Re: Dude ’72 and his “PIP” brand cardboard guitar

Dude-PIP-Guitar“Dude ’72” photo by Mick Rock (Camden Town, Summer 1972)

In 2009, when I first wrote about Mick Rock‘s photo of a boy playing with a cardboard guitar in 1972, I had no idea what sort of box it was that had been used to make the Dude’s guitar.

Yesterday, an email from England provided the answer: it was a PIP brand cauliflowers box.

I randomly came across this photo a short time ago and noticed the cardboard used for the guitar is from a box belonging to my family’s farm. The boxes would have been used to take produce to markets across London years ago…

My family’s farm has been on the go for a few generations now but under various names for different purposes. PIP farm produce was run by my grandfather and his brother. ‘Pip’ was actually a nickname given to my grandfathers brother (his name Peter Pearson). This side of the business was market based, we owned lorries that distributed our home grown produce to markets up and down the UK. It was dissolved in 2000 when the supermarkets started to rise and take over. We carried on growing and started to supply them, via larger haulage firms. Thus us selling the lorries etc and that side of the business becoming redundant.

Anyway, farming is my family’s history and I have to say I’m pretty sentimental about this old cardboard box. My dad is also a pretty big fan of Mott the Hoople. And it was only by complete chance we came across this photo. I love it.

Charlotte F.


Charlotte’s dad being a Mott the Hoople fan is significant because Mick Rock’s photo —of a boy playing a guitar made from a PIP (Farms Produce) Limited box— was originally earmarked for the cover of Mott the Hoople’s album, All the Young Dudes, produced by David Bowie. Why was it never used for that purpose?

The photo appears in Mick Rock’s book, Glam! An Eyewitness Account with an accompanying caption that seems intentionally vague: “Why it wasn’t used I can’t remember, nor can Ian Hunter, must have been a chemical shift.”

I wrote some unkind things in 2009 about the illustration that preempted the Dude ’72 photo. (If I was overly harsh, it was only because this particular photograph would have made such a great album cover.)

Delving into it a bit deeper, I learned that the illustration I was disparaging in 2009, was the work of musician/artist, George Underwood. The credits on the back of the album attribute “sleeve concept / art direction” to Mick Rock. George Underwood is credited with “colour retouching,” which one might have assumed meant retouching of the photos, but must, instead, refer to Underwood’s cover illustration.

Reading about Underwood’s early history with Bowie, I have a new working hypothesis about how this substitution came to be made. I’m guessing that it was Bowie’s idea to give Underwood the cover, and that art director, Mick Rock chose to go along to get along.

(One more thing after the fold…) [Read more…]

“Sad Toy” packaging: a polyhedral folding carton

Sad Toy polyhedral folding carton

SadToyNetFrom Halbye Kaag JWT: the 2014 polyhedral folding carton for a “sad toy.”

Designed by Robert Daniel Nagy, Jens Henrichsen and Phong Phan this is a cube shaped carton with an unusually complex polyhedral fold.

It’s also a “plain-outside/colorful-inside” package providing an element of surprise when opened. (see: the Made Thought incense package)

I see no mention of it, but watching the video, the way it seems to snap back into position, I wondered whether the carton includes a magnetic closure.

More about the reasons behind the project and a video, after the fold… [Read more…]

4 site-specific bottle sculptures by Albertus Gorman

BigJugRainbow bottle sculpturesAlbertus Gorman, “Big Jug Rainbow,” 2015

Working with materials that have washed up on the banks of the Ohio River, Albertus Gorman makes site-specific installations.

Naturally (or unnaturally) plastic bottles comprise a lot of what he finds there. By rearranging bottles in a given area, he highlights their out-of-placeness in ways that are jarring, but fun.

Everything about these containers is so highly artificial that they contrast with all the greenery around it.  So much thought and effort went into the design of these bottles to make their intended contents as desirable as possible.  That part worked because these plastic bottles were consumed in large numbers and many of them found their way carelessly into the Ohio River.

-Albertus Gorman

Three more of Gorman’s bottle sculptures, after the fold…

[Read more…]

HAX Packs: more fruit-shaped plastic bottles…

3FLipBottles fruit-shaped plastic bottles

These bottles are from The Museum of Design in Plastics (MODiP): just three of an intriguing collection of figural, blow-molded, fruit-shaped plastic bottles attributed to the “HAX London” and “FLIP London” brands and loosely dated: 1950 – 1969.

HAXTrying to find other examples online of HAX London or FLIP London bottles proved so difficult that I began to doubt whether such products were really ever on the market.

FlipDisplayCartonIn matters of urgent packaging ephemera, however, we at box vox tend to just keep on digging. (Some say that we are compulsive in this regard.)

But it was due to exactly this sort of tireless perseverance, that we were able to unearth so much more about the HAX and FLIP brands.

As we learned in yesterday’s post, HAX was a brand launched in the 1930s by Edward Hack, who (in the 1950s) played a key role in the design of a lemon-shaped plastic container for his HAX lemon juice. It was his container which ultimately became the well-know Jif plastic lemon.

Less well known are his patented designs for numerous other figural, blow-molded plastic bottles.

The black and white photo on the right shows a display carton containing these same 3 bottles from MODiP’s collection, shown above.  The display carton picture was found in a 1957 issue of The Chemist and Druggist magazine with this accompanying text:

Milk Made Irresistible. — A new series of flavours for milk, cereals, sandwiches, cakes, pancakes, spreads, jellies, blanc manges, custards and ice  cream is being marketed in hygienic polythene easy-squeeze shapes, by Flip, Ltd., Lion House, Red Lion Street, London, W.C.I. Issued in three varieties (strawberry, pineapple and chocolate), the Flip flavours are sent out 1 doz. of each flavour in polythene bag. Three bags are the complement of each ” outer.”

Hack had obtained a British trade mark for “FLIP” as a brand name in 1956. Was this his second act after selling “Jif” his rights to the HAX lemon pack?

Funny how the “FLIP” logo uses the same triangle and typography as the “HAX” logo. Clearly, Hack was behind both HAX and FLIP brands, but MODiP’s website lists the designer and manufacturer of these packs as “unknown.”

Based on our research into Edward Hack, can we possibly deduce who designed and manufactured these bottles?  Yes, I believe that we can. (after the fold…) [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): the HAX plastic lemon pack

HaxLemonAd-1955-2-Color2-color ad for HAX “just squeeze” plastic lemon juice packs, from The Chemist and Druggist, June 25, 1955

There are at least three different people credited for having invented and/or designed the plastic lemon pack — a lemon-shaped squeeze bottle for lemon juice.

The one that I’d like to focus on today is Edward Hack. Edward Hack’s nearly forgotten brand name, “HAX” was a homonym for his own name. HAX was Hack’s company.

The idea of placing real lemon juice inside yellow lemon-shaped plastic containers was developed in the 1950s by Edward Hack. The actual lemon was designed and produced by Cascelloid Ltd, who maintained that Hack presented them with their perfect model after much searching. They claimed he examined the entire stock of Harrods, Fortnum and Mason’s and Selfridges, as well as three cases of some three hundred lemons each at Covent Garden! It is alleged that the perfect lemon was eventually found at Covent Garden.

from Unilever’s Facebook Page

The task of actually creating the blow-molded plastic version of Hack’s supposedly “perfect lemon” seems to have fallen to Bill Pugh, Chief Plastics Designer at Cascelloid.

The squeeze lemon, marketed now as Jif, began life as a wooden core carved by Pugh, then covered painstakingly with fresh lemon peel. He cast it into a plaster mould, experimenting until he had it just right. He was patient and a perfectionist.

Obituary: William Alec Gibson Pugh, The Independent, 1994

Once perfected, the lemon-shaped HAX pack began getting some attention in the press…


The neat “Hax” lemon juice pack has won approbation all round. Two fluid ounces of lemon juice are contained in a polythene squeeze type container which is an exactly replica in texture, shape and colouring of an actual lemon. A plastics closure holds two labels, shaped and coloured like lemon leaves, in position and to dispense the juice, the housewife gently squeezes the “lemon,” when the liquid flows drop by drop into the tumbler or cup.

Bottling: A Quarterly Supplement to the Brewing Trade Review, 1954

PrincessRoyalReceivesHaxLemonThe Princess Royal receives a Hax “lemon” —from The Chemist and Druggist, June 25, 1955

More about the HAX lemon, and its competitors, after the fold… [Read more…]

The Anthropomorphic Corporation

Speaking of anthropomorphic packaging mascots (as we so often do), I’ve been thinking lately about recent attempts to anthropomorphize corporations. Consider the message contained in this commercial from the corporation known as SAP.

Mitt Romney’s 2011 assertion that “corporations are people” inadvertently highlighted a simmering political debate about the growing influence of corporate cash in national elections.

Corporate personhood” has been an arcane legal concept for over a century, but the recent intentional anthropomorphizing of corporations is more of a general marketing effort.

The anthropomorphic corporation is more relatable than the hive-like legal entity that we might otherwise have envisioned. Never mind that a corporation is a hierarchy of managers and workers whose personal circumstances are varied and disparate. Let’s imagine instead (as SAP HANA suggests) that a corporation is a singular “living” thing with a mind, a subconscious, a spirit and a soul.

Corporations gained personhood through aggressive court maneuvers culminating in an 1886 Supreme Court case called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific.

How corporations became ‘persons’, UU World, 2003

(A bit more about the anthropomorphic corporation, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Square Root Packaging Design

Orthographic-Complicata square root packaging design

Square root packaging design:

Harun Alikadić used the “orthographic projection” approach in his 2012 packaging design for this bottled beer shipping carton for Birra Complicata. Which is to say that the bottles contained in the box are orthographically projected onto all six of panels of the box.

Birrificio Matildico‘s first product was named Complicata (complicated, in italian). I was asked to define an identity, find a right payoff and adapt it with an existing logo (by Caspar). As the beer itself was not “complicated” but rather a classic Real Ale, the payoff came naturally: Semplicemente Birra (simply beer).

I created all product brand elements adapting them to the term “simple”: bottle labels have a simple beer label shape, packaging is illustrated with contained beer bottles, flyer is bottle shaped, and so on.

Alikadić mentions boxes in two sizes: “nine 75cl bottles and sixteen 50cl bottles.” Since 9 and 16 are both “square numbers” his packaging design functions almost like some Montessori School device for teaching square roots.

Although it would have been completely practical to use the same orthographically-projecting design for boxes containing non-square-root quantities (12, 24, etc.), they seem to have deliberately avoided it. As if to prove the point, there was one other box size in this design that I found online, which is a box for 4 bottles.

(Some photos of the boxes in use, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): 3 crystal prize packs

Swarovski crystal packaging

Swarovski crystal packaging:

If there was ever any subversive consumer commentary contained in the beaded and bejeweled packaging artworks that we featured here last week, this idea has been, by now, been fully co-opted by brand managers. What seemed, in the hands of Liza Lou or Linda Dolack, like a satire of “prized” possessions, are now more likely to be actual prizes.

Two of the brands pictured above (Vaseline and Special K) held contests in which crystal-encrusted versions of their packaged products were given out as prizes.

The third package (Bombay Sapphire) was not given away for free, although, in the broader economic sense, it represented the sort of prize intended only for those luckiest of winners.

(Details about each of these 3 crystal encrusted brands, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Lux Blox: Lux in flux


As promised, when we wrote about our packaging design for Lux Blox, LLC last month, we can now show a video demonstrating Lux’s surprisingly fluid kinetic features.

(The animated gif above is an excerpt from their new video below…)

Alfred Gartner: patent attorney & petty swindler


Alfred-GartnerI’m no history buff. Far from it. I don’t like movies with battle scenes and I never stop to read historical placards alongside the road.

When I first downloaded Alfred Gartner’s 1918 patent for an exploding package for “candy, nuts and the like” I figured it would just make a quirky 4th-of-july packaging story. What tripped me up were the tantalizing hints of scandal and intrigue surrounding the inventor.

Gartner’s invention coincided with the start of WWI, but there was something about his inclusion of the “on to Berlin” slogan in his patent drawings that seemed important, although I couldn’t say why.

When I put up Friday’s post about Gartner’s “explosive patriotic packaging,” I thought that was all that I would ever had to say about it. I had questions, but I imagined that the answers were nowhere to be found.

Yesterday, however, on the fourth of July, I felt compelled to dig just a little bit deeper  into Alfred Gartner’s “history” and what I found was way more about him that I ever expected to know.

The picture of Gartner above was taken for a 1916 passport application—an application in which he sought permission to travel to Austria and Germany. This application set off an investigation into Gartner’s business affairs, which, as it turned out, were pretty nefarious.

IN RE: Alfred Gartner, German suspect
Special Agent Jesse H. Wilson Jr.’s Report (4/30/1917):

Gartner is man weighing well over two hundred pounds, fairly tall, between fifty-five and sixty years of age, grey headed, smooth shave. His most striking characteristic is his puckered mouth and his habit of speaking without perceptible movement of the lips.

Yes, this was the same Alfred Gartner who was the grifter featured in a 1913 NY Times article, indicted for defrauding a repertory “show of midgets” with his $5,000,000 “Civic Circus” scheme.

And, yes, this was also the same Alfred Gartner who was the patent attorney, disbarred in 1918 for “gross misconduct.” (More about that later)

But wait, there’s more!

On left: detail of Walter Thompson’s patent; on right: 1901 NY Times blurb announcing the “Independent Tin Can Company”

In 1901 he and his law partner, John W. Steward, established the “Independent Tin Can Company” to capitalize on Walter Thompson’s patented “Solderless Side Seam for Tin Cans.”

The Independent (Tin) Can Company of New York, the American Solderless Can Co., New Jersey, were not can making concerns, each owned certain patents (and nothing else) which after a trial proved to be unsuccessful and were abandoned.

The Steel and Metal Digest, 1914

This experience must have left a bad taste in Walter Thompson’s mouth. Where he had once collaborated on inventions with Gartner, by 1917 Thompson was so angered by Gartner’s business practices that he sent a letter to the Department of Justice describing him as “a thoroughly conscienceless, unprincipled petty swindler of working people, servant girls and waitresses, a great schemer to get money without work and a hard drinker.” (More about this later…)

Gartner was also accused of selling (or attempting to sell) patent secrets to the Germans, munitions to the Austrians and shoes to the Russian army.

Because of the passport application, an investigation was launched by the Department of Justice’s newly formed “Bureau of Investigation” (later to be renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation). Gartner, once a wealthy “man of means” was now under suspicion of being, either a German sympathizer or perhaps something worse.

Despite my indifference to history in its usual forms, the declassified FBI files about Gartner’s case were, for me, a fascinating read. Were Gartner’s patriotic inventions a sincere expression of his national allegiance? Or was he, as an Austrian-born naturalized citizen, seeking cover from wartime suspicion by wrapping himself in the American flag?

Judge for yourself, after the fold…

[Read more…]