Anyone who doubts that we live in a global economy needs to look at packaging and products from the far-flung reaches of the planet. These lovely labels for sauces and marmalades were made for Italbu Charcuterie in Burundi, a little landlocked country in Southeast Africa, bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Italbu Charcuterie is a deli shop offering organic products made from original Italian recipes.The design firm Ya Ye lists studios both in Zagreb, Croatia, and Bujumbura, Burundi. Ya Ye’s design has a contemporary universal quality that could have just as easily been produced in New York, London or Sydney. Cultural design differences were more distinctly identifiable before air travel and multinational retailers. A World War II vet once told me that if a soldier was parachuted onto foreign terrain, he would know where he landed by the typography and architecture, even before hearing the spoken language. With the Internet today, the whole world is exposed to the same visual references and design styles can’t be pinpointed to a particular culture or part of the world.
Since 1888, the National Geographic Society has explored the scientific and natural wonders of the planet in magazines and books that are now published in 39 languages. The yellow border that frames its magazine covers has been adopted as its official logo, but most readers have a clear impression of the kinds of photographs and images that they associate with the National Geographic brand. This print ad campaign for National Geographic Arabia certainly fits that model. Conceived by Classic Partnership Advertising Dubai with creative direction by Satyen Adhikari. the ads depict exotic far-off places on the planet to excite the viewer’s wanderlust. A closer look, however, reveals that the images are localized to appeal to consumers on the Arabian Peninsula. The creatures, people and landmarks shown don’t include anything from the United Arab Emirates that I can tell. There are polar bears, a gorilla, buffalo and dolphin, an Eskimo, American Indian, Spanish flamenco dancer and astronaut, and there’s the Hollywood sign, Easter Island statues, Taj Mahal and Leaning Tower of Pisa, but nothing that seems iconographic of the Arabian Peninsula. That makes sense since the local sights are not particularly mysterious if you happen to live there. The tagline, too, is quaintly translated as “Stay Curious Always.” Interesting how the ads for National Geographic Arabia are consistent with the global brand, but tailored for a specific market.
Designers are not just ordinary consumers in the battle against suffocating the planet with litter. They are the best prevention and the last defense. Aesthetic sensitivity, retail presence, brand positioning, ease-of-use, safety, etc. are critical considerations when designing, and much more fun than thinking about the packing materials used. As important as it is to recycle and minimize waste that goes to landfill, more pressing is what gets blown away as litter. Fast-food takeout boxes probably kill more creatures than the high-fat junk food they hold. Bad typography may be annoying to read, but you never hear about seagulls strangling on overextended serifs, nor about coral reefs stomped to death by insensitive use of graphic standards. There should be life after design. Design for the afterlife. Happy Earth Month.
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.
This animated video on climate change comes from the WWF Brazil. It’s part of a trilogy titled “Pense de Novo,” or “Think Again.” Without voiceover or text, the 30-second video shows how humans have managed to pollute the planet. As we commemorate Earth Day on Friday, it is something to think about…again.