PACKAGING

BEST OF CATEGORY
“We call your attention to the nozzle area only and not the can itself,” implored Gad Shaanan’s entry form on behalf of the reengineered container of WD-40, which took this year’s Best of Category. The can itself is largely unchanged since WD-40’s inception in 1953—the primary colors, the iconic yellow half-moon, the blocky fonts. But the Montreal-based design firm’s innovation was to incorporate the can’s classic red straw, which has for years been taped to the side as an afterthought. Given the jurors’ militant stance in favor of simplicity and utility, they found it impossible to resist the lure of an old reliable. (It might also have helped that all three jurors were men.) “We’re admitting it to the packaging equivalent of the Hall of Fame,” Lloyd said. “Consider it a ‘lifetime achievement’ award,” Kaye chimed in.

Asked to fix the straw problem once and for all, Francois Duval, Gad Shaanan’s vice president of design, developed with his team of designers and engineers the “Smart Straw,” which can be fully extended to deliver a precise stream or folded down for storage. In the latter position, the lubricant bypasses the straw and is sprayed through the old nozzle. Made from injection-molded polypropylene, the Smart Straw is incorporated into the can itself, unlike the original straw, which had to be manually wedged into the nozzle during use.

The firm’s elegant solution to a decades-old problem (according to company research, more than 80 percent of users misplace their straw at some point) won the jurors over immediately. “I lose my straw all the time,” Kaye said. “I’ve actually gone into stores and stolen straws.” He’s not alone: Since the can launched last year, says Duval, customers have been sneaking into Sears and Wal-Mart and breaking Smart Straws off of the new cans to try and fit them onto old ones. Unfortunately for shoplifters, the straws aren’t backwards-compatible, which could be the only flaw—or not?—in the firm’s deceptively simple design.

TAB ENERGY
The neon pink of Tab Energy cans may trigger flashbacks to the days when you—or more likely your mother—drank the original saccharine-sweetened cola, which Coca-Cola replaced in the mid-’80s with the more universal (and less metallic-tasting) Diet Coke. Not about to let perfectly good brand recognition go to waste, Coke reconceived Tab as an energy drink and tasked Turner Duckworth with updating the brand for an over-caffeinated female consumer. The firm kept the nuclear pink background and the retro randomly capped logo but shrank the can to a more slender cylinder, a la Red Bull, and added a pattern of white lines and dots that appear and disappear thanks to an optical illusion that recalls the hallucinatory qualities of drinking too many cans too late at night. The jurors were impressed by both the successful rehab of an iconic design and a visual overhaul equal to its aggressive relaunch. “It seems daring for the market,” Corral said, “so for that reason alone I’m attracted to it. I’m picturing it in a deli cooler, and it clearly jumps out in that environment.”

MARK FRESHKISS LIPSTICK
Avon’s Mark line of cosmetics is pitched at teens on the go, the kinds of girls who are more interested in sharing makeup among friends than acquiring an arsenal of cosmetics at home. To that end, New York designer Jerome Berard shrunk the tube itself into a miniature, pocket-friendly size by incorporating the rotating mechanism into the base. The result is the smallest case on the market containing a full bullet of gloss, with rounded corners that make the case easy to slip in and out of denim pockets. The jurors responded to the fact that Berard elected innovative engineering over frilliness; they loved that the tube’s cuteness comes from its diminutive size rather than from a forced attempt at graphics. “It’s the Mini Cooper of lipsticks,” said Lloyd, invoking the most recent product to convince us that small is beautiful.

SONIA KASHUK SOLID FRAGRANCE COMPACT
The Sonia Kashuk perfume palette for Target hit the jurors’ sweet spot: It delivered technical innovation and an unusual form factor, brought high-concept luxury down to the masses, and did all of these things in pursuit of problem-solving rather than as a self-conscious stab at design. Inspired by Kashuk’s solid fragrance design—in which the top, middle, and base notes are separated to allow the wearer to mix and match on the skin—New York designer Harry Allen created a compact of cast aluminum with a hidden hinge that splits the metal pebble open, revealing the fragrances within. The jurors declared the idea of mix-and-matchable fragrances a technical innovation in its own right, and their enthusiasm carried over to the compact, which they kept turning over in their hands all morning. The fact that it costs only $29.99 and is recyclable impressed them all the more. “There’s a simplicity we love, and we haven’t seen this form before,” Kaye said.

OPTIMO AND STRUKTO CEMENTS
Construction hasn’t evoked constructivism since Moscow in the 1920s, but that’s the sly joke printed on the paper bags containing Optimo and Strukto, a pair of new cements manufactured by the Croatian arm of the global construction supplier Cemex. The abstract wire-frame graphics hark back to a Soviet-style can-do spirit while cleverly pointing toward each product’s intended use in housing and tunnel construction, respectively. “You get the industrial quality from just looking at it, and the high-end graphics make for an interesting juxtaposition,” said Kaye. “But it’s also utilitarian by nature. It’s kind of like a box of Tide. You understand that it’s cement, but at the same time it could be some ’60s Blue Note record cover. It’s timeless.”

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