Coca-Cola has gotten very good at reclaiming the containers that hold its beverages. In 2010, it recovered 400 million pounds of cans and bottles in the U.S. alone. Much of this has been converted into everything from chairs and clothes to jewelry. But building a sustainable planet demands more than reclaiming product packaging, so Coke has come out with the industry’s first 100% recyclable merchandise display racks for use in grocery and convenience stores. Made from corrugated cardboard and soon from recycled PET plastic too, the merchandise racks are the first step toward a comprehensive closed-loop retail equipment program. Coke’s “Give It Back” rack is meant to be returned or recycled to keep it from being tossed into a landfill. The recyclable rack is being tested in select U.S. markets now and should be widely available before yearend.
Aside from the fact that we find these shopping bags funny, they show the possibilities when designers literally think outside of the bag. When approaching an assignment, designers typically focus solely within the boundaries of the product itself, whether that is the edges of a page or the shape of a three-dimensional object. But sometimes the cleverest design answer presents itself in the way and in the environment in which the product will be used. What’s terrific about these shopping bag designs is that the user unwittingly is made part of the graphic solution. It takes the user’s participation to complete the visual pun.
Bear with me. This is hard to explain. We got interested in this story because we loved the graphics and packaging for the new Museum of Unnatural History in Washington D.C., which isn’t a museum and not a real store either. It’s the Washington D.C. location for 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization founded to assist kids aged six to 18 with their writing skills. It got its start at 826 Valencia Street (hence the name), a storefront location in San Francisco’s Mission District. To make the place seem “cooler” to kids, the 826 founders decided to disguise it as a “Pirate Store” and stocked it with pirate supplies like peg legs, message bottles and hooks. Kids loved it and sales helped support the tutoring programs.
Tokujin Yoshioka, who created shop designs and installations for fashion designer Issey Miyake for 20 years before starting his own studio in 2000, communicated the essence of the Hermes brand with utmost simplicity in this window display for Maison Hermes in Tokyo. Only two props filled the display area – a black-and-white image of a beautiful woman projected onto a monitor and a hanging Hermes scarf. Each time the woman appeared to blow gently on the colorful scarf, it swayed in response. Ethereal, poetic and uncontrived, the scene is devoid of anything that would detract from appreciating the ultra-silky elegance of the scarf.
Historically house brand packaging has been sad to look at. It’s as if shoppers were being told, “You want it cheaper than the national name brands, then don’t expect us to spend any money on pretty wrappers.” Increasingly, stores are concluding that packaging that looks inferior to national brands present a missed marketing opportunity. Instead of communicating value, it gives bargain-hunting shoppers the impression that the merchandise inside is just as shoddily produced.