Design by committee, or maybe consumer, is no choice at all

In the first few weeks of this blog I have been fairly gentle, so far, when discussing the creative execution of package design work. Not today.

When I heard that Nestle is running a design competition, to redesign their Goobers, Sno-Caps, and Oh Henry! candy brands, where consumers can vote on their favorite package design, I thought, A. What wonderful heritage brands these are, B. There is significant risk in putting their brand heritage totally in the hands of consumers, C. If this methodology is successful it will put me out of business, D. They are nuts. Then I went to the site. It quickly became apparent that while this might be an interesting idea for Nestle conceptually, this execution is a sham.

nestle-candyA. The work does not support the “living history” of these brands

The one thing you have to get right on candy packaging, before you make any other changes, they have gotten really wrong. With candy packaging, where impulse purchase in the candy and checkout aisles or behind the movie candy counter is key, the treatment of the logotype is the most important first step in any redesign effort. The logotype executions on all three are at best, weak, and in each case diminish the brand communication. This work doesn’t build on any of the brands’ heritage, its simply lousy typography.

B. The consumer is being offered no real choice

As you can see, the choices being offered to the consumer are tiny at best, a small color change for Goobers, the amount of snowfall on Sno-Caps, and a slight logo change on Oh Henry! 

C. It looks like I can keep my day job

Say what you will about the work, a designer did help Nestle get this far with the design “alternatives”. Although I can’t imagine what criteria was used to judge this new work.

D. I still think they are nuts


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to Design by committee, or maybe consumer, is no choice at all

  1. Brian de la Peña says:

    Sometimes this job really does seem Ridiculous. We’re discussing candy packaging, but hey it’s what we do and I love it. What other job can remind you not to take life so seriously by taking the not so serious seriously, right? hahaha. Any ways to the topic at hand.

    I am not at all impressed with these choices. The Snow Caps variation is negligible, and the Goobers is a travesty. Goobers should never have been put in italics, the “o’s” need to be as round as possible I think, it adds to the fun of saying the name, its one of those words that looks like what it sounds like, they need to capitalize on that, not ignore it. There really are no choices and this appears to me to be more the illusion of choice. They have one in mind already to redesign and I say it’s the Oh Henry bar (bottom right). They are going to go the trendy slab serif route to be cool and awesome. This peoples choice thing is a publicity stunt and after as much heat as Pepsico. took for getting it wrong, they have a scapegoat by doing this and its the “popular” vote.

    If you look at the redesigns, their are hardly any variations in the packaging. The most drastic difference in designs was in the Oh Henry bar. The others were swapping out some colors, or adding a bit more snow. Things a photoshop monkey could have done in 10 minutes. There’s a reason why the packaging is so similar, its cause they won’t spend the money polishing 5 other redesigns when they just need one.

    I think this was genius of them to do. First they get the focus group without paying for the focus group. Depending on how many hits the others get, they get to see if there redesign is needed and what direction they should take. And if the people don’t like the new redesign for their choice, they can dodge that bullet by not doing it or fixing up one of the others that the people gave attention to. It’s a win/win for Nestle, a win/lose for design, and a whatever for candy eaters across the world.

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