A look into your packaging future

Package designer, Robert Sidney Dickens offers you “a look into your packaging future.” (And by “packaging future” we mean “packaging past,” since this image is from a 1957 trade ad for Cellophane.)

Dickens is maybe not as well-remembered as other package designers of his generation, but I still prefer his TaB logo (with or without the downward pointing arrow) to all the previous and subsequent versions.

You didn’t know there was a previous version of Tab’s branding? Neither did I until this week.

The photo on the left was included without much explanation in an article on TaB in the June 2011 issue of The Coca-Cola Collectors news. The was some discussion of early test marketing of Tab in 1962. I’m guessing that the left hand design (with the “burst”) was not done by Robert Sidney Dickens’ design firm, but was perhaps part of the 1962 test marketing effort.

Trademark documents show that it was registered just six months prior to the Dicken’s TaB logo with the twist-around spiral “a” that I wrote about on Wednesday.

(The Cellophane ad, in its entirety, after the fold…)

[Read more…]

the TaB bottle

A bit more about TaB’s 1963 packaging design: the bottle. (Illustrations are from the 1964 design patent.)

What The Coca-Cola Company said, in effect, was:

“we must design a bottle which will make a lasting impression on both the public and packaging industry. Aesthetically it must imply the same high quality customers have come to expect of all products from The Coca-Cola Company. That this drink is tasty and easy on the diet must be implicit in the design. the package must be completely new, it must have a shape with a high remembrance value, it must have an identity all its own, it must be a new concept in glass packaging. And, most importantly, it must have the same dimensions as other packages used by our bottlers and fit all existing machines for bottling and vending these products.

“In other words it must be unique—but the same.”

…The job of actually producing this new packaging went to Robert Sidney Dickens, noted Chicago designer. Although new to The Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Dickens was well known in the packaging industry for his design work on Metrecal, Dial soap, Parker pens, Quaker Oats and many other products.

Coca-Cola’s Project Alpha
Atlanta Magazine, May 1963 (via: Tab Soda Web)

In the black & white commercial below, however, it’s uniqueness rather than sameness that’s emphasized: “Like nothing else.”

(More about the bottle’s design, after the fold…) [Read more…]

4 Spiral Letterform Logos

I’m taking yesterday’s pharmaceutical vials as an opportunity to segue back to our own Respirer branding.

Pretty presumptuous of me to put my logo up along side of these iconic logos from the 1960s, right?

I know, but I’ve been wanting for a while now to take a look at brand logos that feature spiral letterforms and these are the four examples that I came up with.

1. Respirer
Luxury air is a hard sell since its bottles look just as empty as regular low-income bottled air. How do you depict something invisible? With the Respirer brand logo, the solution was to allude to vortices and hurricane weather patterns… which happened to form the letter “R.”

2. TaB
The original 1963 TaB logo designed by Robert Sidney Dickens was part of Coca-Cola’s secret “Project Alpha” to develop a low calorie soda.

Several different approaches were taken in developing the trademark, but the one which was finally submitted for approval began with classic, block letters. “We started with upper case letters, ” say Sid Dickens. “Then we lower-cased the ‘a’ to give a feeling of informality and extended the ‘t’ out over it. The ‘b’ remained the same. By exaggerating the ‘t’ we gave the trade mark some memory value. The twist-around ‘a’ was used to focus attention on the name and give it a longer memory span…

Coca-Cola’s Project Alpha
Atlanta Magazine, May 1963 (via: Tab Soda Web)

3. Celanese and 4. Lawry’s Foods
The 1968 Celanese “C” logo and Lawry’s “L” logo are both by Saul Bass, who is also known for the spiral vortex of Vertigo.

Respirer cartons by Beach Packaging Design; Lawry’s Seasoned Salt shaker; Celanese hang tag from Thighs Wide Shut; Tab bottle from 1963 Tab trademark documents

(2 more things, after the fold..) [Read more…]

Upside-Down Pharmaceutical Labeling

Finishing off our series on upside-down packaging, the labeling on this bottle of Oxacillin from Sagent Pharmaceuticals can be read whether it’s right-side-up or upside-down.

To fill a syringe one must turn the vial upside-down, so the idea here is that doctors and nurses will be less apt to make medication errors if, while filling the syringe, they can also read the label in the upside-down position.

Part of Sagent’s PreventIV Measures, the upside-down secondary label is just one part of their larger package design mandate…

Where most competitors sat with plain-Jane lackluster packaging, Sagent stood out with colorful, distinctly designed labels and cartons that serve a higher function: helping prevent medication errors.

Branded “PreventIV Measures” (pronounced preventive), Sagent’s comprehensive, proprietary and patent-pending approach to packaging and labeling helps healthcare professionals accurately distinguish between look-alike, sound-alike products, making it easier for them to select the correct one. Every Sagent product package—vials, syringes and IV bags—features a distinctive design with easy-to-read drug names and dosage strengths on the primary panel. Although the unique packaging provides differentiation in a highly competitive market, its primary role is to help improve patient safety.

Designed to be different
Lisa McTigue Pierce, Packaging Digest, 2012

MH Dezign was hired to implement Sagent’s new package design approach for a whole line of PreventIV Measures products.

See also: Color-Coded Bloodstream

5 Brands with Reversible Faces

Getting back to our upside-down thread, here we have a round up of brands with illustrations of reversible faces.

Once popular on matchboxes from the 1900s, illusions of this type are ambiguous images.

1. Mac’s Smile Razor Blades (via: esignday ogblay)

2. DVD packaging for Mike Leigh’s 1999 film, Topsy-Turvy

3. Spritzer Tinge packaging by Lowe Malaysia

(Animated gif from JellyBeanCollector)

(After the fold, 2 beer brands with reversible faces …) [Read more…]

The National Drink

Looking for a suitable Thanksgiving beverage, I happened to see the patriotic gentleman above enjoying his cup of Turkey Brand Coffee and I thought, “I’ll have what he’s having.”

I love it when brand names include the word “brand,” but why (I wondered) was this brand named Turkey?

Is it a just a homographic pun about Turkish coffee? The vintage “Turkey Brand” tin on the right is from a 2005 auction. Under the turkey illustration and above the word “coffee” is the word, “roasted.” Is that the connection? That both coffee and turkeys get roasted on occasion?

The images above are from the 1900 promotional postcard shown below. (from Miami University Libraries, Ohio) 

The combination of Uncle Sam and a box of Turkey Brand coffee serves to remind us of two things…

1. that as much as the holiday is about gratitude, it’s still an American holiday so that even though our “national drink” is imported from other countries, we must appear to have named it after an indigenous species of bird.

2. that Uncle Sam had enviably thick hair. (Or is hair-envy an unseemly display of ingratitude on this, our day of Thanksgiving?)

The postcard also features a badly explained optical illusion. (I don’t know about you, but focusing on two places simultaneously is a problem for me.)

I was thankful, however, for the opportunity to read some of Uncle Sam’s poetry…


Take this from me, my people dear,
If you’d keep war away
And fill the land with peace and cheer
Do just what I say:

I know a beverage full of charm,
There’s magic in the cup
To cure all ills, to keep from harm,
Drink when you dine or sup.

Drink deep of Kasper’s Turkey Brand
And pretty soon you’ll think,
’Tis bliss to do what I command
And take the Nation’s drink.

–Uncle Sam

See also: Turkey Bottle and Campbell’s Thanksgiving

Upside-Down Branding

Upside-down Wonka Ice Cream containers, designed by Studio Hinrichs. Why upside-down?

Explanatory tagline: “…flavors so good, they’ve flipped their lids so you won’t.”   (Thank-you to illustrator-designer, Chris Rooney for calling these to our attention!)

Which raises the question, what other brands are upside-down and why?

When a boy opens the wrong end of an upside-down cereal box in this 1991 television commercial for Kix, it’s an adorable innocent mistake.

This 2009 print ad for Heinz Ketchup (by Leo Leo Burnett, Argentina) was entitled “Upside-Down Label.” Here, I guess the implication is that the label should be legible while the package is in use?

But with the use of “tottle” type bottles with their wider caps that can serve as an alternate base, the issue of right-side up and upside-down become a bit murkier.

In 2003, when Heinz first came out with their Easy-Squeeze™ bottle, being upside-down was a major talking point. By now, however, I think most people are accustomed to these bottles and don’t even think of them as “upside-down” any more.


Lovell’s Lager, designed by (designed by Landor Sydney) is upside-down to signal that it is Australian, as in: “down under.” (Several of our other examples are upside-down for the same reason.) Note the orthographic graphic design of the carton.

“Australian Honey” and Snapple “Kiwi Teawi” each feature upside-down branding.

Kono Baru’s wine label is also upside-down for geographic reasons: “The upside-down labels represent the fact that the wines are sourced from vineyards in the Southern hemisphere.” (Australia among other places.)

A lot has been done with upside-down soda packaging…

(Upside-down beverage branding, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Untitled Product Distribution Network

Last night was the opening for As Real As It Gets.

It was great to finally see all of the work and get to get a chance to meet some of my fellow manufacturers of fictional products. (And by “manufacturers of fictional products,” I mean: artists.)

Conrad Bakker is an artist who is known for making hand-carved, hand painted replicas of a variety of familiar objects. Naturally, a significant number of these objects are packages.

His 2005 “Untitled Product Distribution Network” for the functionless “Untitled Product (CONCENTRATE)” on the right, was an economic sculpture in which he attempted to use the pyramid scheme business model to sell the artwork. (See also: Amway)

“UNTITLED PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION NETWORK assumes the form of a fully functional network marketing system featuring a carved and painted bottle of Untitled Product (CONCENTRATE). By purchasing a starter kit, one could become an Untitled Product distributor, then sell Untitled Product and even recruit his or her own distributors, exponentially increasing one’s profits. (2005)”

As with any pyramid marketing scheme, this one broke down all too soon. Art collectors are apparently not very good at product distribution or network recruitment, and the Untitled Product Distribution Network is “no longer operational.”

As Real As It Gets runs from November 16 till December 22.

Apexart is located at 291 Church Street , New York, NY 10013 USA

Ryan Watkins-Hughes: the father of shopdropping

Shopdropping in New York” a 2007 New York Times slide show of Ryan Watkins-Hughes, produced by Thomas Lin & photographed by James Estrin


Another As Real As It Gets participant is Ryan Watkins-Hughes.

If Pete Hottelet is “the reigning King of Defictionalization,” then Ryan Watkins-Hughes is the founding father of “shopdropping.”

He coined and defined the term in 2004:

To covertly place objects on display in a store. A form of “culture jamming” s. reverse shoplift, droplift.

The thing about shopdropping is that, although it’s not as criminal as shoplifting, it’s still alarming to store security and store managers, and is perceived as being generally subversive to the financial interests of the store.

As far as creating social havoc, I’m much more interested in visual chaos and the breakdown of a “sensible” visual environment than any attempt at targeted social change. I have very little interest in creating an overt and direct critique of packaged culture and the consumer system. I’d rather create graphic mayhem within an environment that is usually so mundane. I wholly appreciate it when the unexpected, purely for its own sake, is introduced into a system that is incapable of dealing with it. It may be as simple as that. There are other “shopdropping” projects floating around that are far more politically specific, and I respect their directness, but I am more interested in fucking with the customs of visual language than in spreading a message of anti-consumerism.

from 2009 Ryan Watkins-Hughes interview by Julie Fishkin in ArtCat Zine

But even when there is nothing inherently political or threatening about his re-labeled canned goods, he is still crossing a line that might easily get him arrested.

We tend to think of retail spaces as public places, but if you enter a store and do not shop in the normal manner, the retailer may decide that you’re trespassing on private property. (See also: What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is In My Store?)

Some have speculated about using shopdropping to test the effectiveness of consumer package design:

… what if branding and packaging designers used the shopdropping method to more practical ends? We always want to know in advance: how do consumers react to more artistic, risk-taking packaging? … shopdropping as a research method (for those without focus-groups and big market research budgets) can make a lot of sense.

Yael Miller, The Dieline, 2008

In my experience, the only acceptable behavior in a retail store is shopping. Having any alternative agenda, tends to makes you suspect. Even if you are a package designer with a professional, pro-consumption motivation—someone who is basically on the same cultural team as the retailer—leaving your own products on their shelves is something they would likely regard as sabotage. (As in: product tampering)

(See also: The Perils of Competitive Shopping and Ron English: Popaganda Shopdropping)

As Real As It Gets runs from November 16 till December 22. It opens on Thursday, November 15: 6-8 pm.

Apexart is located at 291 Church Street , New York, NY 10013 USA

Omni Consumer Products Corporation

Also included in As Real As It Gets: Omni Consumer Products.

In 2006 Pete Hottelet founded Omni Consumer Products, named after the fictional megacorporation portrayed in RoboCop films.

Whereas the fictional company’s business model was based on fully privatizing all municipal services in the city of Detroit,  Hottelet’s company specializes in finding fictional products that it can manufacture and market in the real world. (See also: Five Formerly Fictional Products)

Q. I’ve seen the Omni Consumer Products process referred to as “defictionalization.” Is that the word you’d use to describe it, and how would you define it? 

A. I coined “entertainvertising” as sort of a goof on “advertainment.” Scientific American referred to it as “Moebius-like-referential pop-culture-as-reality mocketing contortionism.” Defictionalization is definitely more succinct, although maybe not as much fun to say. Basically, it’s the act of creating or identifying a brand within a narrative, and producing a physical product of the described type bearing that branding. As viewership becomes increasingly fragmented, this sort of thing is going to grow into a standard practice in the entertainment industry. Right now, marketers have their eyes on the so-called “third screen” with a focus on mobile. Well, guess what the “fourth screen” is? Real life.

from Rebecca Cullers’ 2010 AdFreak interview with Pete Hottelet
That’s entertainvertising: Pete Hottelet and the
mocketing contortionism of fake brands made real

I looked, but could not find the Scientific American reference quoted above. Another name for the Omni Consumer Products process is “reverse product placement.”

See also: This Jokes for You and Nope. That’s Not a Real Thing

As Real As It Gets runs from November 16 till December 22. It opens on Thursday, November 15: 6-8 pm.

Apexart is located at 291 Church Street , New York, NY 10013 USA