A couple of months ago I ordered two books by Lars Wallentin – Who Sells What to Whom and Read My Pack. The books are Wallentin’s third and fourth in the Packaging Sense series. Right at the beginning of Read My Pack, Wallentin, who worked as a packaging designer for Nestle for almost 40 years, says, the rear panel of the packaging has always interested as much as the front. He hopes that one day the industry, brand managers and packaging designers will approach packaging design as an opportunity to communicate with the consumer.
The books are well illustrated with both negative and mostly positive examples of Wallentin’s experience and ideas. They are extremely easy to read and comprehend. For instance, the author suggests that food and beverage packaging should essentially do 4 things: protect the product; sell the product, i.e. be attractive; be ergonomic; and, inform about the content. He maintains that by and large, the industry does the first two quite well while on the third category of ergonomics, which includes ease of opening and closing packaging, he finds that the major brands do a fairly good job. In the fourth criteria of communication, he feels the industry falls short. “Today, we actually go backwards, as we want to tell the consumer everything at the same time which results in too small, illegible texts,” he says.
He questions legislation that aims to reduce obesity with calorie data and the irrational belief that rational information can change habits. “You will not change people’s habits when you just inform. Will it help if you just add calorie content on beer and alcoholic beverages? I don’t think so.” He also finds legislation pointless where it prioritizes the height and size of letters rather than readability.
For Wallentin design is more of a verb than a noun, “Now that we have QR codes, websites, etc., it’s time to rethink the communication on the pack in order to have fewer, thus bigger texts that are readable which then put emphasis on what is really important.”
Wallentin’s books are sponsored to some extent by the industry and brand owners such as Bobst and ecolean. I have only described the beginning of a book of ideas and examples in which it is fun to jump around, full of emotion and shared experience. Get on the net and buy it. Better even, buy at least two of the three that are still available in the series and get a nice discount.