Diet Coke & Package Design Blogs


We received a mysterious Fed-Ex package on Wednesday (from Minneapolis-based Fast Horse) containing a 12-pack carton of “limited edition” Diet Coke, designed by Turner Duckworth. There was also a matching Diet Coke tote bag and a card that read in part:

“We’re excited to share with you our brand new look for fall before it hits the shelves. As a trendsetter in the fashion and design world, you are getting the first glimpse. Knowing you have great taste, we‘d love to hear what you think of our new look.”

We don’t usually get much in the way of swag, so I’m duly flattered for box vox to be among the package design blogs, selected to receive this. It would be nice to believe that (in some small, unprofitable way) box vox might be considered “a trendsetter” but it also provides us an interesting glipse into one small marketing initiative of the Coca-Cola Company.

I imagine similar packages have also been received by The Dieline, Lovely Package, etc. Richard Shear has already beaten everyone to the punch and blogged about it last Wedneday on The Package Unseen. But OK, I’ll bite…

Half Empty or Half Full Disclosure: As a diabetic package designer, the only kind of soda I ever drink is diet soda and most of the diet soda that I’ve consumed so far has been Diet Coke. Already the 12-pack of soda is nearly all consumed—(not that I didn’t have some help). Is this a conflict of interest or does it give me insight? Does a far-fetched, aspirational desire for Coke, as a client, color my analysis of their new package design? Does the free soda pop taint my judgement or does it deepen my review to have tried their product in its new packaging? 12 Times.

Before, we opened the carton, having only seen pictures of the can from one angle, I had imagined that the can might be another “Incomplete Package” —a fragmentary package design with the potential to create a larger “whole” display, as with the red aluminum bottles with the large Coca-Cola script wrapping around the sides—(also by Turner Duckworth.)

As it turns out, the largest legible display you can create is still just a small part of their logo spanning two cans. Certainly this logo is familiar to consumers, and it’s a testament to Diet Coke’s dominance of the market that they can experiment with such an extremely abbreviated version of their logo. Unlike some new fledgling brand, they can be confident that consumers will immediately recognize even a tiny portion of their logo. Not that the logo, in its entirety does not appear elsewhere on the can. Smaller versions do appear. (Four times.)


The 12-pack carton, on the other hand, with its diagonal can spanning the edges, fits squarely into our Incomplete Package category. Taken individually, each carton shows only a small fragment of the new can, but if three cartons are stacked a certain way, it’s possible to build a picture of the entire can.

Not that they necessarily intended for supermarkets to stack them up like this. I’m guessing that sideways aluminum cans are not as structural strong as upright (or even upside down) cans. A super-ambitious wall of cartons stacked in this way might be a bad idea. See: 8-Bit Soda Display (Although a smaller 3-high counter display might be safe and effective.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Writing on Packages


While technocentric consumer culture continues its swoon over QR code packaging and the branding dialogue that it supposedly opens, there may be another trend worth noting: writing on packages.

Earlier this Summer, I noticed this huge speech bubble on the back of a box of Special K and I thought, “What on earth is that for?”

Reading the back of the cereal box, I learned that the big blank area was part of their “What will you gain when you lose?” campaign — (i.e.: when you lose weight). Consumers are invited to answer that question by uploading a picture of themselves with what they were hoping to gain—their “goal”—written on their box of Special K.


The gallery page of photos on the Special K website discloses that “some of the images are of paid participants.” I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that the women seeking to gain “Sass” and “Pep” may be in that category. (See also: Pep Brands Packaging)

Of course with any interactive marketing push of this type, some consumers may push back, as illustrated by The Restless Mouse’s message in the lower right hand corner. Not the sort of affirmation Special K was seeking, but a more meaningful show of strength, perhaps, than the word “strength” compliantly written on a cereal box muscle.

Another example of the writing-on-packages trend is the Budweiser Light “Write-On Label”—here the campaign doesn’t require online consumer feedback, although they do allude to “social networking”…

(More about “Write-On Labels, etc., after the fold…)

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On the “Stree” Where I Live (Pornographic Branding)


In a way, this one’s a follow up to Karen Abel’s PBR flowers. Like her, I found some discarded packaging in an empty planter. Unlike her, I’m not thinking of making these into flowers.

Unusual to see such a sexually explicit illustration on a retail package. If this were a trend, what would we call it? Pornographic branding? Pornographic graphic design? (See also: Packaging Junk)

At first I thought it was a condom package—a common enough form of litter in our neighborhood.

Printed on a fancy holographic foil stock… Muti-national flag icons lined up in a row, but all the text was in Japanese so I couldn’t read what it said. I searched for the UPC number in Google and learned that it’s a Japanese patent-medicine sex.jpgll called “Stree Overlord” (sometimes misspelled as “Street Overload”) Not a condom package, after all.

Chun-Li_RyuIt turns out that this product is one of many mysterious “herbal” products sold at the deli on our corner, even though there’s evidence online of the FDA intercepting imports of Stree Overlord because “Required label or labeling appears to not be in English” and because “The article appears to be a new drug without an approved new drug application.

But those aren’t the only regulations that Mayo Kaisha Pharmacy Export Ltd. is flouting. They are also trampling trademark law. The two characters on the box are Chun-Li and Ryu from the Capcom video game known as “Street Fighter.”

Interestingly, Stree Overlord’s own trademark is also being infringed upon. Their web site has one page complaining:

“It has come to our attention that Stree Overlord has become so popular that many have decided to duplicated and copy from us to try and take away what we have worked so hard for.”

(There are now counterfeit versions of the product being manufactured in China.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Holding on by a Fingernail:
13 Nail Polish Package Design Patents


After yesterday’s lengthy piece about Dura-Gloss and Cutex package designs you might have thought there wasn’t much left to say about nail polish caps with simulated fingernails. It turns out, we hadn’t even scratched the surface.

There were quite a few other inventors and package designers (besides Edwin T. Reynolds & Donald Deskey) who, in trying to solve the problem of how best to merchanidise nail polish in assorted colors, had thought of fingernails.

A collection of patented bottles and caps follows. All feature simulated fingernails, mostly as a color identifier and, in some cases, as a way of “trying on” a color by slipping a finger underneath a fake fingernail.

(13 patents, after the fold…)

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Uncapped Landfill Bottle #6


Two matching bottles: one chipped—one melted. More de-branded glass bottles from Dead Horse Bay, but in this case we have a patent number (110034) embossed on the bottom…


A bottle designed by Edwin T. Reynolds. No mention of what the bottle was meant to contain, but the patent was assigned to “Lorr Laboratories” of Patterson, NJ.

A search for any additional patents assigned to “Lorr Laboratories” turns up this odd “container cap”—also designed by Edwin T. Reynolds. Again, no mention of the product…


Could this be the cap the went with these bottles? It was patented around the same time. What did Lorr Laboratories manufacture?

“We manufacture a polish called Dura-Gloss and only produce it to be sold in all stores for 10 cents. Our business is to furnish that, and we also furnish some brands of miscellaneous drugs.”

–from Lorr Laboratories’ testimony before on “H.R. 8367”—a bill to amend the Tariff Act of 1930 by reclassifying brushes or hair pencils for manicuring purposes. April 18, 1940


Nail polish. That art deco bottle cap design was meant to represent a fingernail! Logical to show the nail polish color on the cap, and a good way to demonstrate its effect as a fingernail color. But, for some reason, lethally sharp and claw-like in its execution.

(Dura-Gloss trademark, bottle label, additional advertising images, and competition with Cutex, after the fold…)

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Hair Styles & Package Design


09e19_261_news_thumb_ministop-afro211 When I first saw the “Black Melon Bread” snack bag (on Packaging Uqam) I liked its afro-shaped window, but I wondered (as did Karen Halliburton) whether there wasn’t something mockingly racist about it. Looking into it further, I learned that it’s actually a tie-in product to the manga character known as “Afro Tanaka” (film coming soon) and that there’s another similarly packaged “Afro Tanaka Onigiri Bomb” (on right).

The next thing I wondered about was whether there were other non sequitur “hair products” out there—products that had nothing to do with hair or hair care, but whose package design makes the product look like hair (or a hairstyle). Ogilvy & Mather’s “Rellana Hair” yarn packaging from 2009 (below, left) is a good example.


Lucas “Crazy Hair” candy is another example. (The illustration above, right is by Leonello Calvetti) A hat-shaped cap makes this extruding candy package vaguely anthropomorphic. With or without a hat, this really looks more like a jar growing out of a planter, than a person growing hair, but the package does extrude candy hair.


I was thinking that spaghetti was another likely metaphor for hair. (Or is hair the metaphor for spaghetti?) Looking for an example of that, I found Jaeyoung Ha’s “La Pasta Famiglia”—also anthropomorphic. (and with mouth-shaped die-cut windows) Here, different pasta shapes dictate the hairstyles for each of the family members. (See also: Our Family of Products)

(One more example of non-sequitur hair-style package-design, after the fold…)

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Jonna Pedersen:
Product Stories & the Inner Lives of Packaging


As branding experts tell it, “narrative marketing” is the best way to sell something. “Tell the product’s story,” they say, “and consumers will listen.” But whatever story the brand chooses to tell, there are other, more personal stories that consumers will also hear.

Danish painter, Jonna Pedersen, explaining her recent focus on packaging, says, “To me, the outside says something about the inside. It’s all about reading the barcode.”

A product logo can unleash half-forgotten memories and sensations. We have all had this experience. Expressing the zeitgeist, consumer products can become cultural icons. Product graphics and packaging obviously matter. Visual impact and narrativity characterize those products that are deemed “classic.”

…A consumer product’s iconography is always ambiguous… A product’s packaging inherently carries a visual or textual content signaling what’s inside. There is no controlling the meanings and values that the consumer subsequently attributes to the product. That is entirely dependent on an individual’s baggage and frames of reference. In principle, the product is open to uncontrollable added meanings.

… Jonna Pedersen’s stories about consumer goods are more than representations of actual objects. They are images of our time. Familiar objects from our cultural heritage are interpreted and painted: graphic imprints and sensual experiences with numerous cultural, social and geographical references. Images of uniquely Danish products alongside images of exotic products, Greek olives or American ketchup, tell a story about an upheaval in Danish (food) culture.

Excerpts from Bente Jensen’s essay, “Product Stories”
from the book Documentary, Jonna Pedersen: Painting

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

The Incomplete Package Revisted


This is a follow-up to an earlier article about packaging designed with photos, graphics or typography wrapping around the corners. Here’s another batch of cartons with that kind of wrap-around imagery.

Look at one of these boxes from one side and you see only part of the picture. Viewed from a corner angle, the picture is complete and cubistically 3-dimensional.

Boxes designed using this technique also open up interesting display possibilities, since they can be stacked in ways that will complete the incomplete side pictures.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Pep Brands Packaging


“Pep” is a word not heard much lately. Once it was the root word for any number of soda brands (Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Pep Up, etc.). “Pep” has mostly fallen out of fashion. People today would more likely want energy (or buzz) rather than to be full of pep.

“Pep” sounds as corny and dated today as it did in 1973 when Felix Unger wrote his Happy & Peppy song. And yet it also has its dark side, as in “pep pills”—(1950’s Methamphetamine).

The blue box above gives “Pep” a more contemporary spin, indicating that it stands for “provides energy and performance.” The package does refrain from calling its product Pep pills—these are Pep tablets, caffeine tablets to be precise.

Among the other Pep brands featured here, we have Kellogg’s Pep—tying into the early cereal-as-health-food origins of Kellogg’s and other companies. Pep as in vim and vigor. Sodas, as we mentioned above, have long been peppy. The vintage bottle with the orange Pep logo is from Mexico. The beverage above that is contemporary: Pep Sea Buckthorn and Berry Juice Drink.

The Pep brand at the bottom is vintage fruit crate in which the logo is shown emerging from an illustrative burst as if it was so full of pep it could not be contained by its red background any longer.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design