The Kimbell Museum, Coca Cola, Renzo Piano, and Turner Duckworth

An iconic building and an iconic brand. .  . both driven by the creative brilliance of their designers and the application, over time, of a collective vision for the brand.

Perhaps the most rewarding type of project for a package designer is the redesign of an iconic consumer brand. It is fraught with challenges. The risks are extensive, the responsibilities are complex, but the payoff can be huge.  .  . for the brand, for the client, and for the designer.

The same would appear to be true for architects.

Renzo Piano unveils his new design today for an addition to Louis Kahn’s truly iconic Kimbell Art Museum, opened in Fort Worth in 1972. And Nicolai Ouroussoff, in his review in the NY Times, clearly expresses the challenges any designer might feel when taking on such a commission,

“It’s fair to ask if Renzo Piano was fully sane when he agreed to design the addition to Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum. . . (he) is likely to be vilified by both architecture fans and art world purists no matter what he comes up with.”

In our world of brand identity and package design, there certainly have been recent and well-publicized examples of successes and failures in the redesign of iconic brands. Tropicana was an obvious failure, while in my view one of the most consistent successes has been Coca Cola.

And two observations in Ouroussoff’s review seem to hint at why the Coke packaging, and the new Kimbell addition work so well.

In the first, he declares that Kahn’s work “seems to reach back through the 20th century all the way to antiquity.” In the second, he talks about Piano’s work on the Kimbell as “ a civilized conversation across the ages.”

There is no question that the Turner Duckworth coke packaging is a marvelous homage to the ages, and does look back through the 20th century for inspiration. It is a synthesis of the classic elements of script typography and red color married to the latest opportunities in aluminum, glass and steel packaging technologies.

In the end, the museum and the beverage, both clearly contemporary statements in design, are successful because they both have a reverence for, and a fresh reinterpretation of, design precedent.

The image above contains photos from the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and Robert Laprelle for the Kimbell Art Museum


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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