by Richard Bird
There’s no mistaking the trend in brand and packaging design toward more streamlined brand identity and packaging. Suddenly, it seems, marketers are beginning to appreciate how simplicity and clarity go hand in hand to create more aesthetically pleasing presentations and more memorable communication.
Now, Maxwell House follows the lead of Pepsi (see Now Koke Smiling Too ) and many others with a revolutionary evolution of brand mark and packaging.
Most noteworthy in the new design is the absence of the trademark “good to the last drop!” slogan and cup. This is no small change. The overall look of the brand and package is a significant departure from tradition. Like Pepsi’s recent redesign, “departure from tradition” seems to be the mantra of the day.
While we may applaud openness to change - and we’re not talking incremental tweaks anymore - the consumer will quickly send a message to Maxwell House coffee bean counters: thumbs up or thumbs down ( see Caught Up In The Competition ).
Change always invites critique. So, assuming we endorse “change,” since without it designers would have little to do, I have some comments on the execution of this particular example:
The Logo - Pro: I think the strategically rounded Optima-like font selection is right on. Con: The off-center stack and poor kerning creates a train-wreck effect for me. I can’t stop looking.
The Yellow - Pro: Once again, great ®evolution. The introduction of warmer colors is a big plus and creates a sense of sunny, greet-the-day warmth that was surely lacking in predecessors.
The Cup - Pro: The oversized blue mug and its shadow preserves the presence of Maxwell House Blue. Con: Where’s the coffee!? The brobdingnagian cup, though serving a purpose, seems too much in my face and contributes nothing to appetite appeal or sense of coffee-drinking experience ( see Research in Package Design for Coffee ).
The Beans - R.BIRD did some work for Yuban many years ago and much attention was given to presentation of the bean. After dozens of illustrative and iconic iterations, we were still unimpressed even by our own work. The same goes here. If the bean is obligatory and given focus, there must be a better way. These beans, enlarged and in a ringed spotlight, don’t sing either.
The Brew Strength - The before package wins hands down with a highlighted color bar that was easy to understand. The new “triangle->medium” solution lacks context and seems more appropriate to an interactive environment (a web page, for example) where active involvement reveals additional meaning and relationship.
The Last Drop - Absence of the heritage coffee cup drip, the “good to the last drop” slogan and the steaming coffee image leaves no clear communicator of flavor or experience, which I feel is lacking in the new design.
Balance - Nothing in this layout is on center. Everything is off balance - as an element or even line by line. I’m not sure what the rationale might have been, but to my mind it creates a sense of instability that undermines confidence.
Kraft and the Maxwell House brand teams deserve credit for their courage to champion such a broad change in presentation of the brand and packaging on shelf.
Designers and coffee drinkers out there, what do you think?