Package design with more grace than anger

“Amy Elizabeth Rosenblatt Solomon, thirty-eight years old, pediatrician, wife of the hand surgeon Harrison Solomon, and mother of three, collapsed and died on her treadmill in the downstairs playroom at home.”

Her father, the journalist and playwright Roger Rosenblatt, wrote these words in a December 2008 New Yorker piece. Earlier this week on The News Hour, he recounted this tale of loss in conjunction with the release of his new book, Making Toast, about he and his wife’s experiences after immediately moving in with his daughter’s young family.

During this interview with Jim Lehrer, he admitted that as a journalist, one of the first things he began to do was take notes. Apparently, these notes led to the New Yorker piece and he then began to consider the possibility of writing a more expansive book on the experience.

On hearing this, his publisher cautioned that he should write “with more grace than anger”.

It struck me that this is great advice for designers as well. And as I began to extend that analogy, with apologies to Mr. Rosenblatt for perhaps being too crass in the use of his daughter’s memory, it became clear to me that “more grace than anger” is what unifies many recent successful package design projects.

And one consumer product category that is in the process of being transformed by grace in the last couple years is, of all things, laundry detergent.

During the last half of the 20th century, it is fair to say that the detergent section was a place dominated by the day-glo inspired madness of mutually assured stain destruction. As you walked down the aisle it felt like you needed body armor to protect you from the fray.  Things are changing fast.

As the image above demonstrates, a much more sensitive, calming, and dare I say “graceful” aesthetic is becoming evident. The old school “angry” approach of Arm & Hammer has not disappeared, but it is being strongly challenged by upstarts like Method Laundry. And, to their credit, even traditional brands like Tide have begun to take a more considered, sensitive, post-apocalyptic, approach to their brand identity.

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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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