All our faves
Heroes come in all shapes and forms, from a humble plastic lemon to exquisite spirit bottles. We ask a range of industry professionals about their all-time favourites – packs that just can’t be bettered
_Co-founder, Turner Duckworth
Apple’s packaging for its entire range of products has taken packaging design forward to a different level.
An iPhone pack is an engaging experience, not just the box the product comes in. The packaging materials are perfect quality for the job, the size is just right, the messy bits and pieces inside the box have highly considered places to sit and become desirable accessories. The graphics are simple, but have character. No one wants to throw the packaging away because it’s so well made and useful afterwards. And it’s like that across the whole range.
Since the Apple packaging revolution, designers’ conversations with clients are about packs as an experience rather than simple decoration and we talk about the importance of packaging design as being the cornerstone of a successful visual identity system. And beyond all that, Apple’s approach to packaging has taken a mass-market product and made normal consumers see good design, raising their expectations and our standards.
_Creative director, Brandhouse
Being both a vinyl junkie and a graphic designer I have always loved Colin Fulcher, aka Barney Bubbles’, work for Stiff Records. Truly ground-breaking work that fitted with the ‘do it yourself’ ethic of the time.
Bubbles’ style emerged as one that was colourful, playful, loaded with geometry, shape, art-history and music-history references, jokes, cryptograms and symbolism. His over-riding appetite was for going against the grain of accepted design standards. His work is simultaneously complex, simple and direct, as fresh today as the day it was designed.
I also like the Panasonic headphone packaging by Scholz & Friends, Berlin. Sometimes you see something that just makes you smile, it’s so simple and obvious, but you ask yourself if you would have got to that solution. I’d love to think so.
Another great idea, executed beautifully is Widex Hearing Aid by Goodmorning Technology. The emotional interaction with the pack is perfect – an interesting twist on an unglamourous product that has been given true design credentials. I wish this was in my portfolio.
_Creative director, Williams Murray Hamm
In a world of ‘quick Apple Mac’ run-outs and ‘ill-considered’ typography, Womersley Fruit & Herb Vinegars by Mayday is utterly exquisite. It reminds me of the fine work produced at Michael Peters & Partners back in the 1980s, but offering a rebooted, more modern example. The labels burst with artworks by Swedish-born Petra Börner (famed for her White Tiger book illustration), intertwining home-made, crafted products into an ornate secret garden that seduces you in to explore this delightful Womersley world and the fruit and herbs that feature in their vinegars and jellies.
The designers have turned this family-owned (since 1979), Yorkshire-based business into a ‘gourmet brand’ reflecting the history and heritage of the Parsons family, for generations based at Womersley Hall, and yet managed to make a contemporary statement through the use of colour and Börner ’s beautiful style. As the saying goes, ‘First you feast with your eyes’. Well, I’m full.
_Founder, Him and Her
As much as I love the classics such as Marmite, Coca-Cola and Lea & Perrins sauce, I am always seduced by functional simplicity in packaging. Being a designer, over time you become cynical to over-marketed and elaborate designs constructed to pull on the heart strings.
To me, packs which are functional and simple are always a joy to behold. After all, style is a simple way of saying complicated things. The simpler the better. That is why I was delighted when I was recently bought a bottle of Aesop’s Marrakech fragrance. Aesop has a great design ethic, which it applies throughout its brand.
The clever, cost-effective solution to tamper-proofing the box, a safety pin (with a button) that can be applied by staff in-store is great. On seeing it, I wish I’d done it myself, and this therefore elevates it to hero status.
[Jif lemon is] a miniature work of art. Those intentional imperfections in the waxy peel are great. How many pieces of packaging can you identify by touch alone?
Adam Ellis, Elmwood London
_Creative director, Elmwood London
It has to be the humble Mr J Lemon. Packaging that tells a story based on a truly authentic attitude always gets me. What’s so good about Jif lemon? At first glance, the size and sheen make you think you’re looking at the real deal, an actual lemon. The cute paper leaf continues the theme, and is an engaging way to hold the boring old mandatories.
Once you’ve torn it off, you’re left with a miniature work of art. Those intentional imperfections in the waxy peel are great. How many pieces of packaging can you identify by touch alone? Not many.
Finally, I love its high-maintenance ways. Put it down on a worktop and it’ll roll around, and when it comes to stowing it in the fridge, it’s the eggholder or quits. It’s a magnificent little squirt and I can’t help wishing I’d designed it myself.
_Associate creative director, Landor Associates
A purist would say that nature makes the best packaging, but I’m going to sidestep slightly and go for the Jif lemon. It’s one of those ideas that you can’t help but smile at, and, as a designer, be envious of. Actually, using the pack is a joy too. A well-aimed squeeze at a pancake is always rewarding.
I would point out that this was not a choice based on nostalgia. Regardless of the affection that we have for brands we grew up with, the Jif lemon pack is just a great idea. True, it’s no longer new, but as the more contemporary banana pack by Naoto Fukasawa proves, there’s always room for innovative takes on the most strivingly simple thoughts.
_Executive creative director, The Brand Union
The pack that I have kept on my desk is Marmite England Cricket limited edition by the Core. The pack that I would replace it with is Stranger and Stranger’s Virginia Marie Lambrix, a Californian biodynamic wine. When Stranger and Stranger was talking to the client they said that ‘biodynamic’ sounded like witchcraft and that was the inspiration for the design.
I don’t know anything about biodynamics or witchcraft, but I do know great craft when I see it and this label is exquisite. It is like the art of an Albert Dürer engraving and the science of a Leonardo da Vinci drawing. It does not have the big idea of Marmite cricket, but it is bewitching.
This wonderful piece of design [for machine oil] is by Paul Schuitema. I’ve long looked out for a sample, but so far I have never found one. What so fantastic is its clarity and brilliant typography. It requires nothing else. I’ve seen little to better it. The great surprise that it is from 1926.
_Creative partner, Buddy Creative
The iconic and much-copied rebranding of Glenrothes Single Malt by Blackburn remains as category-challenging today as when it was first launched. Taking malt sample bottles as inspiration for structure, and using the malt masters’ handwritten notes on the label, the design was the first to celebrate the craftsmen behind the product. The functional theme continues with layered corrugate outer packaging to protect the precious sample and hero the physical bottle. The original has been tweaked, but the core idea remains.
Bonne Maman is a universal and glorious piece of packaging that has stood the test of time over 25 years, and still inspires today. These jam jars effortlessly remind me of sunny breakfasts with family and friends, and summer camping holidays across France. The combination of gingham lid, black script on white label and traditional jar structure creates a simple, home-made feel, yet the clarity and integrity of that idea ensure it’s an all-time classic.
Pearlfisher’s Absolut Mandrin bottle has always stood out to me as the simplest of ideas beautifully executed. So many limited editions and flavoured variations of Absolut’s iconic bottle design have been created: some have been bad, some have been good, but none has been better than this one. The punt underneath the bottle is structurally different to the other Absolut bottles and has to be specially made, so it’s not only an aesthetic success, but a triumph of production and structure too.
_Creative director, Jones Knowles Ritchie There are packs you admire and packs you adore. The ones you love tend to come from childhood, I find. I adored Bazooka Joe gum (11) – it was a small piece of Americana in my pudgy little hand. Andy Warhol could have made an icon of the design (it was a like a Brillo box in miniature), and the free mini-comics were a source of delight. Sadly, they updated and ruined it – bah.
I admire Gucci by Gucci, because it was a great brief: ‘Give us the Niketown of Gucci’. Which the designers did, by distilling every piece of iconography they had into the packaging, to create a freshly minted classic.
_Susanna Cook _Creative director, Allies This ladyfingers pack (10) is my all-time favourite, (and so much so it sits in my prized bronze pharmacy cabinet, on the top shelf). I absolutely love the colour – a super-sweet, bright pink, which shouts out ‘buy me’ from the shelf. Who could resist this cheeky German fraulein? She says, ‘I’m a sponge finger – nothing more, nothing less and I’m ready for fun – try me, share me.’ Turn the box over and discover a short recipe with a colour-co-ordinated sweet pink recipe shot, styled in a confident and simple, yet considered way. It is unintimidating and honest food labelling of yesteryear, but I do think she is more of a miss than a lady.