Simple Packaging, Nice Results.

One of my first jobs in the design industry involved the ancient art of cutting color for print production. It was a horrid job but it paid really well so it was my job for 2 long years .

The process for those of you that don’t know, involved placing sheets of Rubylith or Amberlith on top of a black and white negative the size of a newspaper spread. Then on a light table, you would take and Exacto knife and cut away the sections that would have color ink applied. After you would add screen values to the open areas to determine how much colored ink would go in that spot. This was done for each color (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). When it was all done you shot another final negative on a copy camera with your “Stripped” film in place. All of this was done after you had spent hours pasting-up your original page spreads, and shooting negatives of them on a copy camera.

The whole process was tedious and it ruined your eyes. Well it ruined mine. I had perfect vision before, I have been slightly nearsighted ever since. So what is the point of all of this? Well this week I got new eyeglasses, and I love the packaging they came in.

When I first opened the box my glasses shipped in, I was greeted with a frosted crush proof plastic tube. The tube held my glasses, a cleaning rag, and documentation for the frames. IC! Berlin had eliminated the traditional glasses case knowing that 95% of all glasses owners do not use the case that their glasses come in. This move allowed the designers of the packaging to take a whole new approach to how they delivered the glasses, and reduce the carbon footprint needed to get them to you.

The case is a simple tube. The top literally screws to the bottom with a twist off sleeve that doubles as the cap and adds structural reinforcement  to the package as the ribs of the closing mechanism create additional structure to the shape. The result is a double walled sleeve that holds your eyeglasses. The package is very simple, with te IC! Berlin logo screen printed on the side. Nothing fancy, just simple ingenious packaging that uses fewer materials than a traditional case, costs less to ship due to reduced weight, and is 100% recyclable.

Frankly I think this is a much better solution than the last three or four pairs of glasses that I have bought. Each one of those came in lager box, one that would accommodate the eyeglasses case. Each one of the cases was usually some form of plastic wrapped box that was lined with some polyester material, that held the glasses and paperwork. I have one case left from my previous pair of frames for reference so I can’t give an accurate materials list. The case for my last frames though is a fairly complex plastic over-wrap box with embossed surfaces, and chrome hinges. It couldn’t have been cheap to produce, and the case itself weighs in at 4 ounces which adds overhead to the shipping.

So hats off to you IC! Berlin for a better solution. I have no idea if their intention was to reduce materials and create a more green solution to their packaging. Either way, they did.


Trix Are For More Than Just Kids.

A few years ago I worked on a design project that was built around a technology called T-Ink. Basically the way it worked was, you printed a circuit board onto a paper surface, the circuit board was connected to low power lights and speakers. When you touched parts of the printed design you completed the circuit and things would light up and make noise. The project never went anywhere do to costs and other hurdles, but it is nice to see that similar technologies not only still exist but they have improved upon them.

Fulton Innovation has developed a system using induction power to create a series of cereal boxes for General Mills that light up in stages to create an eye-catching effect on store shelves. The technology is called eCoupled, and this application is only a demo at this time, but I guarantee you this is going to be rolling out over the next year to store shelves near you.

While I am more of a fan of creating more green packaging, something recyclable, I can see this having a massive impact on the package design industry, or the stationary/greeting card industry. It opens the doors to a number of new, low-cost applications that extend the base products visual appeal.


Bull • A • Rook Whiskey.

Over the last 9 days I have been celebrating the 12 days of cocktails, by trying a new to me drink each night at cocktail hour. Almost all of them have been some form of whiskey based drink. I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with it being winter, and the idea that whiskey is a winter drink. (It is in my head, so keep your snide liquor remarks to yourself). Anyway while perusing the internet today looking for a new and tasty recipe for an adult libation, I came across this wonderful packaging for “Bull • A • Rook” whiskey designed by Kyle Poff.

The bottle shape is really wonderful, almost like a cologne bottle. Stout and solid with an inset that highlights the liquid and refines the overall shape creating a nice balance between the inner and outer layers. The attention to detail in the label and the stopper are executed so well with the “B” logo echoed throughout via the perforated label, and the embossed touch on the stopper.

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

James Beard Award winner Mindy Segal, is the pastry chef owner of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago. Having eaten at this establishment I could write a review, but what I really want to talk about has less to do with the amazing food here, and more to do with a new packaging design concept I found for the place.

I have no idea if this is going to become actual packaging for Mindy’s, or if it is truly just a concept. Either way it Kyle Tezak’s design looks great, and if I were Mindy’s I’d consider using it.

Using Gil Elvgren illustrations as the backdrop, each girl is covered with a peel off label designed to conceal the pin-up. When you peel the label back, you see the entire illustration. It’s a nice concept done up in a retro style that features Mindy’s logo in a prominent way, and leaves a memorable impression.

What would have been interesting is if the designer had featured girls with ever-increasing deeper tans for the darker chocolates being used.

Panasonic Headphone Packaging is Music to My Ears.

German agency Scholz & Friends has designed a new packaging system for Panasonic RP-HJE 130 headphones. Using a simple visual metaphor created by the product itself, the packaging and product combine to create a wonderful  a music note. A simple gray line of text punctuates what these headphones are made for. “Made For Music”. The Panasonic name is positioned directly below the note in bold black type. Visually this simple design is simply stunning. It is the kind of packaging that stands out in a sea of boxes on a shelf, and the design of the headphones as a musical note is just brilliant. I’d love to see a series of these that are made up of different notes, so they could be positioned on the store shelf to read like a stanza of music.

Design Friday. Illy Coffee

For this Design Friday post I wanted to talk about Illy coffee. Anyone who has traveled outside of the United States is probably familiar with the international coffee brand, and if you have been to a handful of major cities in the USA you might have come across one of their concept stores.

When I first started writing this I was going to focus on the packaging and the art cups that Illy produces, but as I have started gathering images and such the focus has changed to reflect the more global approach that Illy takes with its design and branding.

Illy is all about the visual presentation of product, store environment, packaging, interactive, and mobile are designed as a cohesive unit. The design components of illy caffè show that it is a company with a far-reaching vision. It is this design vision that has placed Illy firmly at the head of pack, positioning themselves as a company in the pursuit of beauty and excellence.

The Illy Bar Concepts works like this: the Core Bar is usually situated in a historic center, and functions as a meeting point that expresses the culture and the daily life of its location. Landscape Bars are set in busier areas, such as shopping malls or museums, and are meant to provide a restorative break. Transit Bars are spacious bars for travellers, located in train stations or airports; Community Bars serve regular customers in residential or semi-central areas; and Corner Bars are stylish, open-plan buildings offering fast service for quick consumption, or the get it to go crowd.

The cafe’s are beautifully designed featuring clean open architecture with natural lighting. The fixtures in each are designed to elevate and display the coffee brand, usually accented by artwork that features an artist sponsored by the Illy Art projects. Packaging focuses on prominently displaying the Illy brand on simple tin cans with easy to follow instructions in 5 languages. Coffee cups, and all other items in the store display the red Illy logo on a clean white background, helping to reinforce the brand at every turn. Illy also selects independent coffee shops with “relevance in their market” which are selected to use only Illy coffee beans and agree to do so for a three-year period. Baristas are trained to pull an Illy-quality espresso and given recipes for other drinks common to Artisti del Gusto shops. Illy provides art work, coffee machines, glassware and other branded touches, such as the red Illy umbrellas. Certified coffee shops are periodically monitored for consistency, and the certification can be pulled if the lattes aren’t up to snuff.

Not only is this is a proven way to expand with minimal investment, it’s also a way to increase the reach of a brand, and indoctrinates a much wider audience to the superiority of your coffee beans. In other words, it’s a great way to market your product in grocery stores and online outlets, without a national advertising campaign. A coffee shop on your corner is far better than a billboard, since it’s a place you already trust and whose coffee you are conditioned to love by association.

In addition to the store concepts Illy has developed a series of collectable limited edition cups and coffee tins all of which are designed by world-famous artist. In 1992, the first collection of designer cups entitled “Arts and Crafts”, which combined coffee with the aesthetics of the cup was introduced. Since then, illy has established a strong bond with the art world, constantly adding to the collection. And now, when you are in an Illy café you can drink coffee in an artist designed cup and read the story behind each concept. In addition you can purchase limited edition cups or tins at any of the cafe’s themselves.

As a forward thinking, and design focused company, Illy has been quick to innovate and embrace new technologies and outlets that allow them to expand their brand awareness, without expanding their physical footprint with additional stores. They have done this through the Illy At Home program. Via the website you can sign up to have the coffee delivered via FedEx directly to your home over the course of a year. Each month a set amount of coffee is delivered directly to you, and 3 times a year you receive limited edition collectable coffee tins, and or espresso cups. In addition you have the option of purchasing over time a Francis Francis espresso machine through the program. The concept is really well thought out. Illy promotes the brand, through delivery of a quality product, and then hooks you with special gifts all designed to reinforce the brand.

Illy does an excellent job through out every aspect of its visual presence of making sure that the red and white color pallet is displayed in a consistent manner and that the Illy logo is placed in locations that leave a memorable impression which can quickly be associated with what the company stands for.