package design

What Number Brush Did You Use?

In the pre-computer days, comps were painted or drawn, or sometimes collaged, in rough form. Art school emphasized hand skills, lettering with brush and gouache. The following painted “sketches”—from a collection of over 50 found in LA by my colleague and friend Jim Heimann of Taschen Books—are either student work for a packaging exercise,...

Email Be Damned!

The United States Postal Service has made it so easy to mail a letter. Why shouldn’t we citizens keep the economically troubled USPS in business? The handy stick-em stamps are much better than the lick-em variety. What’s more the stamp designs have gotten so much better. How can anyone resist peeling a Romare Bearden...

Shadow Boxing Off Utopia Parkway

In the book Dime-Store Alchemy, poet Charles Simic captures the essence of artist Joseph Cornell in verse like a close encounter of the third kind. Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to catch three Eastern European poets duke it out over the merits of Polish writer, translator and poet Czesław Miłosz. The line up...

The Ultimate Brand Extension?

Product packaging spotted at the Wumart (I kid you not) in Beijing. Are these REAL Pepsi briefs, or is this the ultimate in knockoffs? I asked Lisa Francella, senior director of Visual Identity and Branding Extension at Pepsico, Inc., in Purchase, New York. “I know this is not a package that I approved!” was...

Eat, Drink, and Read Menus

Jim Heimann’s latest foray into cultural documentation, Menu Design in America 1850-1985, almost leaves off where his earlier (1998) May I Take Your Order: American Menu Design 1920 – 1960 left off. And there is a touch of his (1996) Car Hops and Curb Service: A History of American Drive-In Restaurants (1920-1960) too. But...

Piedra Blanca + Alex Steinweiss

Much has been written about Alex Steinweiss, the first creator of original record album cover art and inventor of the LP cardboard package. I’ve contributed some to that body of  literature, as have Jennifer McKnight-Trontz in For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Kevin Reagan in Alex Steinweiss: Creator of the...

Pictures of Matchbook Men

My family recently inherited a collection of old matchbooks. There are probably about 200 or so matchbooks in the box they came in, all of them from the US, and most of them from California, specifically San Francisco. Being a resident of San Francisco I’d  heard about the famous “The Old Poodle Dog” (second...

Phillumeny and Phillumenists

Collecting matchbox labels is called phillumeny; its obsessive proponents are phillumenists. One reason there are so many phillumenists is because there are untold matchbox (and matchbook) graphics that can be found in virtually all corners of the globe. Among the industry leaders Japan was exceptionally prodigious, and the designs produced were various, plentiful, and...

The Cool Fresh Ultra Mint Branding Paradox

The average pharmacy is a cornucopia (or morass) of mint flavors. Sweet, cool, ultra, radiant, clean, fresh, powerful, spearmint, peppermint, cinna mint, mint stripe, minty fresh stripe and more. That’s a lot of branding. Yet mint comes in even more varieties:  Banana, Moroccan, Egyptian, Bergamont, Lavender, Macho, Habek, Lemon, Pineapple, Chocolate and Pennyroyal. Why...

Pepsi Hits Coke With Bottle

The bottle wars – plant vs. petroleum based containers – are heating up between Coke and Pepsi, notes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (here): Two years after Coca-Cola Co. unveiled a bottle made partly from plant materials, PepsiCo says it is introducing a better one. The Purchase, N.Y. company says it has developed the world’s first...