Wednesday, March 4

Museum of Design and Applied Arts Opens Packaging - Wrapping to Design





Panier de la ménagère 2009 », concept : mudac, 2009, photo : Marie Humair/Olivier Laffely.

LAUSANNE.- Packaging is a concept that goes well beyond wrapping. Even if its ultimate aim remains the protection and transport of its contents, over the course of the decades certain more subtle elements have been added to this list of specifications. Thus, one can attribute to it six main functions: to contain, transport, preserve, identify the producer, inform about the content and authenticate the origin of the product. Yet, before everything else, firms seek to put on to the market wrappings or packagings that will encourage the consumer to buy. It is this particular “design” that interests us in the exhibition staged at the mudac.

Packaging thus plays a role as a showcase, adding short-lived value to an object that makes it stand out among a plethora of stock which can sometimes be intimidating for the customer. And even if brands know that it will very often end up in the trash can once the sale has been made, they do not hesitate to change the packaging frequently in order to renew interest in a product. Incidentally, one needs to know that investing money in research into packaging is often less expensive than updating or revising the product itself.

An interesting testimony to a way of life that involves planned obsolescence and a time when change and speed are valued above all else, packaging is revealing of contemporary trends. It represents a direct consequence of industrial development and of a type of consumption that goes through numerous intermediaries: when purchases are made at the supermarket, in big quantities, and transported by car, the packaging of a product is of necessity different to one that is sold at the local grocery. We are currently witnessing a phenomenon of “over-packaging”, which runs counter to concerns about the environment. Hundreds of packagings pour into the marketplace every year and sometimes only remain on sale for a few months, since they are subject to the verdict of consumers. Analysis of these design creations is fascinating, and the mudac has for several years been observing the evolution and impact of packaging on our lives as consumers and citizens.

The exhibition is deliberately focused on two sectors that are highly dependent on the impact of packaging: food and cosmetics. This bias is dictated by practical reasons, among other factors, since these sectors have a huge volume of output and the variety of approaches guarantees the possibility of a high-quality selection. But what is most striking is that these products are for the most part in everyday use. The public’s familiarity with this type of packaging makes an in-depth analysis all the more interesting. How people look at an object, known from first glance, is different. Parallel to the products sold every day in supermarkets, the exhibition presents a choice of more luxurious objects, the packaging of which is astonishingly close to more commonplace objects.

Packaging – Wrapping to Design presents hundreds of objects, for the most part drawn from the contemporary marketplace, local or international. Multiple comparisons can be made between these objects, whether regarding their use of colour, form and typography or the use of photographs and illustrations. One products that would like to appear sophisticated: packets of coffee or tea, luxury grocery products, perfumes. Despite – or because of? – its opaqueness, black is currently synonymous with luxury. The purity of white, on the other hand, has always been associated with cosmetics, but this colour also appears in certain foodstuffs packaging. As for gold and silver, they certainly symbolise luxury and “bling” but also maturity, including in the case of cosmetic products aimed at the “mature” skin. From the perspective of form, only luxury brands can allow themselves to produce unexpected packaging in more “noble” materials. One thus finds perfume bottles with seductive curves. But this deliberate originality is also reserved for alcohol and, since a short while ago, for mineral water, sold as a rare product. Already for some time now, producers have been practising a sort of confusion of genres that is definitely worthy of attention. Certain shapes and forms traditionally reserved for foodstuffs have been assigned to cosmetics, and vice versa. This, for example, is the case with certain Body Shop creams, sold in packaging which resembles that of old-fashioned preserves in glass jars. On the contrary, olive oil and balsamic vinegar presented in the form of sprays evoke the world of hairdressing. can see, for example, that there is enormous enthusiasm for black, associated with products that would like to appear sophisticated: packets of coffee or tea, luxury grocery products, perfumes. Despite – or because of? – its opaqueness, black is currently synonymous with luxury. The purity of white, on the other hand, has always been associated with cosmetics, but this colour also appears in certain foodstuffs packaging. As for gold and silver, they certainly symbolise luxury and “bling” but also maturity, including in the case of cosmetic products aimed at the “mature” skin. From the perspective of form, only luxury brands can allow themselves to produce unexpected packaging in more “noble” materials. One thus finds perfume bottles with seductive curves. But this deliberate originality is also reserved for alcohol and, since a short while ago, for mineral water, sold as a rare product. Already for some time now, producers have been practising a sort of confusion of genres that is definitely worthy of attention. Certain shapes and forms traditionally reserved for foodstuffs have been assigned to cosmetics, and vice versa. This, for example, is the case with certain Body Shop creams, sold in packaging which resembles that of old-fashioned preserves in glass jars. On the contrary, olive oil and balsamic vinegar presented in the form of sprays evoke the world of hairdressing.

When it is necessary to economise on packaging, there’s nothing like making it attractive by devising an original graphic presentation. Whether this is done by recourse to humour (a dimension that can be observed in many British products) or by using photographs or carefully chosen illustrations, a very simple packaging can be transformed thanks to its graphic design. The Greek cosmetic products Korrès, which have won several awards for their original design, are a good example of this. Closer to hand, we must point out the intelligence of the Sélection product range sold by Migros. Their graphic design building on simple principles – gold line and white background – is able to promote elements that make their contents particularly attractive.

Another section of the exhibition traces the evolution of certain packagings, notably thanks to a batch from the design collection of the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, which has loaned objects from the Swiss marketplace of the 1960s to 1980s. An exceptional collaboration with the patrimony of LU [a French biscuit manufacturer] permits us to analyse a specific case, that of the packaging of the famous Petit Beurre chocolate biscuits, devised by Raymond Loewy among others.

In parallel, we present works by designers and artists who tackle the theme of packaging in their own fashion. The “Pack Sweet Pack” furniture range by the Big Game designer group hijacks the world of packaging’s standard reference systems and transforms them into furniture. As for the installation constructed from Tetrapack cartons by the graphic designers Bark of London, it develops a completely imaginary visual language and makes us aware of the impact on the observer of the graphic presentation of packaging. Finally, the “Supermarket” photographs by Frenchwoman Floriane de Lassée take into account the effect of massing with which we are all faced as we walk round a supermarket. All these deliberately off-centre observations on the theme permit the visitor to place a finger on the artificiality of packaging, while revealing to him/her the touches of inspiration offered by certain brands which have made their packaging into little treasure chests.

via Artdaily

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