Outing Stuart Elliott

As designers we might as well be in the closet for all the recognition we get. And lets make it clear up front, this is a column about design, not sexual orientation.

The term outing is merely being used to expose a consistent practice of not reporting, or giving credit, to the folks who have built, sustained, and in many cases created a huge amount of equity for the brands they have helped to manage . . . the brand identity and package designers.

I don’t know Stuart Elliott, but he sounds like a very nice guy. In his bio on nytimes.com it says his interests include politics, popular culture, American history and nostalgia, especially old advertising. But I have been reading his column for almost 20 years and it has had one consistent practice, not reporting on designers and their work, even if they may have had a significant amount of influence on brand heritage.

Yes, his column is not called Package Design its called Advertising, a sort of overly simplistic and indeed nostalgic term these days, but his consistent avoidance of giving credit to designers seems, at times, almost willful.

For instance take his column today on the new campaign for 8th Continent Soymilk. Mr. Elliott mentions repeatedly the work done by BBDO West in San Francisco (and its great) to build the new identity around a friendlier more approachable brand. The column says,

“The goal is to cultivate a brand image around “the family atmosphere,” said Sam Stremick, vice president for sales and marketing at Stremicks in Santa Ana, Calif., and how “we try to keep everything real, and how honest and refreshing that is these days.”

For instance, the redesign of 8th Continent packages features hand-drawn suns that evoke “artwork on a fridge at home,”

And the only visual for the column is a picture of the new packaging, and yet there is no mention in the print or online column of the designer or illustrator of this new package. For the record, it was designed by Bob Dinetz and illustrated by Ben Javens. Guys great work!

So was this unique, no and I did a little digging. Here is a list of Mr. Elliott’s recent columns that prominently feature the package. In none of these columns does he mention the name of the designer, August 23 – Sweet’N Low, August 9 – Van Gogh Blue Vodka, July 12 – KIND Snacks, June 28 – Bounty Paper Towels, June 21 – Hendrick’s Gin. (By the way if anyone knows the name of the designers of those projects mentioned above please list them in the comments section.)

If you read these articles you will of course read credits for the ad agency, but often the promotions agency, the digital agency, the research agency, the direct agency, the cause marketing agency, the social media agency, etc.

As I mentioned in my Sweet’N Low column earlier this week, this blog has one strong bias . . . that the package is the most important long-term vehicle for building the value of a consumer brand. And I think designers have created more value for less than most in the marketing and communications field.

We should insist that the media give them credit where it is due. Don’t you agree Mr. Elliott?

The image above is from the website of Bob Dinetz, the designer. I have chosen this image, even though it looks like the retail package, as shown in Stuart Elliott’s column, may have changed slightly from this original concept.


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 Outing Stuart Elliott

  1. Geo. says:

    It’s not just designers, – the media seem to have their bias. Ever notice that for every published photo, the photographer is given credit (as he/she should). But check out an article on a new building project (like the one yesterday in the Times on the proposed tower next to the Empire State Building) and do you find the name of the architect ?? Maybe I just missed it !!

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