This is an example of the current trend in post-modern packaging whereby the carton isn’t really a carton at all – look, no sides, no lid– but just a beefed-up label which has been pressed into service to act as a package.
Basically it’s just a strip of cardboard with a couple of folds and a rivet to hold it together. Not much more than a swing-tag label really. Very deconstructed.
It does feature a combination of matt and gloss varnishes, however, and the main Street Kitchen lettering is actually embossed to give it a tactile Braille-like effect (as also used on this curry sauce packet – maybe that’s another trend). So even though the packaging itself is fairly low-tech as a piece of engineering, the finish is more involved than might be expected of a curry sauce packet.
Boundaries are being blurred, age-old differences between packaging and labels are crumbling, so that what we have today is the cross-over package/label, neither one thing nor t’other but rather both.
What does this mean? At first glance, you might think it is a self-referential label, a selfie label, a label which exists for the sole purpose of telling us what it is.
That’s not as absurd as it sounds (well, maybe it is…). I once saw a poster which simply had the word GREEN printed on it – yes, in green lettering – being used to promote a company’s environmental credentials, such as they were. It’s like a form of synesthesia in which both the sensory and semantic perception of the word become identical.
This label, as it stands, strays into similar territory with a circular graphic that functions simply to evoke what it is i.e. a label made from recycled material. It exists merely in order to advertise the means of its own existence, as if the sole purpose of my life was to wander around saying ‘I am 37.2 trillion cells’.
Of course, this changes if the label is attached to a different referent, in this case an object which was, in part, made from recycled material. Then it makes perfect sense.
It also underscores the meaningless of many environmental labels and how easy it is for somebody to put together a couple of green arrows for marketing purposes. It’s something that drives environmentalists crazy – so-called green-washing – whereby any greeny blobby graphic can be used to promote a feel-good environmental message without any real basis in fact.
Strictly speaking, it’s not real paper but something called Easy Dot, a PVC film that goes through an inkjet printer.
Typically Easy Dot is used for advertising graphics to stick on walls and floors but in this sample, because it’s Easter, it has been used to print some little stickers of bunnies and chicks.
I’ve noted previously the tendency to use gold and silver foil on items of packaging which are otherwise remarkably prosaic and utilitarian. In this instance, it is amazing to see gold foil and embossing on something as humble as a curry sauce packet.
Mind you, if I made a curry sauce called Golden Curry then I reckon I’d be reaching for the foil too.
Moreover it is from Japan where they take their packaging very seriously indeed and produce it to an exceptionally high standard.
But it’s overkill, you might say, and unnecessary because it’s unlikely to make you want to increase your consumption of curry sauce.
Maybe. One day though we’ll all be using replicators to make our curry sauce and when that happens there will be a miniscule loss, a tiny gap marking the absence of shiny cheerful stuff to catch our eye and brighten the dull, grey day.
I like this shiny rainbow effect on packaging but it’s interesting that, in this instance, it is being used for something as humdrum as an information panel. On a light-bulb carton.
The panel is overprinted in black and has its own little drop shadow to make it stand out but, at the same time, it is located on the lid of the box which is perhaps not the surface most visible on the shelf to the passing shopper.
I’m always intrigued by unusual finishing effects, like this use of foil on a lunch bag, not least because they are sometimes employed in the most unlikely places. Most shoppers, I hazard, would not even notice though, especially on a disposable item such as a light bulb box, so I wonder if the effect is entirely subliminal, a brief recognition of something shiny and pretty without registering what it is.