STUDENT WORK: Conceptual Reimagineering—Packaging
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A conceptual approach to generic canned food labels and sustainable packaging

Conceptual Reimagineering of Generic Can Labels



The old forms of packaging have become staid, boring and expected. While branding is the primary approach used for promoting food brands, packaging is responsible for the majority of impulse purchases. A white generic canned food label was presented to students for reimagineering.

The term “imagineering” is used by Disney (one of my clients) to describe their internal corporate innovation process. In adapting the term for use in graphic design, I define reimagineering as the process of redefining the form, context, content and message within an existing structure, media or given limitation. A highly refined, five-step design process is emphasized in this and all of my courses to promote disciplined, confident and consistent outcomes.

The goal is to develop a visual language for a generic can label that tightly couples the words, images, background and layout into a cohesive visual statement imbued with meaning and/or context. For example, the peas label (below) portrays peas integrated into scenes such as baseball, vintage cars, a 1950s mother and a flag. This sets the generic peas in a context of a wholesome, everyday American food.

A feedback loop exists between each of the five steps.

Step 1: Define the problem.
Understand the audience, environment, expectations, limitations, and message. Prepare a written definition of the problem. Concludes with feedback.

Step 2: Research & Information Gathering.
Prerequisites for the course include Consumer Behavior and Introduction to Marketing courses taught in the business college. Students gather information, concepts, existing solutions and ideas to use in the ideation phase. In addition to the usual activities associated with this step, students conduct qualitative and quantitative research to observe the behaviors of shoppers in grocery stores. Students develop a list of conclusions which serves as the criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of their solution. They also draft a list of conclusions to address during the ideation phase. Step 2 concludes with feedback.

Step 3: Ideation, Strategy & Solutions.
Using the principles of disruptive innovation as a strategy, where a product can be improved in ways that the market does not expect, students develop solutions through visual thinking, key words, creative processes, group critiques, and individual conferences. Students chose many different solutions to the problem including abstraction, historical inspiration, story-telling, metaphors, and cultural references in an attempt to redefine the meaning and/or context of a generic canned food label. The processes in step 3 are based on the concept of synthesis, the ability to generate new ideas by combining existing elements into new forms. This step involves multiple rounds of feedback.

Step 4: Prototype and Refine.
Students visually and conceptually develop the most promising solutions by experimenting with concepts, color palettes, context, meaning, typography, layout, texture, pattern and other elements. This step involves multiple rounds of feedback. Solutions are culled to the ones that best fulfill the goals, strategy, and conclusions developed in Step 2. The potential solutions are tested informally.

Step 5: Production.
The students are encouraged to bring scanned and found materials into the production and design that support their concept. Students produced a production file with mounted color printouts.

Can Label for fruit cocktail

Can Label for Peas

can label for tomatoes1

can label for tomatoes 2

Can Label for Hominy Grits
Beets can label

Student sustainable packaging converts wasteful coffee packaging to a reusable form.

Sustainable packaging replaces wasteful coffee packaging.