A few years ago I noticed a neighbor with two scotty dogs, one white and one dark. It reminded of something, but it took me a while to finally put my finger on what it was. When it finally came to me, I got onto eBay and bought me some “Magnetic Spunky Dogs.” This package has been in my desk drawer ever since. A product, made in Hong Kong, it had a humble header card with a staple smack dab through the middle. Hang hole not fully punched out. (As “new old stock” it was apparently never hung up on a hook.) Same artwork front and back. (No UPC’s in those days!) Note the ¢ sign rather than a $ sign! With packaging like this, I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of market research done or a focus group conducted about the design. No PRS eye-tracking here! Not saying I love the layout, but it explains the product well enough.
I recently stumbled onto this nice collection of “dime store” packaging on Kirk Demarais’s Secret Fun Spot. (These 10 header cards are from his site.) His collection even includes a Spunky Dogs card. (More about Kirk Demarais and “dime store packaging” after the jump)
I like looking at functional, low budget packaging like this. Not all packaging can be high end. A lot of products are still sold in poly-bags with header cards. Part of the attraction is nostalgia, I suppose. Still, a fair amount of current packaging ironically cribs retro typography and illustration from sources like this. I like the economical “fun for everyone” generic card where the product name (GORY FANGS) is just rubber-stamped on. I like the typography of “Lovely Toys” and the “Mobile” card. A dime store mobile! It would be great to see that. (I wonder if it was Calderesque.)
Demaris is also the author of an interesting looking book about the S.S. Adams company: Life of the Party: A Visual History of S.S. Adams. (If anyone’s looking for a present to give me…)
S.S. Adams is the company that first turned packaging into a gag gift…
The year 1910 was chiefly important for his [Sam Adam’s] discovery of jumping-snake items. His first snake whimsy was a three-foot serpent in a jar of jam. He developed a reddish preparation which, when mixed with birdseed and painted around the inside of a jar, perfectly resembled the look of strawberry jam.
(This is the version of the jumping snakes package that I recall.)
Beach Packaging Design