I’m not sure even Warhol would be amused

I normally have a pretty good sense of humor about what we as package designers do for a living. But I was not amused by a piece in the Sunday the NY Times, presented as a follow up to their article last week on the FDA cigarette package design recommendations.

But the notion of asking artists to speculate on how to communicate important health messages on packaging stuck me as a rather flippant approach to a serious health issue. This is not after all merely an academic or aesthetic exercise that questions the intersection of art and commerce, like Andy Warhol poking fun at Campbell’s Soup or Brillo packages, this is serious stuff.

Unfortunately the smug silliness of the series of package designs, created by three illustrators, trivializes the FDA process and does a disservice to an informed conversation about how to present meaningful health and nutrition information to shoppers. This is a process that those of us in package design deal with every day, and take our responsibilities, and the law, very seriously. And this is a responsibility that is shared by virtually all of our food, beverage and OTC drug clients.

Every client that we deal with today carefully considers how to present information in a thoughtful, and informative way. And I can tell you that most of our clients are in favor of more transparency not less.

I appreciate the role of art in our lives, but in this instance it was not an artful response.


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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