Archive for June, 2012

Punks pursued propaganda power of packaging

by adamsweeney

Ever feel you've been cheated?

If I were a proper hard-edged punk Leftie (instead of a soft, champagne-slurping one), I’d say that a brand design agency like us makes packaging – the outer shell, the dressing up of a product which is otherwise totally ordinary; blinding consumers with ever-more swanky executions, dazzling them into filling trolleys with stuff that looks nice because it looks nice.

But about thirty years ago, it was precisely these exponents of an anti-commercial stance who mounted a more eloquent defence of packaging than any industry apologist blogger could.

Last weekend, I caught a documentary about the rise of post-punk, featuring anti-Royal pinup and butter salesman Johnny Rotten. He was about his follow-up to the burnt-out Pistols – Public Image Ltd (aka PiL). Their album smashed into territory wholly unexpected by critics and fans alike with a sound that was futuristic, layered, even – God forbid – tranquil.

But what made as much of an impression on tune-buying public was that this record came not in a cardboard sleeve with art-school upstart graphics; not in a throwaway sleeve, as had become the fashion for every punk band of the time; but in a metal canister. As if it were a film or, to use Mr. Rotten’s humble description, ‘a time capsule from the future, or the past’.

The packaging was as much the product as the product itself. PiL had twigged that the record, the physical record, was the tangible form of everything they stood for. Its effortless statement - ‘this is not just another record’.

Nor was it a one-off. One of the first albums to be put out by the central label Factory Records was the Durutti Column’s first album. Apart from being a damn fine album, the sleeve was coated in sandpaper - so that playing DC’s fierce new wave music would, figuratively and literally, ‘wipe away’ your other music. A witty embodiment of their ethos.

Bands with something to say have continued this tradition. Post-hardcore band Shellac delivered their industrial-strength guitar noise album ‘At Action Park’ in corrugated cardboard; Spiritualised’s chemically-inspired sound arrives in clinical blister packaging; and System of a Down’s CD-R mimic ‘Steal This Album!‘ simply begs to be half-inched.

Packaging can grab attention for your product in a way no other channel can – and if well done, with enough balls, it can even be more than a continuation of what your brand stands for. It can set the agenda, communicate and even amplify your values. Turns out that the anti-commercial punks twigged this before plenty of the big brands.

Ever get the feeling you’d been cheated?


Chip Chip hooray.

by Alex Benady

That Chip winning Toastie design

Most creative awards have rules and dreary things like that. The work has to actually run, the client has to  be on board and it has to be  yours. Yadda yadda.

So it was with real pride that we discovered last week that one of our own, CPB designer Aaron Shaw, has won a coveted golden Chip at the Chip Shop Awards –the no holds barred creative awards where absolutely anything goes. Suicide; racism; masturbation; it’s all grist to the mill of the Chip Shop Awards. (more…)

Cecil Beaton’s very different take on war

by Alex Benady

Cecil's gingham army

Think of war photography and it is usually grainy gritty studies of anguish and suffering by the macho likes of Don McCullen that spring to mind. The idea that a gay fashion photographer like Cecil Beaton, best known for his work with celebrities, could have anything interesting to say on the subject seems, well, ludicrous.

But this September the Imperial War Museum is mounting an exhibition of his war work and it is safe to say that it shows war as you have never seen it before. (more…)

Hobbitshire and Brixton. The two faces of The Olympics.

by Alex Benady

Hobbitshire in E20

The plans for the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games were announced today. It will be called ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ and will see the Olympic Stadium transformed into a replica of the rolling British countryside.

Art directed by Slumdog millionaire director Danny Boyle, the Olympic stadium will be transformed into Hobbitshire in east London, featuring meadows, fields and rivers, as well as families taking picnics, sport being played on the village green and farmers tilling the soil while real animals graze – including horses, cows, goats, ducks, nine geese, sheep and sheepdogs. (more…)

Cardiff: the first Marxist, Man U me-too, football club?

by Alex Benady

Last week the owners of championship football club Cardiff City announced that they are changing the club’s livery from blue to red. Just like Manchester United. In the tribal world of football a move like that is seen as a deep deep betrayal, akin to redesigning the national flag or deciding that the colour of socialism should be blue. (more…)

Coley Porter Bell triumphs at FAB awards

by Alex Benady

Some of our winning designs for Life Plus

Coley Porter Bell picked up a commendation as well as  one of the top gongs at the 14th Food and Beverage awards held at the Hurlingham club last week.

We won the health foods section of the packaging design division with our stunning abstract expressionist style designs in water colour now appearing on dozens of products belonging to US well-being giant Life Plus International.

In addition we won a commendation in the retail packaging range section for our redesign of Morrisons’ value line M Savers.

Craig and Stephen graciously accept FAB award


This blog is about all the things that inspire us as we make brands beautiful: insights and ideas, points of view, fabulous work, nascent trends - all the things that excite us and help us to see new possibilities for the brands we work on. So please enjoy, add your comments, forward the link, and come back and see us. We’ll be posting regularly.