I've been interested in consumption and buying things, both on a personal level and on an academic one, for a long time. When I was in college, I took a fantastic history course on the rise of consumer culture in the U.S. We read tons of great stuff, but two books I remember in particular are Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture by University of Pennsylvania history Kathy Peiss and Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market by University of Delaware historian Susan Strasser. Given that it's been more than ten years since I read either book, you have to take my analysis only for what it's worth, but one thing that stuck in my mind from both of them was the importance of packaging in advertising and sales. In Strasser's book in particular, I remember a long discussion of the move from "goods" to "branded goods," and the concurrent importance of logos and packaging to tell one brand from another. In the current marketplace, with millions of brands and generally more options than you can count on two hands for any one product, these things have gotten only more important. Clever and beautiful packaging sells things.
Being aware of this doesn't make it work any less well, at least not on me. I LOVE good packaging. I absolutely buy products based on packaging, especially when I don't otherwise have a preference between similar options. Good packaging makes a product I purchase feel a bit more like a gift, and that absolutely has value.
I'm going to try to start sharing little things that I like with you a bit more often here on WINOW, since picking out and writing about the millions of little objects, the stuff, of our lives seems to be one of my more unlikely talents. To kick that effort off, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite packaging.
I like the makeup Benefit makes because it's good makeup, but I was absolutely initially drawn to the packaging. It's colorful, they use interesting fonts, and they tend to go with quirky, humorous, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek product names and descriptions. For example:
The turntable-styled compact and matching box, along with the lingo (it comes in "deep" and "lite") draws the eye to Benefit's Some Kind-a Gorgeous foundation. It's aesthetically pleasing, and it evokes the sort of 50's/60's Hollywood startlet glam feeling that Benefit infuses into their whole line.
I am a complete sucker for a box or a kit, and in part that's because I feel like I'm getting more for my money (though that is rarely true), but in part it's because seeing smaller versions of things, nestled cleverly together, makes my heart sing. Combine that feeling with the clever name, colorful, eye-catching packaging, and feeling of luxury (the "gilded" mirror, the smirking princess on the box) of Benefit's I'm glam...therefore I am and I'm gonna be sold.
Method Home Care & Personal Products
When I first saw Method products at Target, I was drawn to the display like a moth to a lightbulb. The packaging immediately makes you think clean, modern, minimalist thoughts. Just what you want in cleaning products, especially those that are going to sit out on your counter. Even though I don't even like most of Method's scents, I keep buying some of their products just because I am so drawn to that look.
I don't mind the "Orange Zest" and "Lemon Verbena" scents of these Method wipes, but honestly, it's the Orla Kiely-like print on the container that keeps me buying them, as well as the silly cleverness of calling them "Antibac Wipes."
I could try to convince myself that I buy Method hand soap for the variety of scent options or the way it foams, but in reality, it's all about the shape of the bottle and the way the brightly colored soaps shine through the clear plastic, with its understated labeling, like prisms.
Sheffield & Sons for Bloom
I don't like Bloom grocery stores, at all. However, they knocked it out of the ballpark with the packaging for their in-store spice line.
The reusable, apothecary-influenced cylinder containers, the color and font on the labels, the corks...there is no bad here.
Bonne Maman Jam
I don't even like jam all that much, but every time I pass a shelf full of Bonne Maman jam in the store, I have to stop myself from scooping it into my cart. It's just such a perfect package.
From the great classic shape and incredible re-use potential of the glass jar to the almost-handwritten-by-Grandma looking label to the cute plaid lid, everything about the Bonne Maman package says it's good jam. And it is.
Zhena's Gypsy Tea
I definitely have a hierarchy of packing materials. Plastic is the bottom rung, paper or cardboard above it, glass above that. At the top of that hierarchy is the reusable tin. And nobody has a better tin than Zhena's Gypsy Tea.
It's not just that the size and shape of the cylindrical tin are perfect, though they are. What's even better is the lack of external label and attractive romantic icon. If I liked tea even a little bit, I'd have stacks of these.
I love Rogue the most because they make fantastic beer. However, they've also got amazing labels.
The combination of the simple color schemes, the similarly-postured but brew-specific icons, and the amazing capital letters and star logo does me in every time. Love.
Vosges chocolate is amazingly good. The perfect packaging, however, is what makes it such a breathtaking gift.
The simple lines of the purple abstract heart gift box Vosges uses serves to frame the truffles perfectly. It's like chocolate art.
Vosges' crazy line of chocolate bars are fantastically identifiable, each with its own signature color and a cover picture of some of the specialty ingredients. The innovative Vosges logo doesn't hurt, either.
I haven't tried the products from superfood company Navita's Naturals yet, but the packaging certainly makes me want to.
I love the simple bag design and the abstract organic shapes, but the color coding and the matte ink does me in.
Twist sells sponges and other eco-friendly cleaning products, which isn't exactly a fun and whimsical business. Their packaging, though, is fun and whimsical at its best.
Bright colors, a minimalist design, a cool geometric logo, and some of their packaging can be cut out and made into little bird houses. How freaking cool is that?
The Show Wine
I try to pretend I know enough about wine to choose it on some grounds besides the label, but with a label as great as The Show's, it's hard.
How much do I love that bucking bronc logo? And the explosive color background? The font? Perfect.
This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg--tons of well-packaged products exist out there, and they are getting better all the time. For thousands more examples of awesome packaging, check out TheDieline.com.
What about you? Leave me a comment and tell me about some packaging you really love.