look-alike brands… except for the Bandaids, and Bandaids—as any child knows—is a brandnomer, anyway.

I like the economy of the set above: bottle, jar, juice carton, milk jug, toothpaste tube—all painted on rectangular planks of wood. With some of the other sets below, there appears to have been a bit more woodwork.

(More wooden toy packages, after the fold…)

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The screen shot above is part of a project by Beach Packaging Design partner, Debby Davis: an online “Toxic Trail Map of Staten Island.” (There is also a printed version that is to be included as a poster in the centerfold of the Fall 2010 COAHSI newsletter.)

“With the support of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and Staten Island Creative Communities, artist Debby Davis has spent the past year mapping and documenting the areas of Staten Island which have been contaminated by industry corruption and neglect.”

Here is something that plenty of other communities could probably also use: a map of places its citizens might want to avoid.

[Site #15]  Among the places we try not to picnic here on Staten Island: a radiologically contaminated spot near the Bayonne bridge where 1,250 tons of uranium ore, earmarked for The Manhattan Project were once stored. “The site, located in a weed and junk-filled lot adjacent to the Kill Van Kull and the Bayonne Bridge is easily accessible through a rickety chain link fence.”

Bottle [Site #36]  But not everything here is so futuristic and atomic. Staten Island was also a major manufacturing center in the days of patent medicine.

The Oakland Chemical Company’s factory was located in the Staten Island town of Rossville. They manufactured hydrogen peroxide under the brand name, “Dioxogen.” Like other medicinal products of the time, Dioxogen’s advertising claimed a multitude of hyperbolic health benefits. “The only active force in Dioxogen is Oxygen—the cleansing force of the universe.”

Bottle on right was purchased on eBay. Their bottles were also packaged for a time with a paper outer wrap—(very similar to early Listerine Mouthwash packaging.)


Dioxogen packaging photos above via: Sure Cure Antiques


1916 Dioxogen ad via Modern Mechanix

(More about Site #36, after the fold…)

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Food Can Mandala


Can_installation We saw Mary Campbell’s ephemeral Food Can Mandala on Saturday: 700+ cans of food, arranged for just one afternoon in a surprisingly photogenic and jewel-like mandala. (In the Parish Hall of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island.)

A balcony provided a good birds-eye view. (I took the two photos above; Campbell’s final version with additional canned food contributions is shown on right)

Then, as promised, the Food Can Mandala was “swept away” destined for several Staten Island food banks. (Click photos for closeup views)

See Diane Matyas’s time-lapse video of its dismantling, below…

There will be another Food Can Mandala—(smaller, but of longer duration)—at Campbell’s Wagner College Gallery exhibit from 10/6/10–11/06/10.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Package as Pixel: 8-bit Soda Displays

Following the thread of yesterday’s post about packaging as part of a larger display, led me to some widely circulated photos of a supermarket display in which the video game character known as Mario, was made by stacking cases containing different brands of soda.


Chris Jordan’s 2007 “Can Seurat” eloquently demonstrated that packages can be used to create pointillistic images. Still, the idea that such large packages can be reduced to such a small supporting role—that of a single pixel of color—is sort of surprising.

The video game reference is apropos, perhaps, since it’s our familiarity with low-resolution, 8-bit graphics that have prepared us to easily interpret these crude mosaics.

Is there also some subliminal association between pixels and tiny carbonated bubbles—8-bit carbonation? (The connection between soda pop and 8-bit video games has been more fully explored by Justin Kirkwood at Not a Real Thing.)

Unlike the packages we looked at yesterday, these displays were not anticipated by the package designers. These seem to be more of a grassroots merchandising effort on the part of local grocery stores and their employees—(although the Marios in the video and in the photo above appear to be two different versions, but following the same basic pixel map…) The subjects covered by these types of displays, however, go beyond video games, running the gamut of sporting events and holidays.

(Many more photos, after the fold…)

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The Incomplete Package: Part of a Larger Whole

We’ve already featured a few of Robert Brownjohn’s ground-breaking graphic design ideas.

Here’s another one: the package is just a small part of a larger whole—(i.e.: the display.)

By itself, the package and its message may seem truncated and incomplete, but lined up in a row or stacked one on top of the other, a bigger picture emerges.

During his time as partner at Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, Brownjohn is credited with designing the 1959 proposed packaging for “Wash Up!” moist towelettes, above.

Among the designs in BCG’s portfolio was a package for ‘Wash-up’ cubes… with a quirky typographic wrapping. Individually they are hard to read, but stacked one of top of another, the message is clear.

Emily King
Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography: 1925-1970 Life and Work

For rectangular boxes, applying this technique is often a simple matter of letting the type—(or photo, or graphics, etc.)—wrap around a corner. Seen by itself, at a 3/4 angle, everything is visible and perfectly legible. Judiciously stacked together, each box can be made to complete the cropped panel of its adjoining neighbor.

These “You Complete Me” packs are not really incomplete, but one at a time,  in isolation, they may be hard to fully comphehend.

BoxesTop row: 1973-74 Poloroid packaging by Paul Giambarba; 2nd row, left:  the Andy Warhol-style bottle illustrations by Design Laboratory at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art & Design join at the corners when displayed in a group (via: The Dieline); oon right: Maikiibox packaging for USB pendrives (via: Packaging of the World); 3rd row, left: on right: Guzman Gastronomia boxes by Marnich & Associates with super-graphic, wrap-around typography (via: Lovely Package); on right: Minute Maid cartons by Duffy & Partners and CMA Brand Presence; 4th row, left: Colin Dunn’s vitamin packaging; on right: packaging for Mesoestetic’s line of men’s skin products by Espulga + Associates—these boxes have numerals that wrap around a corner, although their photos here are slightly misleading (upper photo shows two “1” boxes & two “2” boxes in a row, while lower photo shows single “1” & “2” boxes, shot at an angle); bottom row: Comtech light bulb packaging by ONY (via: Lovely Package)

Surprisingly, a similar idea is sometimes attempted with cylindrical bottles and cans…

(Cylindrical completion, after the fold…)

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Mary Campbell’s Canned Food Mandala


Mandala2 From artist, Mary Campbell: a large canned food mandala(much larger than pictured here)—composed of 500–700 cans will be on display on Saturday, September 25 from 1–4 pm in the parish hall at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island. (312 Filmore Street)

Based on the impermanence of buddhist sand mandalas, when the Saturday’s display is over, the food will be similarly swept away by being delivered to four food banks throughout Staten Island.

A Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of a mandalas made from millions of grains of colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the impermanence of all that exists.

Attendees are invited to bring cans to add to the mandala. “Mandalas are used for meditation, and so I will ask exhibit visitors to use the can mandala to meditate on hunger and people in need of food.”


I love the idea of stacking cans according to alternative geometric symmetries. A supermarket’s stacked display of canned goods is all about the side view so consumers can see the labels. In Campbell’s sculptures, however, the more meaningful vantage point is the unbranded top view—where you can really see the arrangement. (See also: Early Stacked Packaging Displays and Close Packing)

Speaking of supermarkets, it should be noted that Shop Rite Supermarket donated 240 of the cans.

(I’m hoping to get a photo of the intallation on Saturday.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Bottlenose Dolphin Bottle

Tiny bottle with dolphin charm from jen4eternity’s Etsy shop

I was in 5th grade living in the suburbs of Tampa Florida, when the Flipper TV show came out. I remember my somewhat sadistic friend/enemy, Michael, from across the street had sort of thing for Luke Halpin. (But I digress before I even begin…)

Saw The Cove on DVD this weekend and was surprised and moved to learn that it was Ric O’Barry(the man who literally captured and trained the dolphins that played “Flipper” on the TV show)—who is the anti-captivity activist at the heart of this documentary film.

The film raises a lot of issues (the self-cognizance of animals—mercury poisoning…) but one issue that I’ll mention—(since we’ve been lately thinking about rats)—is that dolphins are now considered “pests” in some quarters…

…unlike the expensive whale meat, dolphin meat is not considered a delicacy in Japan, and the real reason the Japanese government issues permits to kill dolphins by the thousands every year has nothing to do with food culture. It has to do with pest control. As shocking as it sounds, some Japanese government officials view dolphins as pests to be eradicated in huge numbers. During a meeting at Taiji City Hall, the fishermen of Taiji admitted this to us. “We don’t kill the dolphins primarily for their meat. We kill them as a form of pest control,” they told us. In other words, killing the competition is their way of preserving the ocean’s fish for themselves.


Above, left: a 1960s Flipper Thermos from eBay. On right: one of various DVD covers for the film. Some of the covers feature all blue water, other covers feature blood red water. (The cover pictured above strikes the right balance, I think, in having both.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Hannah Greely’s Polyester-Resin Budweiser Beer Bottles


On left: “Alice”; on right: “Molly and Johnny”

Greely From 2004: painted polyester-resin casts of Budweiser beer bottles by Hannah Greely. (Sculpture on right entitled “Joe”)

“I used resin for the bottles because they needed to be transparent like glass, but more artificial, heavier, crummier, more exaggerated, each [with] its own personality.”

Modesty Blessed:
An Interview with Hannah Greely

by Kathryn Hargreaves

Needless to say, titling these disreputable, “crummy” bottles with people’s names—(“each with its own personality”)—ties into some of my own pet theories about how we identify with (and anthropomorphize) packaging.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Pattern and Degradation

In this morning’s NY Times, Randy Kennedy had an article about Rob Pruitt’s “Pattern and Degradation” show at Gavin Brown. There was a mention of “…trash monsters made from bales of cardboard boxes, looking like something dreamed up by Sid and Marty Krofft’s evil twins” …that caught my (googly) eye.

I went looking for pictures of those sculptures online and found the official press release photo of the owl-like creature (on left) and the photo on right, from VernissageTV Didier Didier’s Flickr Photostream.

More about the cardboard-box creatures from a recent Interview Magazine piece:

“…bales of crushed cardboard boxes are anthropomorphically fitted with six legs and six shoes—ranging from Champion brand sneakers to leather slips-ons—and suited with large googly eyes, either serving as stand-ins for the art viewing, consumption-minded public or acting like little Pruitt minions. They’re adorably disturbing and look like the evil discarded grandchildren of the McDonald’s Fry Guys.”

Studio Visit: Rob Pruitt, Super Sized
By Christopher Bollen

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design