gDiapersA flushable diaper: Portland, Oregon-based Sandstrom Design had to not only package the starter kit for this revolutionary new product, but also explain it to shoppers who’d be seeing it for the first time. On the front of the cardboard box—which contains the diapers, liners, and cute outer underpants—are porthole windows that Sandstrom hoped would appeal to confused or skeptical consumers, letting them see and feel the goods before buying. The horizontal belly band functions as a user-friendly how-to brochure, with baby pictures on the outside and instructions on the side facing in; once it’s removed, perforated lines let the buyer fold it into a booklet to keep and consult as needed, a function the jurors appreciated. They were less impressed, however, by the look of the package. While Adler gave it points for being made of 95 percent recycled materials and printed with soy inks—”You can tell it’s environmentally friendly just by looking at it,” she said—Benard was disappointed with the printing quality. “I wish the color separations were better,” he said. “Those babies look blue!”
Pop Ink Journals and Card SetsThey say you can’t have it both ways, but they’ve forgotten about the power of irony: In its immediately recognizable retro illustrations, the Charles S. Anderson Design Company manages to embrace a saccharine Hallmark aesthetic while at the same time making fun of it. The Minneapolis firm keeps a trove of 25,000 pop-culture images in its commercial archive, and after deploying an army of them in thematic books published by Harry N. Abrams (Happy Kitty Bunny Pony and Goth-icky), it recently launched related lines of consumer products, including melamine plates, paper napkins, and this set of journals and cards covered in protective clear plastic that calls to mind grandma’s living room slipcovers. Zinzell didn’t care for the sad-eyed-girl style of the “Goth-icky” line, and Benard objected to the way the cover images split when the card sets are opened. But the design firm seems to know how to appeal to its core customers: women. Adler liked the easy-to-carry 5-by-6 ?-inch size of the cards and journals and felt the whole line had an admirable consistency: “It’s interesting, it’s bizarre, and it’s hitting kitsch right on the head,” she said.
Little Monsters ShampooThe irksome chore of shampooing kids’ hair fills parents with dread—and turns their children into “little monsters.” San Francisco’s Turner Duckworth played off the epithet with its design for a new line of kid-friendly shampoos for Britain’s Superdrug chain, in an attempt to make the situation more enjoyable for both parties. The offbeat cast of cartoon monsters was inspired by the fruits that give each product its scent; while they appear to be screen-printed directly onto the brightly colored stock bottles, they’re actually printed onto clear labels. The plastic caps are translucent, with a hard-candy quality. Adler felt the typography was handled well, and she also liked the monster characters. Superdrug is smitten with the critters too: It plans to turn them into a line of soft toys that will be sold separately.
Loungepaket Menu 1) Charity CD
Die Hamburger Tafel is a Hamburg, Germany-based charitable organization that secures restaurant leftovers for homeless people. Last year, it found itself in need of funding, so the local fast-food restaurant Lutt’n Grill-Imbiss Delux asked musicians to make a benefit CD, then hired Weissraum Design to package it. The designers created a CD case that would contain the sort of disposable paper napkin, plastic cutlery, and salt-and-pepper packets that come with a take-out meal, with graphics evoking traditional German restaurants. Benard liked the look and substantial feel of the paper napkin. But all three jurors were disappointed that the contents didn’t fit into the CD case better (they had to fiddle with and position the utensils in order to reclose the lid). Nevertheless, the panel cut the design some slack. “They didn’t have the budget to design custom stuff,” said Zinzell. “You’ve got to give them higher credit for social awareness.”
McSweeney’s No. 16Fans of McSweeney’s know that each issue of the San Francisco-based quarterly takes a different, eccentric form—one issue was designed to resemble a bundle of mail, for example. When the cloth-covered No. 16 is all folded up, it looks like an ordinary book and blends in perfectly on a bookshelf. But unfold the four-paneled volume, and you’ll discover, tucked into each of four green-paper pockets, a story collection, a novella, a deck of playing cards, and a comb. While Benard thought the 13-by-20-inch design was “clunky” and pointed out that the pockets began to tear as the jurors repeatedly slid the contents in and out, Adler was impressed with the two well-crafted books and the intricacy of the whole package. “You get a lot of bang for your buck,” she said.
Tom Ford Estee Lauder CollectionThe jurors were somewhat conflicted about the packaging for a limited-edition Tom Ford Estee Lauder collection. Benard praised the construction of the satin-covered, paper-lined boxes. “It took a lot to get those turns just right,” he said. Zinzell, on the other hand, called the packaging “wasteful” and expressed particular disdain for the “fake” gold and the perfume’s “1980s drugstore bottle.” In fact, the designers at New York’s Doug Lloyd firm were trying to achieve a nostalgic—if not exactly retro—feel for their packaging of the new Amber Nude fragrance, having taken a 1953 Youth Dew Estee Lauder bottle, slimmed it down, and made the fluting more delicate. They redesigned the brass cap using a piece of amber resin molded to mimic a jewel-like cabochon cut. In the end, Benard’s enthusiasm for the collection was enough to win over the other jurors.
Jimmyjane VibratorsBuy a $30 vibrator, and you get a cheap box with a flimsy plastic window. Buy a $350 engraveable gold Jimmyjane vibrator, and you get a luxurious white box tied with a voluptuous red satin ribbon. Each vibrator comes seductively dressed in a linen slip nestled inside a sturdy telescoping box; die-cut square thumbholes invite the curious to slide the thing open. While Adler felt the packaging was somewhat excessive, she did appreciate the ceremony involved in undoing all the layers. “It goes back to that idea of the surprise that’s uncovered at the end,” she said. “It takes a while to get to the product, but when you do, you come upon this very sophisticated vibrator.”
Heavenly WineThe online retailer Heavenly sells luxury products, such as wine, to raise money for charity. For each bottle of Angelic White, Devilishly Good Red, or Divine Rose sold, 5 percent of the purchase price goes to WaterAid, an organization that provides clean water to the world’s poorest people. San Francisco-based Turner Duckworth’s minimalist bottle design is all about the message: Confined to a limited budget, the designers selected a classic stock bottle and screen-printed the words Drink Generously directly onto it—a clever way of saying that the more you partake, the more you help others. In case anyone misses the point and confuses the words for a purely capitalist plea, as the jurors did at first, the foil top offers a further hint with the phrase Turning Wine Into Water. While none of the jurors fell in love with the design, they all thought it did its job and applauded Heavenly’s higher purpose. “Normally I prefer old-style labels for wine,” Zinzell admitted. “But there’s a utilitarian quality about this one that I like.”
iPod NanoThe jurors weren’t quite sure where they stood on Apple’s new Nano packaging. On the one hand, it seemed little more than a scaled-down variation of the original iPod packaging (which w
on its own I.D. award in 2004). On the other hand, they thought the design was undeniably flawless. Inside a five-sided sleeve is a cube that splits down the middle to open flat; on the right side, the Nano is snuggled into a paper foam well, while the left side houses the instruction manual plus CD, headphones, and other paraphernalia. In the end, the jurors—some more begrudgingly than others—decided that the Nano packaging deserved an honorable mention. “Although I’d love to vote against it, I can’t. It’s good design,” Benard said. “But Apple is the man. They have an unlimited research and design budget, and a vote for that is like a vote for Renoir—as opposed to Modigliani.” Adler was less concerned that the packaging concept wasn’t wholly new: “I love opening it up and seeing…nothing! It couldn’t be simpler,” she said.
Cory Combs Trio CDAt first the clever cover illustration for the Cory Combs Trio CD case went right over the heads of the jurors. Conceived by San Francisco’s Chuck Moore Design, the centerpiece illustration on the white cardboard case visually represents one of the tracks using a color code for the instruments played: blue for strings, magenta for horns, yellow for percussion. Thus, the bluer parts of the grid correspond to the places on each track where strings predominate. Once the jurors cracked the code, they were enthusiastic about the concept and appreciative of the effort to connect the visuals with the music. “It’s almost like informational design, but conceived with aesthetics,” noted Zinzell. But Benard quibbled with the delicate palette—”I would have liked it to have more weight,” he complained—and Adler questioned the use of a printed faux “sticker” rather than a real one that could be peeled off the cellophane wrapper. “It reads like a black blob,” she said.