Yogurt packaging is not black & white

A you’re probably aware by now, I make my living as a packaging designer. As such, I’m constantly looking at stuff. Whether it’s the art and information on a cereal box, or how IKEA products are so efficiently packed in those otherwise plain brown cartons. It’s all part of what we, as consumers, experience when we seek out and buy this– stuff.

I’m also the primary food shopper in my family, so I’m in the supermarket on a regular basis. And, whenever I’m out and about shopping, I  have a habit of looking at the product that’s on the shelves. I’m sure a lot of people do that– maybe not in as conscious a way as designers but they do it. And after a while, whether you’re aware or not, you start to see patterns. Color selections. packaging shapes, wording.

Next time you’re in the store, take a look at the soda aisle. What color is the house brand’s cola? What about their ginger ale? Now look at the name brands. What color are they? It sure isn’t a coincidence.

But I digress

Carbonated drinks aren’t what made me think of this. It was yogurt. Walk past the yogurt case in the store and– with a couple of exceptions (I’m looking at you, Activia)– they will most likely look like this:

Dannon blueberry yogurt packYoplait strawberry yogurt pack

In short, lots of white, with accents of the brand/line colors. Oh, and the hero shot of the fruit or flavor inside. Even the upscale/gourmet brands follow these conventions.

So, when I saw this last week, it made me stop.

Stop the presses– who is that?

This is a new offering from Yoplait. I think it’s called “YQ by Yoplait”, and a couple of things became evident:

  • It’s positioned as a more premium offering. Muted tones hint at more sophistication.They don’t feel the need to be bold and screamy with their colors.
  •  I’m not their desired demographic. The colors and overall design have a more feminine feel. They’re clearly targeting women with this product, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they roll out tv ads reinforcing this.
  • This ain’t your everyday type of yogurt. A gray cup? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other yogurt brand that has executed in such a way.

We’re still talking about yogurt?

I didn’t pick up any (though I might this week, just out of curiosity, demographics be damned!), but at first glance, this type of category disruption was certainly effective, and it made me consciously think about why.

  • It got me to stop and look at the product. This is the first step and indicator of an effective pack design. Cutting through the noise (in this case, quite literally “white noise”) and getting the attention of the consumer.
  • It created curiosity in sampling the product. I may not buy one today. I may not buy one next month. But one of these days I just might go “hmmm”… and pick one or two up.
  • It got me talking about it. Do I even need to explain this one?

These are 3 things to always keep in mind when designing a new pack. We may not always be successful in achieving these (for a number of different reasons), but we certainly need to try.

Now, I have to start thinking about that grocery list…

 

 

 

Rise of the Machine | Random Thought for July 6, 2018

When’s the last time you were asked to remember someone’s phone number? What about basic directions to get somewhere? I got to thinking about that this morning after listening to a replay on a radio show where they were taking calls on weird and crazy things that have happened as a result of wonky navigation app directions.

Old(ish), but not a fogey

I’m a Gen X’er. I’m in my 40s, so I’m part of this last “analog” population. I’ve seen the explosion of computer use. The transition from LPs and video tapes to CDs and DVDs, and now streaming. I remember having to carry loose change if I needed to call home while I was out. My dad had maps in his glove compartment, and I would help navigate on long car rides. I also needed to remember those numbers I wanted to call, or, I suppose, write them down in an address book. Come to think of it, when’s the last time you HAD an address book. The last one I bought was over 20 years ago (I’m sure I have it in a box somewhere).

I still have a stack of scraps of paper with usernames and passwords that I mean to transfer to a notebook (I just can’t bring myself to use one of those password managers). There’s a core set of websites I visit daily, and I key in login info by hand. Not only is it good mental exercise, but it’s also a way to not be dependent on technology.

This doesn’t mean I’m some sort of tech-averse luddite (I know someone like that, and believe me, I DO NOT want to be that type of person). My smartphone is my go-to piece of tech that is with me pretty much everywhere. I love my DVR. Spotify is basically my source for music discovery. I’m comfortable in that world. I embrace it.

the takeaway

And that’s it– sure, technology can, and does, make our lives easier. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of losing what, for lack of a better metaphor, is part of what makes us human.

Marketing, money, and time | Random Thought for May 30, 2018

I was listening to the radio on the drive to work this morning, and there was talk about a pilot program in Sacramento where digital automobile license plates are being made available.

(link to the article on The Sacramento Bee here).

It got me thinking… Let’s presume this program gets rolled out statewide. How long will it take until someone— marketers, maybe even the State of California– figures out a way to monetize this via advertising?

I’m not implying that it’s a bad thing one way or the other. But it is something to think about.

Do androids dream of obsolete men? | Random Thought for January 9, 2018

The title, for those unfamiliar, is a combination of the title for the novel “Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep” and the Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man”.

I was listening to a piece on NPR about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) out in Las Vegas. The conversation revolved a lot around automation. And it got me thinking…

We can automate a lot of things– manufacturing processes, data analysis, transportation (well, we’re collectively working on that). So what else is there? Can design be automated? As a community of designers, we argue often that design is ultimately about problem-solving and communicating. So, if we’re talking about finding the best solution, then conceivably you can establish a set of rules and parameters to reach the best possible solution.

And if we continue distilling the argument, we could reach the conclusion that design, being about solving problems, can be broken down into a set of algorithms and rules. And if we’re able to do that, what does that do to– and for– designers? Do we then become utterly obsolete? What does that do to design itself? What does an automated design look like?

And if we’re able to do that– what’s next?

I don’t pretend to have the answers to any of this. But listening to the conversation on the radio gave me pause and made me think about what, professionally, things might look like 5, 10, 20 years down the road.

Something to think about.

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.

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!

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 Social order of things

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Not sure why. It’s just something that popped in my head one day. It’s been sitting here as a draft. I’ve been contemplating fleshing it out, but as best as my brain can see it, there’s not a whole lot to flesh out, so I’m just going to think it out loud and leave you all to come to whatever conclusions you will.

A while back (September of this year, to be precise), I jotted down the following:

Does the order of social media links matter, and how does this affect visitor perceptions?

The idea behind it was that, if someone visited your website, or anywhere else there may be social media links grouped together, would the order the sites were linked make a difference?

For example, if I were to list my social profiles in the following order:

What would be a visitor’s impression? And would it be the same if I listed them this way?:

  • Linkedin
  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

It’s not that the information provided is any different. They would link to the same places, the information on the profiles would be identical.

But would it make a difference? That’s what’s been sitting in the back of my head, festering. And it bugs me.

And frankly, it’s not something that bugs me enough beyond it being an academic exercise. Which is why I’ve never bothered with testing this out in any way. Maybe one day I will. Who knows?

So that’s it. I fell better having thought this out loud. I’m curious what you, dear reader, think about this. Am I on to something? Or am I just making more out of it than I should? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch with me through one of the social media outlets above.

(Thanks for reading! Hope you have an awesome day.)