You can’t help but notice the overwhelming level of simplicity that is driving some package design efforts lately. And in my view its mostly a good thing. Sites like The Dieline and Lovely Package are filled with examples in all categories.
Although the influences of this work are beginning to occasionally show up, the food and drug stores remain filled with over-rendered, complex packages.
The contrast between the elegant simplicity of some and complex decorativeness of many is stark. This same contrast was evident 60 years ago in architecture. The same level of contrast existed between Phillip Johnson’s glass house and much of the residential architecture of the 50s.
Time has given us the luxury of objectivity with mid-century architecture. We now know that simplicity alone does not create an effortless or livable space. And that straightforward materials and a sparseness of detail does not guarantee a successful structure. Johnson, Noyes, Breuer, Neutra and others often got it right. Many others using the same tools did not.
As I said simplicity is a good thing, but we should be attentive to the signs of package design simplicity run amok. Certainly the Tropicana fiasco is a warning sign for all. Simplicity for its own sake is no excuse for laziness.
Lastly, although there are certainly pieces of architecture that are brand identities, from the Eiffel Tower to Paris Las Vegas, the package has one very significant difference with architecture. It remains a retail product that must combine the functional, marketing and brand identity needs in a unique, memorable and compelling way.
The simpler a package gets the harder a designer needs to work at communicating the uniqueness and heritage of the brand. But don’t forget to have fun trying.
As Phillip Johnson once said, “I hate vacations. If you can build buildings, why sit on the beach.”