branding marketing opinion

Yogurt packaging is not black & white

A you’re probably aware by now, I make my living as a packaging designer. As such, I’m constantly looking at stuff. Whether it’s the art and information on a cereal box, or how IKEA products are so efficiently packed in those otherwise plain brown cartons. It’s all part of what we, as consumers, experience when we seek out and buy this– stuff.

I’m also the primary food shopper in my family, so I’m in the supermarket on a regular basis. And, whenever I’m out and about shopping, I  have a habit of looking at the product that’s on the shelves. I’m sure a lot of people do that– maybe not in as conscious a way as designers but they do it. And after a while, whether you’re aware or not, you start to see patterns. Color selections. packaging shapes, wording.

Next time you’re in the store, take a look at the soda aisle. What color is the house brand’s cola? What about their ginger ale? Now look at the name brands. What color are they? It sure isn’t a coincidence.

But I digress

Carbonated drinks aren’t what made me think of this. It was yogurt. Walk past the yogurt case in the store and– with a couple of exceptions (I’m looking at you, Activia)– they will most likely look like this:

Dannon blueberry yogurt packYoplait strawberry yogurt pack

In short, lots of white, with accents of the brand/line colors. Oh, and the hero shot of the fruit or flavor inside. Even the upscale/gourmet brands follow these conventions.

So, when I saw this last week, it made me stop.

Stop the presses– who is that?

This is a new offering from Yoplait. I think it’s called “YQ by Yoplait”, and a couple of things became evident:

  • It’s positioned as a more premium offering. Muted tones hint at more sophistication.They don’t feel the need to be bold and screamy with their colors.
  •  I’m not their desired demographic. The colors and overall design have a more feminine feel. They’re clearly targeting women with this product, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they roll out tv ads reinforcing this.
  • This ain’t your everyday type of yogurt. A gray cup? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other yogurt brand that has executed in such a way.

We’re still talking about yogurt?

I didn’t pick up any (though I might this week, just out of curiosity, demographics be damned!), but at first glance, this type of category disruption was certainly effective, and it made me consciously think about why.

  • It got me to stop and look at the product. This is the first step and indicator of an effective pack design. Cutting through the noise (in this case, quite literally “white noise”) and getting the attention of the consumer.
  • It created curiosity in sampling the product. I may not buy one today. I may not buy one next month. But one of these days I just might go “hmmm”… and pick one or two up.
  • It got me talking about it. Do I even need to explain this one?

These are 3 things to always keep in mind when designing a new pack. We may not always be successful in achieving these (for a number of different reasons), but we certainly need to try.

Now, I have to start thinking about that grocery list…




life randomness

The New Testament and Social Media

I’m writing this as I’m about to post, and not really editing (other than for typos), so please bear with me.

Lately I’ve been listening to Joel Osteen on Sunday mornings as I’m getting ready for church, and the last couple of weeks in particular have hit home with me, for one reason or another. Yesterday’s message boiled down to how we need to have in our “inner circle” (his phrase, not mine) people that will encourage us and who will be supportive in chasing and reaching our goal.  Those “toxic” relationships (as he described them) should be ones that we re-examine and possibly even eliminate from our lives.

Also, this past Sunday our church was visited by one of the pastors from a nearby church. The message he prepared and delivered was all about sharing. I believe some of the phrasing he used– to me– echoed in a weird reversed way Gordon Gecko’s speech about greed in Wall Street.

But I digress.

See, you can take out all the Biblical bibliography, and both messages remain extremely relevant. And, the way I see it, as designers/developers/artists– whatever, the idea of having people that are supportive of our goals and the idea of sharing what we have (knowledge, experience) are both things that are important to our growth, and are an integral part of living and interacting in the realm of social media. After all, isn’t that at least part of the reason we involved ourselves initially, and continue to do so day after day?


Create Something Every Day (#daily365)– for May 5


Even though I’ve begun working through the alphabet, I had already planned something to go along with Cinco de Mayo (never mind that I’m doing this in mid-July). That something took a little longer than my traditionally set up time restriction. Hope you enjoy.

artwork ©2010 rafael armstrong

To paraphrase Jeff Dunham and Peanut– Yes, it’s a jalapeño– on a steeck!!!!!

daily365 life randomness vector

Create Something Every Day (#daily365)– for May 1st

So, this is what I got for today. No fancy intros, no purple-prosed laden explanations.

©2010 rafael armstrong

(And, yes, I’m well aware there might be some irony at play tonight).


daily365 life randomness

Create Something Every Day (#daily365)– for April 17

I’m driving in the car earlier today, and, for some reason (part of it, I imagine, is living in North Jersey, land of malls and diners you’ll see why in a sec), I started thinking about the visual language of mall directories (see?!). Completely random, totally out of left field. Then my mind started to wander into things like a person’s moral “compass” and the role that Theism (or is it Deism? Definitely some “ism”) may or may not play in all this.

I decided to play with those ideas in this piece.

©2010 rafael armstrong

I know I’ve used the figure illo before, but felt it fit with what I was doing. And, if it helped move things along, then all the better.

Your thoughts, comments and opinions are always welcome!

daily365 life randomness vector

Create Something Every Day (#daily365)– Feb 10

I know I’ve said this before, and it’s especially appropriate today. Inspiration can sometimes hit in the most unlikely places.

Case in point. My part of North Jersey (according to the town’s Chamber of Commerce guide) is about 20 miles from The City (that would be New York City for my out-of-town readers). Throughout the day this area has been “graced” with over a foot of snow– so far. With schools closed and pretty much everything shut down, I had a chance to sit down and clean up the code on my site (I should point out that I’ve been working on a refresh of my site since the beginning of the year). I had fallen into a nice groove, cleaning and streamlining the html and css, and was making some headway, when out of nowhere…

The power went out.

Now, it came back less than 10 minutes later, but, of course, whatever edits I was in the process of making at the time were lost. It’s no major issue, just a minor inconvenience at best.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I had started to think about today’s #daily365. While (how can I put this delicately and tactfully?)… answering a quick call of nature, an old joke (and not a particularly funny one at that, either) popped in my head. The punchline seemed appropriate for today. I sat down at my desk, cracked open Illustrator and cranked this out real quick:

©2010 rafael armstrong

Like I said– the most unlikely places… Hope you enjoy today’s piece and have at least been mildly amused with my level of personal disclosure. As always, your thoughts and feedback are appreciated.