Pop Culture Packaging: The Impact of TV and Movies on Design

Pop culture has always and will always be a great tool to leverage for information. It is a bridge that connects marketing teams to consumers when updating an old, tired look or developing a new product for a new target audience.

A Yale University study from a few years back revealed that the use of movie and TV characters on food packaging is designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations, making them seem more desirable.

That’s why cartoon characters are often used on packaging to help sell junk food and other foods that companies are trying to appeal to little ones. Not that it’s all bad; for every Fred Flintstone on a cereal box, there is a Dora the Explorer or a Big Bird being used to help sell fruit and vegetables.

But it’s much more than food. Other brands have tied TV and movie character packaging to items such as wine, vitamins and even electronics.Homer-Marge-wine-572x354Tien Nguyen
, lead industrial designer for Studio One Eleven, a division of Berlin Packaging, says that in the past couple of years, the firm has noticed companies of all sizes have been leveraging endorsement from celebrities in the music, TV, and movie industries to gain more brand awareness, and the impact can be seen on packaging.

For example, Studio One Eleven recently launched a multivitamin gummies package with a leading nutritional supplements manufacturer, where they were able to leverage the multi-generational following of the Star Wars saga.

StarWarsVitaminsHero_2a “Our team designed and engineered special-edition overcaps based on the characters from the series to make their products more fun and appealing for kids and adults,” Nguyen says. “We were able to target both young kids that may be experiencing Star Wars for the first time (with the recent launch of Episode 7), and the diehard fans that fell in love with the saga from the original series.”

Davidson’s Organics—the first certified organic, fair trade and specialty tea company in the U.S.— just completed a package redesign for its 400 varieties of teas and accessories, centered around pop culture, such as its teas featuring movie legend Bruce Lee.BruceTea4 “We identified that millennials need to be visually stimulated with colors and buzzwords before they take a look at price and nutrition labels. We identified the words that young and old tea-drinkers look for, and put them on the face of our packaging,” says Davidson’s owner, Kunall Patel. “Pop culture has everything to do with what’s interesting right now. Every company should aim to stay that relevant in today’s fast-paced, social environment. No content is evergreen forever.”

A new energy drink released a few years ago capitalized on popular cartoon character, Popeye, who is known for his incredible strength after eating a can of spinach. That association led to a strong rollout.

“It’s important to stay in touch with the multi-cultural and ever changing lifestyle of today’s consumers, especially for younger and smaller companies. Staying up to date with trends and what consumers want is vital to build brand awareness and ultimately market shares among the larger players,” Nguyen says. “The CPG industry is a very fast pace industry. On average, we’ve seen companies target a complete redesign of both structure and branding within 2-3 years, depending on the breadth of their product portfolio.”

Before the Internet and social media, people were perhaps less informed, or they at least did not have such easily accessed resources to become informed. This led to the need for more content on packaging, as opposed to imaging.

“At that time, in order to create a brand, you first needed to introduce it. And more often than not, your first introduction to a consumer was through the physical handling of your packaging,” Patel says. “Now we’re able to establish brands through videos, websites, online images, etc. This emergence of visual interest has now led to this interest as it relates to physical products and their packaging. Our new packaging paints a picture worth a thousand words about content literally through brand imaging and design.”

Marvel has deals with numerous CPG companies—representing drinks, shampoos and yogurts—and you can find plenty of Pixar characters on packages of similar items when new movies come out.

Packaging that relies on TV or movies to help sell a product is a savvy move by companies, and is a strategy that won’t be going away anytime soon.

5 Designs We Love: Experiential Package Design

Experiential packaging involves the use of typography, color, imagery, and content to create a new environment and a truly unique experience for the consumer. By changing the way that clients interact with a product and making the experience more enjoyable, many companies have seen increased sales and more brand loyalty. Experiential packaging can serve as an effective sales tool by pulling the customer in.

In order to use this design strategy most effectively, the packaging should be visually appealing, memorable, and provide an experience for the prospective buyer, before they even get to the product. By creating a sensory experience for your consumers, you can connect with them on a more personal level. We have highlighted some of our favorite examples of successful experiential package design, which uniquely engage with their consumers and stand apart from the rest.

 

Black Forest Chocolate

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The Black Forest Chocolate packaging goes beyond presenting chocolate as a present (which this packaging also accomplishes). By focusing on all five senses, the consumer can create their own environment entirely focused on the appreciation of chocolate. The package includes chocolate to eat, a chocolate candle to smell, and by placing the candle inside the packaging, the light shines out of the logo cutouts to create a forest in the room while the consumer is enjoying their chocolate.

 

La Vita Mini Oliva

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This award-winning experiential design makes these small olive oil packages more intriguing and attractive to consumers. The individual packages are user-friendly, enticing, and are the perfect size for vending machines and counter sales. La Vita’s marketing team also offers design services to help businesses create a unique presentation stand to further boost sales and entice consumers.

 

Festina Profundo Dive Watch

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What better way to advertise that these watches are waterproof than with this packaging? Berlin-based agency, Scholz & Friends, came up with the idea to pack the watch in a transparent bag filled with distilled water to prove that they are truly waterproof. After all, the company’s motto is “We believe in what we see”. By submerging the watch in water, it creates a visually appealing, shareable experience (and also makes for a unique gift).

 

Jose Cuervo

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These limited edition Day of The Dead bottles feature a festive image that is reminiscent of tattoo art, which draws the consumer’s eye. The best part is that the color-changing bottles become more colorful and festive when the bottles are chilled, creating an experience for consumers. Khortytsa designed the bottles to connect with the millennial generation in order to increase sales both in store and in the bar/club scene.

 

Nike Air

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To complement one of the most popular sneaker designs ever released, Berlin-based agency, Scholz & Friends, realized they would truly have to do something “outside of the box”. They packaged the shoes in an air-tight plastic bag to appear as if the sneakers were floating in air. It immediately grabs a buyer’s attention, is highly shareable advertising, and even helps reduce the risk of damage from shipping.

What are your favorite experiential package designs?

Colors that Yell

With the trend of minimalist, stark packaging still going so strong, some brands are pushing back with designs that scream from the shelf. Hot pink, blood orange, teal – all are showing up in product categories that have never gone so bold. We know that color choices evoke different emotional responses for consumers, and playing with combinations can help shoppers connect with brands. Clashing colors are also usually more memorable and therefore are great for brand recall, especially when the colors are unique to the product.

Using loud, expressive colors is a way for brands to differentiate a special edition product, allowing them to break out of their standard molds and appeal to new groups. This can be highly effective for brands looking to target younger consumers, who are appreciative of companies that are willing to take on a little edginess and aesthetic risk. Large brands looking to emulate the look and feel of small brands should take note of how the following companies have successfully crafted exciting packages by taking chances with color.

 

Harper Macaw

Last spring, D.C. chocolatier Harper Macaw released a series of bars inspired by the election. Naturally, the wrappers use bold reds and blues, and the result is gorgeous and striking. Rather than feeling like political cartoons, the chocolates are elegant and find the beauty within the absurdity of our current political climate. For a time that has been so stressful and dividing, at least we got a little something sweet out of it.

 

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Bud Light

Bud Light is now the official beer sponsor of South by Southwest, and the funky, psychedelic cans that they issued in limited release last year were such a hit that they are coming back for the 2017 festival. With bright blues, orange, yellow, red, purple, green, and a shock of black, the packaging perfectly captures the vibe of the festival and of the famously “weird” city of Austin.

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Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP

Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP sticks out like a sore thumb among competitors, with a heavy fuchsia font that pops (pun intended) against solid feminine backgrounds. This is a great example of how color clashing can be used in a way that is playful without being childish – this design communicates maturity while remaining effectively eye-catching. The color choices here indicate that the snack is something indulgent and luxurious, a cut above all of the Orville Redenbachers and the Act IIs.

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Wild Leaf

Most tea brands try to communicate the same themes: tranquility, peace, smoothness, etc. Wild Leaf has decided to take an entirely different approach, with wild colors that would be striking on their own and are even stronger when put together. Energetic and youthful, with a large callout for its specific properties, it’s certainly more fun than your grandma’s Lipton.

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Ciao Bella

The bright, beautiful color palette that Ciao Bella used for their line of gelatos is a great example of risk paying off. Brands of ice cream and similar treats often struggle with how to clearly target adults, and the rainbow of color could have easily made it seem like it was a dessert for children. Instead, the careful color pairings elevate the packaging to a new level of sophistication, while still looking just as visually interesting and trendy as competitors like Ben & Jerry’s.

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Unexpectedly Iconic Designs

Sometimes brands just don’t understand the power of their own designs. Bad design can result in catastrophic failure for even the most successful and well-established companies, as seen with Tropicana’s disastrous attempt at a redesign in 2009. The packaging was so reviled that it caused sales to plummet by 20% over a two-month period, costing the juice company $30 million in lost transactions and a huge undisclosed sum in costs associated with reverting back to the old design.tropicana

On the other hand, good design has the power to multiply profits several times over – as was the case with Botanical Bakery, whose 2010 redesign tripled sales in a single year. This is the dream of most brands, and, usually, companies will invest heavy amounts of time and money to make sure that such a project is strategically sound. In a few cases, however, brands have taken risks by choosing designs that they did not feel especially strongly about, only to see huge rewards for their gamble. Below are three examples of designs with low expectations that went on to become iconic, generating untold profits and consumer loyalty for the brands attached to them.

 

The “Jazz” Solo Cup

In 1991, the Sweetheart Cup Company selected a design by employee Gina Ekiss in an internal contest to be featured on cups and plates. Gina received no bonus, awards, or recognition for her contribution, which was called “jazz”. The design – featuring a teal blue zig-zag under a thin purple zig-zag – went on to become the company’s all-time bestseller, and is now a pattern considered to be emblematic of the nineties. Gina’s identity (and status as an unsung hero) was only discovered in 2015 after someone on Reddit with the username “mcglaven” started a thread dedicated to tracking down the designer. Today, the design has a cult following that has inspired everything from apparel lines to social media pages.

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La Croix’s Groovy Look

When National Beverage sought to differentiate their seltzer drink La Croix from competitors, they hired Alchemy Brand Group to redesign the can. Of all of the options presented, National Beverage liked the current “Picasso-esque” design the least. However, it tested so incredibly well with consumers that they decided to take a chance with it, and the distinctive design is credited in part with La Croix’s massive success today.

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The Anthora Cup

Leslie Buck – born Laszlo Bück  — immigrated to America after World War II, after having survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After starting a paper cup manufacturing company with his brother (who was also a Holocaust survivor), he moved to a startup called Sherri Cup in the 1960s. It was there that he designed a hot cup in the colors of the Greek flag, aimed at the predominantly Greek diner owners of New York City. Buck did not receive any royalties from his design, but the company sold hundreds of millions of what is now considered to be an extremely recognizable piece of New York iconography.

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Valentine’s Day Candy Packaging

Valentine’s Day is on Tuesday, which means that candy brands are preparing to move a serious amount of inventory. While there is definitely some standard imagery that is going to show up in most Valentine’s package design – we’re never getting rid of hearts – there is also a fair amount of diversity on the shelves. Here, we are looking at an array of different options that are available this year, and seeing how brands are interpreting the occasion.

Brach’s Emoticon Gummi Hearts brachsnew

This new treat from Brach’s is an interesting case because the design of the product is clearly aimed at millennials, and yet the company opted to go with very classic design for the packaging. The brand logo (which is fairly consistent across their products) is featured very prominently, and purple is a color choice that the company has made for most of their Valentine’s Day offerings. With this holiday being so important for Brach’s, it’s clear that they are seizing the opportunity to build brand equity among a younger consumer base.

 

Hershey’s White Cookie Cupcake Kisses

kissesnew Another newcomer this year, this line of Kisses from Hershey is a Target exclusive. Again, the color choices of purples, pinks, and red are pretty standard for Valentine’s Day packaging, but what is worth noting about the design is that Hershey’s rarely depicts their Kisses in any kind of an action scene. Here, the Kisses are baking cupcakes, quickly communicating the flavor to consumers while feeling more fun than a typical Hershey’s bag.

 

Kit Kat Red Velvet Miniatures

kitkatnewWhite chocolate and cake are evidently the new flavors of Valentine’s Day. Much like the Kisses, there are no groundbreaking innovations in color, and the design is a lot more playful than a standard pack. Kit Kat’s job is a little harder than most other brands, because their standard packaging is already a bright, festive red. In order to stand out, they have decided to include a couple of love-struck cats, a clever and charming pun about the brand name.

 

Champagne Bears

bearsnewThese upscale gummy bears from Sugarfina are a refreshing break from tradition. While the transparent packaging allows the light pink and peach colors of the bears to show through, the use of cool blue and gold is something rarely seen in Valentine’s Day packaging. The alcoholic candies are obviously meant to be a more mature option, and the bold differentiation is a smart choice.

 

Love Bites Bento Box

lbnew lb2newThis sugary assortment, also from Sugarfina, is meant for a very different kind of Valentine’s Day shopper. It is aimed at single consumers, with the growing popularity of anti-celebrations like “Galentine’s Day” making gift exchanges between friends more common. The use of watercolor and elegant fonts contrasts well with the visible novelty candies, elevating the product from gag item to something that might be worth the $26 retail price.

 

Kissing Burns Calories

kbcnewFinally, Kissing Burns Calories from Dylan’s Candy Bar seems to find some kind of balance, managing to both use very traditional colors while communicating that it is a treat for adults. The textured lid is very much on trend for this year in package design, and the striped heart in the center is visually interesting and attractive.

Creative Titans: Dieter Rams and the 10 Principles of Good Design

Dieter-Rams-Product-Design-Process

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer and respected product design guru. With more than seven decades’ worth of design experience, he has earned a list of notable awards and accomplishments over the years, and is one of the most important designers in recent history.

While he never worked for Apple, his designs are said to be the inspiration for a number of the Apple products that we know and love today. In fact, Jonathan Ive has publicly acknowledged Dieter Rams as his inspiration.  In the 2009 documentary, “Objectified”, Rams claims that Apple is one of few companies who design according to his principles of good design.

Popular Work

Dieter Rams is most commonly known for his work with Braun, where he served as the head of design from 1961-1995. He has helped design useful, visually appealing gadgets for around the home.  Due in part to the user friendliness and look of Braun products, they became a household name in the 1950s.  While he retired from Braun in 1997, Rams continues to work with Vitsoe furniture designs today.

There have been a number of books published about Rams and his work.  His designs can also be found in touring and permanent exhibitions and museums around the world.  His 10 principles of good design have also been widely studied and used by designers and non-designers alike.

Design Strategy

Rams created the 10 principles of good design, which revolve around bringing simplicity and purity back into the product design process. His strategy and principles are built around the fact that good design is innovative, aesthetic, honest, long-lasting, unobtrusive, thorough, and environmentally-friendly. As he has so eloquently put it, his design approach is: “Good design is as little design as possible.”  Below are his fabled 10 Principles (from his Wikipedia page):

Good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Rams aims to make products that are useful and understandable, remaining functional, psychological, and aesthetic. He has stated that good product design “is a matter of balancing the esthetic content with regard to use”.

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Creative Titans: How Massimo Vignelli Impacts Your Commute

Massimo-Vignelli and Vignelli Associates Design Agency

Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan, Italy in 1931. He is a renowned designer who has created an impressive body of work in areas ranging from package design to interior design, and everything in between. Together with his wife, Lella Vignelli, he founded a design agency by the name Vignelli Associates, and designed The Vignelli Center For Design Studies.

Popular Work

Vignelli is responsible for a great number of nationally recognized logos, such as American Airlines, IBM, Bloomingdales, and more.  His work both through his design agency and otherwise has been published and exhibited throughout the world and has influenced designers the world over.  He has been recognized with an impressive range of awards and honors over the years and continues to be heralded as one of the premier influencers of the typography that we know and love today.

He is also responsible for designing the Helvetica font more than 50 years ago, and changing the way we look at typography today.  In fact, “Helvetica” is now a feature-length documentary about typography, fonts, and graphic design.  It stars none other than… wait for it… Massimo Vignelli!!  Two feature-length television programs have also been devoted to Vignelli’s work.

With all that said, his most popular and perhaps most enduring work still remains the NYC subway map, which was recently updated from the original version. The New York City transit system can be rather complicated, but Vignelli created a design that organizes the various lines into a clear, colorful map. His masterful work has influenced everything from transit map design to furniture design and impacts the daily life of commuters, designers, and the American public at large.

Design Strategy

Vignelli works to create unique designs that can remain relevant over time. Along with his portfolio of work, Massimo Vignelli, and his wife Lella, have been known to eat, sleep, and breathe design. They create effective designs based on three investigations in design, including the search for structure, specificity, and fun. “I strive to raise the bar a few inches, taking the commonplace and improving it,” Vignelli said.

Vignelli believes in following the Modernist tradition, which focuses on minimalism and the use of basic geometric forms. He subscribes to the belief that simple, but strong, design is the best way to remain timeless. As he so eloquently put it, “If you do it right, it will last forever.” This form of stripped-down design has become increasingly popular over time and continues to be used in print, online, and packaging design today.

Vignelli has published a number of works in the past and currently hosts master design workshops, speeches, and interviews both domestically and abroad.  He and his wife continue to work and inspire others.

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5 Designs We Love: Movie Posters of the 70’s

In our latest edition of 5 Designs We Love, we take a look at 5 classic movie poster designs. When we decided to focus on movie posters as a subject, it immediately became apparent that there are far too many great poster designs throughout the history of motion pictures to ever narrow them down to a list of just five. So we thought we would share some of our favorites, and separate them into individual categories.  Here are our favorites from the 70’s era.

1. Jaws (1975)

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From the subtle fish hook “J” in the title treatment to the not-so-subtle shark emerging from the depths focused on his unsuspecting prey atop the ocean surface, the poster for Jaws is “Iconic” to say the least.  While the proportions of the shark are almost cartoon like, the image feels completely realistic and believable through the masterful painting of artist Roger Kastel

2. Animal House (1978)

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The movie poster design for Animal House can really be summed up in one word… chaos!  And it fits the film perfectly. Not only does all the wildness and fun of Delta House depicted in Rick Meyerowitz’s illustration make you want to see the movie, but there are so many points of discovery from the film that it becomes one of those images that you have to look at a second time after watching it to understand them all.  Then you want to see it again.

3. Star Wars (1977)

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There are so many great poster designs for Star Wars, we could almost do a 5 Designs We Love just on Star Wars. However, we are choosing to focus on the original One Sheet by artist Tom Jung. The image portrays a much more glamourous and sexy depiction of Leia than we ever came to know in the movie and a muscle bound Luke we never knew either. The image effectively struck a cord in the imaginations of just about every child of the 70’s, immediately carrying them off to that “galaxy far, far away”. The most iconic element in the poster, also never seen in the film is the pose of Luke holding his light saber high above his head. This image of the design has become part of countless images, packages and logos ever since.

4. The Stepford Wives (1975)

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Not one you normally find on people’s all time favorite poster lists, but the poster image for the film The Stepford Wives is downright disturbing – and that’s what makes it a great poster. The movie about a group of submissive suburban housewives obsessed with housework is represented perfectly by a single image of a broken, emotionless woman. Long before the days of photoshop, the photographic image of a shattered woman made of fragile ceramic is very effectively executed.

5. Alien (1979)

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Another great example that sometimes less is more when it comes to creating a great movie poster design. From it’s simple title treatment to the quiet anticipation of what horror is about to emerge from the disturbing egg centered in the black of space, the poster does not say much but speaks volumes. Maybe most frightening of all is the tag line “In space no one can hear you scream”.

 

The “New” Factor

We’ve been doing our research. We’ve found that more and more brands are calling attention to their new look or variety by using the word “new” in various ways in their retail packaging design – in a bar, across a box, in a circle, you name it. Sure, it seems like the oldest trick in the book, but what we are finding is that some brands are creating their entire design around this word that they deem so important, or even going a step further and telling consumers what’s new about it on the design. So, the next time you are at the grocery store, see if you’re more likely to buy a product because it has the world “new “on it. But before you do that, take a look below at the different ways and places you’ll see this word used on a product design.

 

 

Some brands, like Pepperidge Farm and Fiber One are using what are called “basic interrupters” in their retail packaging design.  This means that the word “new” is not affecting the whole layout and design on a product, but is just a small call-out on the front.

 

Here are more examples of basic interrupters:

Here are examples of design altering call-outs. As you can see, the word “new” takes up the entire top portion of the boxes below, and utilize a completely different color than the rest of designed box.

Often times, when brands are creating a line extension or a new variety, they also want this called out by using the word “new.” Fiber One did this on the box design when they created their Nutty Clusters & Almonds variety.

 

Still, many brands want consumers to know exactly what is new or different about their product, so they make sure to explicitly state it on the design of the bag, box or package.

Quaker wanted consumers to know that even though the look of their bag changed, it’s still the same great taste of the mini rice cakes.

 

 

Schar however wanted consumers to know that they in fact did make the actual product better – it’s a new recipe this time that they are using to create softer rolls. And Ensure uses two tactics. Peach is a new variety, but they still want to reiterate to consumers that the Ensure brand in general is a good source of protein.

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