“I wore a certain red dress to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was a beautiful dress. It cost a fortune. I got it at I. Magnin’s. It was a copy of a French original. But one lady columnist wrote that I was cheap and vulgar in it and I would have looked better in a potato sack.”
Marilyn Monroe interviewed by Pete Martin
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In answer to the highlighted hyperbole above, Monroe’s agent, Johnny Hyde, “promptly went down to L.A.’s warehouse district, got a couple of sacks, and had some photos taken of her wearing one.” (via)
This story is very similar to the story of how Jasper Johns came to create his cast bronze, “Ale Cans” sculpture, based on a crack that Willem DeKooning once made about art dealer, Leo Castelli …
“Somebody told me that Bill de Kooning said that you could give that son-of-a-bitch two beer cans and he could sell them. I thought, what a wonderful idea for a sculpture.”
As quoted in “Jasper Johns” by Richard Francis
It’s telling that, in both of these rather backhanded hyperbolic statements, the packaging represents the lowest imaginable thing. A potato sack. A couple of beer cans.
The idea of taking a hyberbolic statement and running with it (as Johnny Hyde and Jasper Johns did) accomplishes two things. It paradoxically proves the point and exposes the fallacy behind it. Burlap bags are not fashionable. Or are they? Beer cans are not fine art. Or are they?
I wonder if a similar rhetorical strategy could be used in package design?
For example, someone could say something like, “Acme Widgets could come packed in a pickle jar and they would still outsell their competitors!” A culturally-savy package designer might then design a category-disrupting “pickle jar pack” for widgets.
The package would still be the scapegoat of the story—(the lowly, loathsome pickle jar)—but the hero of the story would be Acme’s wonderful widgets whose virtues somehow win out despite everything.
Beach Packaging Design