To buck (conventions) or not

Sundays are usually a supermarket run for me, and, aside from getting out of the house for a bit, it’s an opportunity to walk around, explore and examine packaging and products on the shelves.

This week, as I was finishing up, I walked down the aisle containing feminine hygiene products (I think it’s also where the hand soaps are placed, since that’s something I was picking up). As I walked down the aisle, I caught these out of the corner of my eye:

Veeda-tampons-boxes
Packaging for Veeda tampons

I saw these and stopped, because they were unlike anything else that was in the aisle.

And that’s the point. So often we talk about the need to either follow design conventions established by the market leader, whether in iconography, typography, or color usage (notice, for example, that most colas are in red cans, following color standards established by Coca-Cola). On the other hand, there’s the opposite– the opportunity to lay stake to a segment of the market by differentiating from the rest of the pack. But a lot of times both approaches can miss the mark, either because of an overzealous approach to differentiating, or as a result of timidity and being afraid to actually be different.

So I found the Veeda packaging to be refreshing. To me, it managed to accomplish both. It stuck closely to some of the conventions, while steering away from others. The look and feel of the typography definitely has an air of femininity to it. The use of a simplified plant illustration, the 3-color palette on kraft stock– a stark departure from the glossy, varnished, high-contrast color palettes that have become commonplace, suggests an earthier, planet-friendly product.

Note: I checked out their website, and I found that affordable, planet-friendly products are an essential part of their story.

So, I say to the folks at Veeda– good job! You’ve managed to walk the line between common and uncommon, and made it look effective.

Features I wish existed– Snapchat

I’ve been using Snapchat for a bit now (I don’t consider myself a “rockstar/ninja/guru” by any stretch of the imagination. I’m more of a “casual user”.). The other day I was sending a snap to a specific group of folks, and it occurred to me that there isn’t a way to make this easy.

If you’re using email, or Facebook (just as an example), you can create groups or distribution lists. These groups help make quick work of sending targeted messages and shared info. Within Snapchat, you can either broadcast it to all your followers (by adding it to your Story), or you can use it as a messaging platform and target individual users. I find this a little problematic and inconvenient.

A sticky wicket

Here’s the thing–  you have to select each and every one. Individually. And you have to do this every time you don’t want to share something wth all your followers.

I don’t follow many people, so it’s not a major issue, but for those that have hundreds– even thousands– of followers, the ability to create various groups would be a huge convenience. And I don’t know if this is something they’ve worked on and ditched, or have worked on, or WILL work on in the future. But I think it would be useful.

What do you think?
Let me know in the comments below. Also, are there any features that you might like to see in Snapchat?

 

(By the way, you can find me on Snapchat @rcarmstrong, or by scanning the Snapcode below!)

Add me on Snapchat!
Add me on Snapchat!

Packaging Roundup | alcoholic beverages

Over the years, I’ve found that there is almost direct correlation between the quality of a beverage’s packaging and the quality of the product itself. My thinking (whether right or wrong) has been that any company that takes the care and puts the resources into its packaging is likely doing the same with its product. So, especially when shopping for wine, I keep an eye out on the labels in case there is something new that I may want to try. If I’m not is a shopping mode, I like to look at the labeling. It can be a source of inspiration. Either way, I sometimes snap pics of things that catch my eye and share them in round-ups.

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve done a packaging roundup, but a trip to one of the local supermarkets (with a liquor store on the premises), had me snapping pics of a handful of items that caught my eye, simply because– in my opinion– they’re bucking category conventions.

Please note: This is not an endorsement of any sort for any of the products mentioned here.

With that out of the way…

kinky-cocktails-800px
“Kinky Cocktails” beverage packaging

Kinky Cocktails

“Kinky Cocktails” caught my eye for a couple of reasons– the product name, right off the bat, with its tongue firmly planted in cheek. There’s also their use of color to clue the casual browser on their target customer base. And lastly, the type, again hinting at their target demo.

 

juliette-wine
Juliette Wine Labels

Juliette Wines

In a sea of beige and white labels with stoic serif type, these bottles provide an eye-catching splash of color on the shelf. There is a femininity to the design that unmistakably tells us who they’re targeting as consumers.

 

einstock-ale-800px
Einstök Ale Packaging

Einstök Ale

Bold illustrations and and a clean layout separate this from the loud, sometimes overdone beer packaging on-shelf. The heavy use of blue could be evocative of Iceland’s flag.

 

white-aphro-800px
Empire Brewing “White Aphro” Packaging

White Aphro

Purple is not a color often seen in beer packaging. so when you do see it. it definitely stands out. Add to that some bold sans serif type, and you’ve got some eye-catching packaging.

 

Carl Graff Wine

Carl Graff

Bold use of Neutraface (truth be told, this typeface is a personal favorite of mine). This goes against the thin, “stuffy”, serif type. Neutra brings contemporary class to the party.

There you have it. Is there any packaging that’s caught your eye? Share it in the comments– and thanks for reading.

Random Thought for 11.10.15- my delicious salad dressing

This bit o’randomness has nothing to do with design, print, web, packaging, business, or anything that’s related to pretty much any profession (I suppose those in the culinary field might say otherwise).


 

MY SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil (I prefer Extra Virgin)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Honey

For one salad, put a couple of drops of honey into a small container. Add 2 teaspoons each of lemon juice and balsamic, and about a tablespoon of oil. Mix or shake to blend/emulsify. Drizzle over your salad.

Note: Measurements are suggested. Feel free to tweak the proportions according to your taste.


 

So, where did this come from?

Lunch on work days typically consists of a salad I bring from home. Healthy options near work are few and far between, so bringing lunch keeps me out of trouble food-wise, as well as not being terrible for my pocket. 🙂 And, for a while, I was just using either leftover pouches of dressing from Wendy’s, or I would just throw some oil and vinegar together in a small container. Eventually, this got a little boring, so I looked in the cupboard and the fridge to see if there was anything I could add– hot sauce, dried herbs… Something. I gravitated to the honey and the lemon juice, and well, voila.

So, there you have it. If ever you’re stuck with having to make salad dressing, I suppose there are worse choices you could make.

Enjoy!

Random Thought for 11/4/15– this post is “high priority”

We live in a world where, today, you can reach someone faster than you might even think (literally!). There are tweets, DMs, IMs, and all sort of social media messaging. There are even more “old school” means of communication– like the phone. And email.

Speaking of email– why is is that people still use “High Priority” when sending email (I know of one person that sends all emails as high priority. We’ll get to that in a moment). If something is of such importance, maybe following up with a call (or preceding the email with a call) might not be a bad idea. It might even give the recipient some context as to why it’s important to the sender.

Of course, there’s also the question of why it’s still put in the email software code. If we’ve “outgrown” the need for labeling things as “high priority” when there are more efficient ways to relay info in really short time windows, then why is this feature still put in, like some vestigial do0dad?

Just a thought.

And while I’m thinking, let’s go back to “all high priority, all the time”. If everything is that important, then everything becomes unimportant, so when there is something that is that important, it’s ignored as just another email. It’s sort of like the story of Peter and the Wolf.

So, as long as software manufacturers feel that this is some useful feature, we’ll be stuck with it. Let’s use it judiciously in the meantime.

Wait a Minute

I’ve been thinking about writing more, or rather, about the fact that I don’t write more (and I should). I also think– and I’m pretty sure this happens to a lot of us– that good ideas, whether they’re for blog posts, art, whatever– come to us at times when it’s hard to capture them and save it for later. Even with note-collecting apps and stuff.

I also think that a lot of times we operate with a “hope” and “wish” mindset. We wish we had more time for “x”, or we hope that “y” changes, allowing us to effect some change in some part of our lives. Or we spend a lot of energy spinning our wheels, wishing for some improvement in because something isn’t going the way we would like…

And it’s that mindset that I keep coming coming back and re-examining. We expend all this energy trying to figure out how to change things… When sometimes all we need to do is wait. It became clear to me while going to get lunch a few weeks ago.

I typically bring my lunch to work every day but one. On that day, I usually go to one of a handful of places (not a lot of options near work, and half of them are burger joints. Since I don’t eat beef, it sort of narrows my options. But I digress). That day, the forecast called for rain. I stepped out around 1pm, and it was drizzling. I had brought my umbrella in to the office, but had left it at my desk, so I shrugged my shoulders and resigned myself to getting a little rain on me as I walked to the car. I drove out and headed a short distance (barely 1/2 mile, I think). By the time I got there, it was not only raining, but HAIL was coming down. 10 minutes later, after getting lunch, I came out and the sun was shining, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

I thought the rain was crummy enough, and then got hail. When I thought that was as good as it was going to get– the sun came out.

I’m not sure where I was going with the story, but the bottom line is this. Every step of the way I thought it was bad or couldn’t get worse, with no “hope” in sight. But all I had to do was wait 10 minutes.

“Wait a minute”. Sometimes, that’s all we have to do.

The Sheep and the Unicorn

“That’s the way the competition is doing it”. “That’s how it’s always been done”.

These are not fully valid reasons for making choices. Sure, there can be times when visual cues or specific language help the consumer make an immediate connection to whatever is being sold. But, more often that not, falling into this type of groupthink and making decisions from that place can be at best a bad idea, and at worst catastrophic. Thinking like this can dilute a message. It can take a standout design and make it generic. It can take the air out of a successful marketing campaign.

Figure out what makes you you, and leverage that. Forget the sheep, and embrace the fabulous unicorn within.

Pagers, email, emoticons and priorities

pager-blog-post-image

I remember that, back in the “olden” days of pagers and beepers (you know, the 90s), we would add codes to messages to indicate certain things (a little like how we have LOL and emojis today). I imagine this was done as a way to save on the number of characters being used in a message. Frankly, I can’t remember the exact reason. I do remember that one of the most popular shorthands was to add “911” to a message to indicate the level of urgency that was needed in the reply (another was “411”, used to request info). Fast-forward a number of years, and I realize that some people I’ve come across over the years ALWAYS send their emails flagged as “high priority”. And it got me to thinking… 

We live in such an interconnected world where communication has become almost instantaneous– from things like cell phones and social media posts to instant messaging on mobile devices.

So I wonder– has email’s “high priority” outlived its usefulness? Or does the little red flag (or exclamation point!) still a place for it in our modern communications?

Curious 2 know 411 911

Klout… Huh! What is it good for?

I’m reminded of Jules Winfield–  Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction

“I was sitting here, eating my muffin and drinking my coffee and replaying the incident in my head, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.”

I wasn’t sitting around, eating a muffin. But there was something. I’ve been thinking for the past few days about social media in general, but specifically thinking about metrics tools like Klout. About how we read and hear from “experts” that say we shouldn’t focus or spend too much time thinking about Klout scores, follower counts– all that stuff. And they’re not wrong. At least not entirely.

See, this is what I’ve been wondering. As much of a downside as these experts/gurus/ninjas/rockstars of the Social cosmos tout, I have to believe there’s an equal upside to them.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”– Newton’s Third Law of Motion

What if there is a usefulness for these tools beyond the obvious ego stroking? What if we used these to measure something else?

The past couple of weeks, I’ve taken to Klout (I really don’t like to focus on one site, but since they’re the de facto leader in the marketplace, it just seems inevitable) and instead of looking at my score, I’ve decided to look at the breakdown by network. I’m looking to see how my general day-today breaks down. I took some screen caps to show you what I mean.

Klout score overview
Klout score overview

The overview– this shows what the current Klout score is, and the high/low scores for the past 90 days (why 90 days? I have no idea). It’s really not an important component, but since engagement is tied to the score, it bears mentioning.

Clout score- Pie chart breakdown
Klout score- Pie chart breakdown

One view of the breakdown. This is one area where I’ve been focusing my attention. It shows me how my calculated score breaks down. We’ll see in the next shot WHERE it breaks down more fully (the different colors correspond to the various networks associated with this account). In my case, it looks like the majority of my score right now is coming from Facebook and Twitter activity.

Klout score- breakdown by network
Klout score- breakdown by network

Here’s the legend to the previous pie chart (or is it a donut chart? I don’t know. I like both.). As I noted, the bulk of my Klout score is coming from Facebook and Twitter (almost 70% combined), with Instagram coming in third place. These percentages are fluid, and will vary depending on where you’re choosing to invest your energy and social engagement on a given “snapshot” in time.

What can I do with this info? If I were a job-seeker, for example, I could look at this and conclude that I might be spending a good chunk of my energy and time on Facebook and Twitter– not necessarily a bad thing per se, but odds are if you’re on Facebook, you’re not networking or engaging in what I’d describe as “professionally productive” engagement. So I might look at spending more time on Linkedin and seeing how the scales tip after some time.

Personally, my goal (lofty and unattainable as it may be) is to get to a point where my score is being calculated by a balanced split among the different players. I’ve taken steps to increase my engagement in places like Google+ and Linkedin, although with Linkedin there is the issue of involvement in groups, and my experience so far has been less than positive (in short, I find there’s a lot of noise and unnecessary self-promotion, rather than genuine conversations going on there). However, the Google+ community in general has been much more engaging. I’m surprised more people aren’t as actively involved there, but I  understand the why behind it, especially in light of the popularity of the behemoth that is Facebook.

So, there it is. While a lot of people may have their issues and reservations with sites like Klout (could we consider them a type of aggregator), I believe it can be harnessed to reap potentially positive results beyond that for which it was designed.

 

Quick logo roundup– Puerto Rico and the 1970s.

I love logos. There’s something about taking a business, an organization– whatever– and boiling it down to an icon or a wordmark that really appeals to me. It’s like the ultimate Cliff’s Notes (side note– do they even make Cliff’s Notes anymore?).

(After a quick Googling) Apparently they do. And they’re still made with those awesomely-almost industrial yellow & black covers. Glad some things haven’t changed.

But I digress.

As I said at the top, I love logos. And I especially love logos from the 60s-80s. There’s just something about them…

Anyway, I was doing some housecleaning the other day. As I was putting stuff away, I came across an old program from a play I did when I was around 5-6 years old, which led me down a rabbit’s hole of memories for a bit. After a while I started to look at the “booster” ads in the back (you know, the kind parents and family buy to say hi to their kids. I even saw one from my great-grandfather to me. That made me a little misty-eyed. I had totally forgotten that was there). I saw that it wasn’t just parents. There were also stores– some local to Puerto Rico, some not– that had also bought ads in these programs. Then, somewhere along the way, I couldn’t help but realize how I’d never noticed the logos before. So I took picture of a few that I especially liked. The quality of the printing was not the best, and these were quick pics taken with an otherwise decent cell phone camera, so I apologize in advance for some of the quality (although that less-than-perfect execution gives them a little something I like).

Well, without further ado, let’s look at some logos (which are used for the purpose of sharing cool stuff I’ve found and are the property of their respective owners)…

Burger King's logo, circa late 1970s.
Burger King’s logo, circa late 1970s.

For many, many years, Burger King was the big player in the fast food landscape in Puerto Rico (Up until sometime in the 80s, there was only one McDonald’s in PR.). Burger King has gone through some logo changes over the years, but this design has always been my favorite (they seem to have brought it back– even if for a little while– these days with the re-release of their hot ham & cheese sandwich).

First Federal Savings-- circa 1970s
First Federal Savings– circa 1970s

First Federal (now FirstBank, I believe) was one of the big local banks in PR, along with guys like Banco Popular. While Banco Popular used a lot of reds and blues, First Federal leaned heavily on the color green. The extruded “1” on this is pretty funky, IMO.

Lopito, Ileana & Howie logo
Lopito, Ileana & Howie logo

I have no idea what this company is/was, or what they did. The logo– to me– has a cool bicycle-meets-Taíno-iconography feel to it. BTW, the Taíno were the peoples native to Puerto Rico and some of the other islands in the Caribbean. You can find out more here about the Taíno and their symbols.)

Erwin Rodriguez & Asociados logo
Erwin Rodriguez & Asociados logo

This is a logo for an engineer (if I had to guess, structural engineering or something construction related. But don’t quote me on it). I like how the “E” is formed out of the left-hand frame, and the bar carries through into the arrow, and the whole thing is lframed out in that rectangle. I dig it, even if I have no clue what the “dot” (which ends up looking like a Pac-Man because of the arrow) has to do with anything here.

Graficor logo
Graficor logo

This one’s a little crusty. It’s a logo for a graphics and print shop. Unfortunately, it looks like the ink spread a little on the printing, and things got a little goopy. You can barely make out the “c” in “Graficor”. But if there was a logo in this bunch that epitomized that period for me, this is probably it.

Baskin Robbins ad
Baskin Robbins ad

Okay, so this one’s not a logo per se. But I like the feel of this ad. And  I love this version of the Baskin Robbins logo. It’s most definitely a product of its time. And, if memory serves me, it was in use well into the 80s, maybe even later.

So, there it is. Nothing scientific or fancy. These were just a bunch of logos that appealed to me in some way, and I thought I’d share them with you. Hope you’ve enjoyed them. Let me know what you think in the comments.