LaCroix Package Design: recommended?

Lacroix Package Design
Jason Nocito for The New York Times

The New York Times Magazine section has some new columns. One of which is called “Letter of Recommendation.” While the first two installments were cultural in nature, it was inevitable that some consumer packaged goods would also be recommended.

Mary HK Choi’s “Letter of Recommendation” in yesterday’s column is about LaCroix Sparkling Water. The thing about her piece that really caught my eye was that, although she likes the product, she does not love the LaCroix package design…

My initial reluctance was partly due to the cans’ hideousness. The first time I drank LaCroix, I half expected it to be filled with self-tanner. Or Axe body spray. The cans look somehow simultaneously obnoxious and earnest, as if they’re trying to appeal to Canadian ravers or the sort of people who have septum piercings and shop at Desigual. With its bootleg Van Gogh swirls and the not-quite Yves Klein blue logo, LaCroix would look right at home nestled in a neoprene koozie screen-printed to look like an acid-washed denim jacket. Everything about the can suggests trashy fun. The inside of my recycling bin has begun to look like a Cirque du Soleil poster.

I wonder how this critique is being received by Alchemy, Ltd., the design firm responsible…

After developing a complete branding overhaul for LaCroix sparkling water that helped generate double digit growth over a ten year span, the choice was obvious. LaCroix again chose Alchemy to draft the sequel.

Our team proposed a strategy for elevating the brand with a line extension designed to disrupt and engage new followers rather than diluting the company’s iconic presence at retail.

LaCroix’s new offerings featured a lively blend of fruit essences, and a playful attitude that was launched with an integrated program developed by Alchemy. LaCroix’s new branding, packaging, POS, OOH, and digital have premiered to rave reviews!

One fundamental tenet of market research is that the consumer’s aesthetic sensibilities don’t really count for much at the cash register. The “hideous” design that Choi critiques was also the design considered the “least appealing” by LaCroix. Until MAi Research recommended it as the best choice. (More details about this, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): Migros Frozen Food Packaging

Migros Frozen Food Packaging Design

1977 Migros frozen food packaging, designed by Han Uster:

Three examples from a line of deep-frozen vegetables sold by a supermarket chain. The photos show the contents of the packages in actual size. Silhouetting the vegetables against a white background gives a heightened three-dimensional effect. The M is a trademark.

Graphis Packaging 3, Walter Herdeg

More packaging with an (almost) all-over pattern of product contents covering the outside of a package. (See also: Trix Cereal X-Ray Pack and Packaging & What Lies Beneath) Certainly not the only example of frozen food packaging with this kind of “all-over” pattern photography.

I’m wondering if Uster’s design is so effective, precisely because it’s not a completely “all-over” pattern. There’s a danger, perhaps, in making the package too reminiscent of a block of frozen vegetables. Granted that’s what most frozen food packaging would contain, but the white space at the bottom makes these a bit more appetizing, I think.

What do you think?

Spin Labels

Spin Labels

Several years ago I got an email from inventor Stephen M. Key, promoting his Spinformation® rotating spin labels. I liked the idea immediately, but it’s taken me this long to get around to sharing it on box vox. (Sorry.)

Spin LabelsWe’ve covered other forms of interactive packaging. One thing that I particularly like about the Spin Labels approach, is that it’s relatively low tech (and therefore: low cost).

No electroluminescence. No integral batteries. Just a manually rotatable outer label with transparent or die cut window, revealing portions of an inner label.

The patented “spin” label is actually two labels, a top label and a bottom label. As the consumer spins the top label,  information on the bottom label is revealed through a window, thus increasing labeling space on a package by approximately 75%.

Spin Labels accudial

There seem to be two somewhat divergent benefits to this type of labeling. One is purely informational — a way of providing more in-depth product information on a limited surface area. The interactive dosing chart on the bottle label to the right is an example.

The other feature is more of kinetic visual effect. Using the “picket fence” barrier grid illusion, type and images and be animated to provide movement when the label is rotated. The video below shows that in effect in action.

(See also: 5 Types of Animated Package and 2 Animated Packaging Patents)

Packaging as Pariah Commodity

Packaging as pariah commodity: Too Too - Much Much
“Too Too – Much Much” as exhibit by Thomas Hirschhorn in 2010 at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle

Is packaging a pariah commodity? In 2010 Swiss artist, Thomas Hirschorn filled a Belgian museum with beverage cans. Seeing the photos of his “Too Too – Much Much” exhibit, I was reminded of a particularly astringent definition of packaging that I’d read recently…

The only definition of packaging that bears any scrutiny is that it is something disposable but persistent — a manufactured product so cheap and unloved that it is not worth the inconvenience of keeping it; but that when jettisoned, obstinately refuses to disappear. If discarded packaging — litter — blended discreetly back into the environment like beanpoles, banana-leaf plates or the falling leaves of autumn, we would not have to bury it and it would not pose such a problem. If, on the other hand, packaging were costly and crafted, we would not be at such pains to eject it from our homes. In neither case would there be a need for a special word.

Packaging is a pariah commodity no one wants to keep. It is the brainchild of an economic system that has to keep producing more and more to maintain equilibrium. Obsolescence is crucial to the survival of capitalism and packaging is the most refined form of planned obsolescence yet devised.

Simon Fairlie, Long Distance,  Short Life , Why Big Business Favours Recycling
from The Ecologist, Vol 22 no6, 1992

A video of Too Too – Much Much, follows after the fold… [Read more…]

Packaged (past tense): Ken Cato’s Prize Bottle

Ken Cato Prize BottleThis skein-shaped Prize Bottle — a “bottle styling for detergent specially recommended for woolens” — was designed in the early 1980s by Ken Cato (formerly of Cato Hibberd Design., now of Cato Brand Partners)

We have a soft spot for packaging simulacra like this. A bottle shaped like a skein of yarn communicates something essential about the product and provides an easy hand grip. What’s not to like?

For years we’ve been noting timeless (or, at least, surprisingly current) packaging ideas like Ken Cato’s Prize Bottle. Why not make it a regular feature?

Therefore: Keep up with the latest “Packaged (past tense)” Fridays on box vox.

+ One more thing…

[Read more…]

Re: our new backwards logo

If you’ve been to this website before you will have noticed that we’ve made a number of changes. One of those changes is our formerly frontwards, now backwards logo.

We tossed out the box. While I (personally) loved the hexagonal symmetry of the symbol, it’s one of those ideas that tends to reoccur. See: Karma, Coincidence & Container Corporation of America (See also: Dropbox)

And too many people were contacting us, incorrectly assuming that we manufacture boxes. It seemed likely that our previous logo had something to do with that. We needed a logo that emphasized the branding part over the physical package.

Deborah’s backwards BEACH design did this in an aggressive, attention-grabbing way. Perplexing enough to raise questions, but also rich with metaphorical possibilities.

The term “branding,” as we hear it used most often today, derives originally from livestock branding. And, as anyone who does livestock branding knows: the letters on the branding iron must be backwards for the “brand” to read correctly.

We also added the question, “Why is your logo backwards?” to our FAQ. (Our answer there supplies a different metaphor.)

Oh, and one more thing: click on it.

There’s still a lot we need to do on this project. We need to add BEACH’s new backwards logo to the slug that we include in all our mechanicals.

And where the Beach Packaging Design box ( OldBoxFavicon ) made a great favicon, we haven’t yet figured out how to make the backwards logo work in that tiny space. (  backwards-logo ? )

Kuttrolf Bottles

Kuttrolf bottles
On left: a photo from “Antique Colored Glass”; on right: bottle from Corning Museum of Glass (1300-1499)

Not new, but new to me: Kuttrolf bottles from the Middle Ages.

With their intricate topology these hand-blown glass bottles are reminiscent of Klein Bottles.  Many Kuttrolf bottles were asymmetrically bent over, as if tipsy. (See also: Tilted Bottles)

According to Wikipedia, “Drinking from such a vessel is intentionally a bit difficult.” In this regard, they’re like other, more recent deliberately anti-ergonomic packaging.

The name Kuttrolf is probably derived from the Latin gutta meaning “drop.” The shape of this bottle with its separately drawn, entwined tubes that form the neck suggests that its purpose was to impede or slow down the flow of its liquid contents.

Inventories of the late Middle Ages are unclear as to its use. The Kuttrolf has been noted as a drinking bottle for spirits, a storage bottle for tinctures of herbs and flowers, and a distillation bottle.

The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages

Another fun fact from the “Dark Ages”: the relative inaccessibility of their contents made Kuttrolf bottles an anthropomorphic metaphor for chastity…

In the Middle Ages the Kuttrolf also served to signify a bride’s virginity, whereas a wine bottle with a wide neck… was used for a non-virgin.


“Kuttrolf were used as containers for precious liquids (perfume, alcohol), but also as urinals.”

The urinal through centuries, Jean-Pierre Martin

As anachronistic as these uses may seem, Kuttrolf bottles have found some contemporary —even futuristic— uses. [Read more…]

Re: Box Vox Hiatus

You may have noticed that our last post was back on Thanksgiving. This is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without putting up a new post since launching box vox back in 2007.

“What’s up?” you ask?

It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas (or package-related content.)

It’s just that we’re in the process of updating BEACH — (the firm, the brand, the web site and the blog)— and I’ve been asked to avoid adding any new content to the blog’s database during this transition. (It’s a lot of data to export and you don’t want to do it twice.)

Of course, the blogging hiatus has lasted longer than expected: 16 days and counting. If I had to predict, I would say it might be another whole month before box vox is again fully operational.

“John Doe” Thanksgiving candy packaging


From Nathan Edwin Covel: a 1927 “Package” patent.

Covel was co-founder of Lovell & Covel, a Boston confectionery manufacturer. His invention was like a Halloween mask for candy packaging — a box cover for transforming generic “John Doe” brand products into seasonal, holiday-themed “John Doe” brand products.

It is customary in the confectionery trade to pack candy and the like in special boxes, designed for seasonal events, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Such boxes are decorated in a manner appropriate to the particular occasion, and, after the occasion has passed, the merchant may find himself with a stock on hand, which, to render salable, must be removed from the special boxes and sold in bulk, or repacked, or disposed of in some other manner. In any event, considerable annoyance and expense is involved, and it is the object of the present invention to avoid this in a novel and effective manner.

The invention consists, briefly, in the provision of a special cover, decorated appropriately to a desired occasion, which may be placed over ordinary stock containers. The cost of such covers is negligible, and as they need only be applied as required, all loss is avoided and any surplus may be carried over from one season to another without any deterioration.

–Nathan Edwin Covel

I like the anonymity of his “John Doe” brand Thanksgiving candy packaging, combined with the menace of the turkey-beheading hatchet in the illustration. I also like Covel’s pragmatic vision of surplus gift products, continually re-gifted with an added layer of packaging. (See also: Yesterday And Today)

Thankfully, I’m still diabetic and do not anticipate receiving (or eating) any John Doe Thanksgiving chopping block candy.

Three different brands: one chubby arrow logo


Three different brands: one chubby arrow logo.


For those of us based in the United States, Target’s chubby “Up & Up” trademark will be the most familiar.

In South Africa and Russia, however, there may be other brands more strongly associated with this north-easterly pointing, color changing arrow logo.

In countries where consumers read left-to-right, I suppose the meaning of the arrow’s direction is something positive like, “onwards and upwards.”

(Details about all three brands, after the fold…) [Read more…]

Marlboro Beer on Craig’s List


This just in: another bottle of Marlboro Beer is currently for sale on Craig’s List ($500).

Looks like you’d have to be in Dover, Pennsylvania to purchase it.

How do I even know about this? I have a Google Alert for “Marlboro Beer.”

Why do I care? Marlboro’s 1970s contemplated brand extension —extending their cigarette brand into the realm of alcoholic beverages— has been an ongoing interest of ours…

“…although the idea was reportedly killed in 1971, it has been periodically resuscitated.

Cooler heads always seem to prevail, but, I tell you, this idea has traction!”

The Marlboro Beer Memos

The idea was (again) floated internally at Phillip Morris as recently as 1994.

The artifacts of their test marketing are oddly fascinating and pretty rare.

What do such objects suggest? A heightened brand loyalty, where devoted consumers purchase an array of matching possessions, each bearing the same trademark.

See also: “Our Rarest Can”