A Perfect Gift of Pencils

Who would have thought that a box of No. 2 pencils could exude style, sophistication and Art Deco flair? But leave it to New York-based designer Louise Fili to use her mastery of typography, pattern, color and all things Italian to create a product that you would be proud to present as a gift – and thrilled to receive. Invited by Princeton Architectural Press to design a line of elegant gift products, Fili came up with a boxed set of 12 double-tipped pencils. Fili felt that the two-sided pencils seemed perfect, thus the name “Perfetto.” On her website, Fili explains that her design was inspired by her collection of 1930s Italian pencil boxes. “Our most preferred are the two-color, double-sided pencils, commonly in red and blue, for teachers to correct homework…red for a minor infringement, blue for a serious offense.” Fili says that they chose not to use blue because it was our least favorite color. Instead she says, “We opted for our signature red and black.” There’s no eraser because that would spoil the beautiful symmetry.

Nepia Tissue Animals

When the product is as commonplace as facial tissue, there’s no need for advertising to explain its benefits and uses. Civilized people know. So, Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, found a more compelling way to promote the Nepia paper brand by making origami animals out of Nepia tissue. The video performance feels like a magic act, with sheets of tissue transformed before your eyes into elephants, snakes and frogs and back into tissue. The white tissue and austere background help to suggest the clean, soft and feathery lightness of the product. This stop-motion animation was directed by Fuyu Arai with creative direction by Hitoshi Sato.

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5 Common Mistakes Package Designers Make

Editor’s note: Packaging design presents its own unique set of challenges to graphic designers that differ from other kinds of print design. Here, we asked Brad Murdoch from Process, a premium packaging manufacturer based in Salt Lake City, to help us identify some common mistakes. Process handles custom packaging and fabrication through its network of overseas manufacturing facilities.

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Coven: The Perfect Halloween Drink (for Adults)

At first glance, the packaging for Coven, a new hand-crafted vodka made by Arbutus Distillery in Nanaimo on tiny Vancouver Island in Canada, looks deceptively traditional, fitting right in on retail shelves with the products of large spirit producers. But darkness changes everything.

Asked to develop a product name, brand personality and package design for Arbutus Distillery’s inaugural product, Nanaimo-based agency, Hired Guns Creative, sought to take consumers into the deeper realm of the spirit world. Hired Guns chose the name “Coven” for the Arbutus vodka brand, not only because it was a play on the idea of spirits, but because it suggested gatherings, mystery and a hint of sexual allure. From a design perspective, creative director Richard Hatter also found Coven “a very clean, balanced word that is easy to work with on a graphic level. And, of course, there are the other obvious criteria; it was easy to spell, say, pronounce, read from a distance, and it was available to trademark.”

To bring credibility to this new product in stores, Hired Guns used several traditional indicators of quality: hand-dipped wax, die-cut label, foil and embossing details, and lots of whitespace. What isn’t seen in daylight, however, is a gathering of witches and night creatures made visible through a glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent coating overprinted on the bottle. The text on the back label adds to the haunting impression: “Shrouded in the mist of the West Coast, a timeless rite enchants those who seek a greater spirit. Initiation requires strict dedication to the craft. There is power in numbers, so gather together because when the lights fade, the ritual begins. We’ve been waiting for you.” Drink up and be merry; the spirits are alive.

A Brand That Speaks for Itself

Even though today’s consumers are likely to buy their Coca-Cola in a can, the original contoured bottle shape and bright red color are instantly associated with the beverage in every part of the world. Istanbul-based Ayse Celem Design felt no need to call out the product by name, but let shape and color serve as the brand identity for this promotional calendar for Coca-Cola Turkey.

Branding of Dripp Coffee

The visual identity system for Southern California-based Dripp Coffee Shop is intriguing for what is fixed and what is flexible. Designed by Turner Duckworth San Francisco and London, the Dripp branding system centers around a hand-drawn script logotype which angles upward. The rest of the visual content is structured within a grid of color blocks with minimal flat-graphic images. The flourished style of the letters sets the logo apart from the rest of the visual content and, by contrast, draws attention to itself. The silhouetted objects themselves can be changed to suit the product, season or event, as long as they retain the stylized look and simplified color palette of the brand – as shown in the set of posters below created by Turner Duckworth. This graphic system also accommodates changing needs and uses, including this sleeveless hot paper cup design by Istanbul-based designer Salih Kucukaga.


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Advertising Made Complex a la Rube Goldberg

Over the year, Rube Goldberg-type devices have popped up in a diverse array of TV commercials, from a promo for the “Elementary” mystery series, an ad for Beneful dog food, and the 2003 classic “Cog” film for Honda Accord. Unlike commercials that demonstrate or tout the product outright, these get their message across in the most tangential way. There is no story line, no spokesperson pointing out product features, not even a lot of voiceover commentary. But the viewer’s attention is riveted to the commercial and the product it is trying to sell.

Just who was this Rube Goldberg? And how did his crazy inventions inspire 21st century advertising creatives to design TV commercials to market their products so circuitously? Let me introduce you. Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an engineer-turned-cartoonist whose primary cartoon character was one Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, an inventor of gadgets that accomplished the simplest tasks in the most complicated, elaborate roundabout way. For those unfamiliar with how Goldberg started a chain reaction of copycat inventors, here’s an example. Goldberg’s cartoon above explains Professor Butts and his Self-Operating Napkin, which was activated when a) the soup spoon was raised to the mouth, pulling a string, b) which jerked a ladle, c) tossing up the cracker inside, d) past a parrot, e) causing the parrot to leap for the cracker, f) thereby, tilting the perch, g) which tipped a bowl of seeds into a pail, h) which, due to its added weight, pulled a cord, i) which ignited a cigarette lighter, j) setting off a rocket, k) which caused a sickle l) to cut a string, and m) freeing a pendulum and causing an attached napkin to swing back and forth, wiping the diner’s mouth.

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OXO Founder Sam Farber’s Lasting Legacy

It is with sadness that we note the passing of our friend, OXO GoodGrips founder Sam Farber, who died Sunday at the age of 88. Farber, who received the “Design of the Decade” award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek magazine in 2001, proved that ground-breaking innovations don’t have to be based on cutting-edge technology nor even have mechanical parts.

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When Cats Fantasize

The new advertising campaign for Whiskas from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in the UK is built around the premise that big cats (i.e., leopards, lions, jaguars, etc.) and little cats share the same natural instincts. Understanding this behaviorial link, Whiskas says it gives domestic kitties all they naturally need in one pet food product. I love the ads, but question the connection. My cat sleeps all day and won’t take on anything more dangerous than a fake mouse and a ball on a string. But I can imagine that when my cat daydreams, she sees herself stalking a herd of zebra, cozying up to lions, taunting an elephant, and running as fast as an antelope. In her dreams, she’s untamed and courageous and keeping company with wild beasts. She’d love these ads.

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There’s More to Cuba Than Cigars

Think of Cuba’s most famous product, and cigars immediately come to mind. Think again. That’s what Young & Rubicam Milan wanted people to do that when they created this “From Tourist to Traveller” advertising campaign for Azonzo Travel Agency in Italy. Visitors arrive in Cuba with stereotypical views of what the country is like and discover that there’s more delights to experience on the tropical island than Cuban cigars.

Carlsberg and Coke

Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.

Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.

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Making the Plunge

San Francisco-based photographer Ryan Heffernan took these dramatic shots for a Japan Rags ad campaign. What looks like a freeze-frame photograph captured with split-second timing is actually a composite of three different stills.

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Nokia N8 Mobile Phone Film Winner

Here’s a novel way to get consumers to test out your product. In March, Nokia announced a competition to shoot a short film entirely with a Nokia N8 mobile phone. It invited entrants to send in a story pitch and offered a $5,000 filming budget and two Nokia N8s to eight finalists.

“Splitscreen: A Love Story,” directed by UK-based JW Griffiths, won the first place award of $10,000.

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Coke Wants Its Racks Back


Coca-Cola has gotten very good at reclaiming the containers that hold its beverages. In 2010, it recovered 400 million pounds of cans and bottles in the U.S. alone. Much of this has been converted into everything from chairs and clothes to jewelry. But building a sustainable planet demands more than reclaiming product packaging, so Coke has come out with the industry’s first 100% recyclable merchandise display racks for use in grocery and convenience stores. Made from corrugated cardboard and soon from recycled PET plastic too, the merchandise racks are the first step toward a comprehensive closed-loop retail equipment program. Coke’s “Give It Back” rack is meant to be returned or recycled to keep it from being tossed into a landfill. The recyclable rack is being tested in select U.S. markets now and should be widely available before yearend.

Espolon Tequila Packaging
Wraps Itself in Mexican Legends

How do you convince consumers that your tequila is authentically Mexican and not an Americanized version of what the South of the Border drink is all about? Skip the piñatas, the sombreros and all the hokey souvenir-type imagery for starters.

For the reintroduction of its product in the United States after an absence of several years, Espolon Tequila wrapped its brand in the rich traditions, history, festivities and artistic style of the Mexican culture. Spearheaded by Landor, the rebranding program was inspired by the engravings of renowned 19th century artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, whose skeleton people are best associated with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Finely drawn illustrations by Steven Noble pay homage to Posada’s style and incorporate iconography reflecting the legends and lore of Mexico.

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