In case you were wondering, the plethora of goodies I discovered on March 1st didn’t end with the Heinz Ketchup packets from my last post. My next find, two steps north of the condiments was the styrofoam lid of a McDonald’s Deluxe, BIG Breakfast, Hotcakes (with sausage) container. Discovered at 6:58pm March 1st, 2009 on the sidewalk along Maryland near the northwest corner of the intersection of Maryland and North Ave. this styrofoam variety of litter triggered an unexpected slew of childhood memories.
When I was a kid I used to visit my grandma Josie for a week in the summer. During those fantastical summer getaways grandma and I would go crazy eating at McDonald’s everyday (oh my!) and “taking in” (as grandma would say) as many movies as possible, sometimes up to 5 during the 7 days I stayed at her house.
I remember it was the summer of ’92. I was seven years old and had finally worked up the courage to leave my parents in Albuquerque to stay with my grandma a mere 60 miles north in Santa Fe. That was the summer “Batman Returns” was released in theaters, and after seeing the movie, I declared it our mission to collect not only all 4 McDonald’s Batman Happy Meal toys, but every single 32 oz. Batman collectors cup with corresponding glow-in-the-dark frisbee “Batdisc” lids.
To make it clear just how deeply ingrained my paraphernalia collecting convictions were, each night as grandma and I would prepare the living room couch for me to sleep on I would carefully arrange the Batman cups so that they lined the armrest of the couch at the top of my pillow. This was especially critical to making the most of the glow-in-the-dark lids, and to achieve the all-around ultimate accompanying glow-in-the-dark sleeping experience.
Batman aside, my grandma, although she often made breakfast, was also fond of buying breakfast from McDonald’s at least once during my annual summer sojurn. I remember waking up early enough to go with her a couple times, which involved jumping out of bed (the couch) and throwing on some clothes. Grandma on the other hand choose to remain in her flower-patterned night gown/muumuu (I’m dead serious) and slippers as we walked out into her dirt yard to hop in her sky blue ’88 Pontiac Bonneville. Apparently her logic was that since we were only going to the drive-up window there was no reason to don flattering attire.
After driving to the nearest McDonald’s and fetching our bag of breakfast we would return to her adobe house, unpack everything in the kitchen and divide up the order between her, I, and a family friend named Joe. (Joe has always spent the night at my grandmother’s house and has been a presence in the family since my grandfather died of polio when my dad was only two-years-old).
Now, I suppose there are certain ages when children either start doing things on their own or are told they are old enough to tend to themselves. One such rite of passage involves being allowed to serve yourself and cut your own food. For some reason in my extended family, due to our particular dynamic and my inherent shyness, those rites of passage were never discussed when I was a child and it was always assumed that I was either yet unable to do such things on my own or was still content having them done for me. In either case, I was never one to speak up to the contrary and if you know me well today you can attest that I still don’t often voice my opinion unless asked, in which case I have plenty to say after keeping my mouth shut all these years.
So even at the age of seven my grandma would cut up my Hotcakes for me while taking the liberty to pour on loads of syrup without thinking to ask how much I cared for. Therein lied my penance for refusing to say anything about the situation! As luck would have it both my grandma and Joe had taken quite a liking to sweets in their later years and had thus developed quite a tolerance for large amounts of sugar. So when my grandma helped me to her standard serving of two tubs of Hotcake syrup, my exuberance for McDonald’s Hotcakes was soon drowned in more sugar than my seven-year-old tolerance could handle. To this day whenever I think of McDonald’s breakfast, much less Hotcakes I always cringe just a little bit.
Anyhow, you can now understand the sudden obliterating emotional reaction I had to this particular piece of yellow styrofoam, which in terms of packaging structure has not changed at all in the past 17 years. I swear the mold they use for these things is the exact same one they used in 1992. Too bad the printing on the styrofoam is non longer the same! Seriously, if you have the gusto to continue producing arguably unnecessary styrofoam packaging these days, at least grace it with an awesome design!
I’m sorry McDonald’s. I must admit my love affair with you has fallen into a steep and bitter decline in the past several years. Compared to my glorified infatuation with the franchise when I was a kid, my recent awareness of this behemoth’s mastermind marketing practices has shaken my trust. The chemically injected, scientifically designed-to-taste-good “food” that McDonald’s manufactures is frankly quite disturbing, and the design on this Hotcakes package doesn’t do much to comfort my critical eye.
Why it was decided that all the text needed be forced into ovals is beyond me. Perhaps each little formation of type is supposed to look like a stamped seal of… Approval? Quality? Certification? Nope. Sorry. All I see are stamps of contorted type crimes which almost always equal bad design. Granted, in small doses this kind of tampering with type can produce wonders, but such beauty requires finesse which is unfortunately substantially lacking here. “DELUXE” for instance is on the brink of passing for cool, but when coupled with the 3 other stretched and squished typographic blobs it very suddenly looses it’s punch.
Next I question the decision to place each oval as though it is independently orbiting the McDonald’s arches. A cardinal rule in design, and all art for that matter, is that nothing should ever appear as if it’s arbitrarily floating in space. Unless the McDonald’s logo is the mothership from which each of these ovals is strategically detaching to commence their alien attack on earth, some solid vertical or horizontal alignment could do them some good. Plus this might allow for the arches to be enlarged in relation to the placement of the ovals. And what company in corporate America would argue with making their logo larger whenever possible?
I must say though what really throws me off, and quite frankly ruins the whole thing is the ever so delicate (and highly inappropriate) oblique treatment applied to the group of shapes. It completely escapes me as to why everything is sheared at such a slight angle. It’s as if at the end of the day the designer, at a complete loss for how to wrap up the abomination decided to add insult to injury and accentuate their work by “italicizing” it.
Furthermore and lastly, please tell me that the batch of styrofoam lids this particular sample was taken from were all accidentally printed out of alignment? I know in my heart that the printing was meant to be centered on the lid. So rather than blame the designer for nonsensical placement, how about we give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk up this faux pas up to poorly calibrated machinery at the printer, eh?
Six crazy packets of Heinz Tomato Ketchup were to be my next find on the snowy 1st night of March, 2009. That Sunday evening had already revealed 4 other exciting items, and as I came across this array of ketchup packets colorfully littering the sidewalk near the intersection of Maryland and North Ave. at 6:58pm I was excited to find that these were not your traditional ketchup related treasures!
As I approached them I was anticipating to find the usual run-of-the mill ketchup packet graced with a nicely illustrated bottle of Heinz or perhaps the McDonald’s or Burger King design variations of “Fancy Ketchup” that I’ve become accustomed to all these years. But lo and behold… an unexpected selection of eye-candy awaited me in the dark Baltimore night.
You might imagine my glee at the discovery of the scintillating little illustrations printed on these rare samples. (That’s right, RARE trash my friends!) I don’t ever recall getting too excited about ketchup packets before, but this discovery has certainly piqued my interest in collecting condiment packets in much the same way the latest version of Nike Air Force 1s sends sneaker heads reeling.
This new found excitement is rather contradictory to my usual mindset concerning condiments (specifically ketchup) packaged in such a manner. I’m generally opposed to ketchup packets on the principle that they are typically the only method of getting ketchup in many fast food restaurants. I find that when there is no ketchup dispenser available that I have to tear open several packets just to get all the ketchup I want for my fries! The resulting pile of packaging waste is nothing short of frustrating.
Perhaps an argument could be waged against the alternate outcome of wasting ketchup, but I still insist that it wouldn’t hurt to consider enlarging the size of the standard ketchup packet. Seriously, when was the last time you used only one? Secondly, I don’t really think we should be loosing sleep over the notion of wasted ketchup, especially not Heinz, since there is probably more high fructose corn syrup in their blend than “Red Ripe Tomatoes.” As you should know, making your body attempt to digest high fructose corn syrup is like asking mother earth to break down styrofoam; it’s just a cheap, processed-food, sugar substitute that shouldn’t exist.
Now for a break…
Cats-up… Ketch-up… Cats-up… Ketch-up… Cats-up… Ketch-up… Catch my drift? If not you really need to watch episode 21 from season 8 of the Simpsons. Watch the full episode here. Or if you’d rather just catch up, fast forward to 8:07 on the loader bar. As far as I’m concerned, the more ways to spell something the better! Poor Monty Burns.
On to addressing the designs of these little wonders… First, who can argue with awesome drawings done by little kids and high school students? When I initially grabbed these babies I was convinced the artwork was done by professional designers contracted by Heinz, but no! Wrong again! Obviously the boys and girls were given a pre-drawn Heinz bottle to use in their designs as well as a restricted palette of colors – certainly a smart decision as it allows all the packets to operate as set. Nevertheless I am still very impressed with the spunky and whimsical nature of the art produced by each student.
My personal favorite is the Hungry Psycho Tomato, with it’s eyes keenly set on it’s target: a rainbow spewing ketchup bottle floating amidst a checkered orb. Perhaps I played a bit too much Sonic 2 when I was a kid, but this trippy insanity just resonates with me on so many levels. The Mustachioed Song & Dance Fellow is also terribly charming with his green top hat and cane. I think he would be the perfect host for a condiment comedy hour, don’t you? And what of the triangle mania going on in the simple, yet equally engaging mosaic-style packet? I certainly appreciate the hand-drawn touch of the non-uniform triangles. Lastly, we mustn’t neglect the happy, and Talented French Fry! This French guy certainly has a knack for interpretation, as most french artists do, but I’m sure he’s the first to see a ketchup bottle in the Eiffel Tower.
All I have left to say is well done Heinz. But why didn’t you sponsor this amazing contest when I was younger? Perhaps there is still time! I just need to create a 5th grade alias of myself… But while I busy myself with that, I must say that despite my distaste for the present state of ketchup, my form over function approach to design demands that I vouch for these super cool and fun ketchup containers… just not the small menial amount of “ketchup” contained in them.
An unexpected surprise, this “Toostie Frooties” bag was found amidst the continuing snow flurries just a few paces east of Sample #4, on the northwest corner of North Ave. and Maryland at 6:57 pm on Sunday March 1st 2009.
I remember when I first picked it up, I thought the bag said “Footies” instead of “Frooties” and was certainly ready to toss it back to the rats. ick! Footies? Seriously? Gross! Oh, wait… Frooties! Obviously there are some issues here with the decision to purposely misspell ‘fruit’ and secondly turn it into a cutesy term that isn’t even an actual word.
But I’m glad I caught myself, because this is a pretty cool bag. Yet I have to admit there were several flashbacks to my childhood encapsulated in my moment of confusion. It was perhaps those long lost days of my own footie experiences that contributed to my immediate conclusion to read “Footies.” I remember scampering around the house as a spritely 3-year-old in my first yellow footie onesie. Then as I grew I graduated to the first of two blue footie onesies before moving onto other pajama formats after the age of six.
So you can see how the blue of the packaging subconsciously reminded me of my blue childhood pajamas, causing me to momentarily neglect my reading abilities, which conveniently brings me to my next point. Perhaps you noticed that this particular bag of Frooties is Blue Raspberry flavor? Rasp – berry? Really that’s how you spell it? Did anyone else know this? Well now that my apparent lack of spelling bee experience has been exposed and the legitimacy of my education put into question… I can only think of raspy berries.
On the subject of raspberry, (and these particular Frooties) where did “Blue Raspberry” flavor originate? It’s certainly a staple flavor of many candy and drink lines, but it leads me to question what was wrong with regular raspberry? Certainly there’s the color conflict. Both cherry and strawberry preemptively own the rights to the red coloring options, and I suppose the tame artificial flavor of blueberry lacks the zing and punch found in artificial raspberry flavoring. So does that mean that raspberry just trumped blueberry in the early days of flavor expansion and therefore won the rights to don the colors of its defeated berry brother? Either way I like the notion behind “blue” raspberries, but I have to say, the choice to illustrate them as such on this package definitely contributes to its bizarre style.
Speaking of the bizarre, or at least curious, is the way in which this package was opened. It seems to me that the plastic was punctured and slit with a knife instead of being awkwardly stretched and ripped open as most plastic bags of this kind are. I like to imagine this was the result of a serious, yet comical Baltimore street scene….
“I’ll slice you!” (an assailant bearing a knife)
Oh, yeah? Like hell you will sucka! (the soon to be sliced victim)
enter the Tootsie Frooties to the rescue! (the evasive and cunning, soon to be victim evades his apparent fate by whipping out our infamous bag of Frooties to defend himself!) …obviously the bag got knifed instead, spilling it’s bright blue contents all over the sidewalk. This once tubby bag just didn’t see it coming!
Honestly though, where can you find a bag of candy containing a whopping 480 pieces? That’s insane! I seriously hope that all the missing Frooties were not eaten by one person, because that would be nothing but a recipe for a hard-hitting, blue Chicago-stlye, stomachache! Yup. Who knew that the Tootsie Roll factory was located in Chicago? Matt & Missy why didn’t you tell me? All this time I thought there was nothing there but a tower from Sears, a giant bean sculpture, deep dish pizza and the Chicago Bulls. Oh yes, of course that’s where Ferris Bueller lives, and Chris Parker had her Adventures in Babysitting. Am I forgetting any other Chicago related goodness? Steve Urkel perhaps? So can someone take me to the Tootsie factory please? Is Dustin Hoffman going to be there?! I certainly hope so… I absolutely adore his work.
Alright, now that you are no doubt confused by my senseless pop-culture banter, let me settle down with a final word on the design of this ridiculous candy bag. First of all, I am now more than ever, wary of any word misspelled, or fabricated in the name of branding. As mentioned previously, the term “Frooties” although fun to say, can be far too easily misread as footies, which for obvious reasons is a problem. I for one wouldn’t want people thinking of footies when eating my candy, an image that when conjured only adds to the juvenile nature of the name. Plus Frooties not only sounds silly, but dated (seriously from the 70’s), and not in a good way. “Tootsie” ok, the company was named after its founder’s daughter in the early 1900’s and should be respected, but Frooties? No. Not in any decade that ever was, is, or will be.
Secondly, also in terms of nostalgic weirdness I just have to call out the blue raspberries once more. Ok, I get it. The Cherry Frooties bag probably has cherries on it, the Grape Frooties bag probably has grapes on it, etc. It might make sense to place the fictional blue raspberries on the bag. But what do the fruit punch and pink lemonade bags have illustrations of? All I have to say is there better be a variety of tropical fruits on one, and some fantastical pink lemons on the other to satisfy the requirements of branding consistency. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking the blue raspberries, I’m just questioning the logic.
What is perhaps the most delightful design aspect of the Tootsie Roll brand is their use of Cooper Black. While I am now very consciously realizing that their aesthetic is holistically dated, and has probably not been touched since the 70’s, at least it was well done at the time. It’s nice that the use of Cooper Black for their logo, has been consistently extended to this package on “480 PIECES” and “BLUE RASPBERRY.” If you’re going to shout by using caps, choosing Cooper Black is a nice way to shout with glee, especially about candy.
In terms of the font used for “Frooties,” although my opinion is neither here nor there, I must say I think it works for the most part. It is certainly fun and friendly. Even the jostling of the already oblique “Frooties” letters from their baseline – a required type offense to produce such a playful logo – is a legitimate decision in the name of this candy’s apparently jolly target audience. I also find the overlapping of the letters to be a subtlety pleasant.
Lastly, the calming colors used here certainly fit with the creamy-pastel palette of the vintage aesthetic applied across the Frooties brand. I say this only having encountered other flavors as individually wrapped Frooties each in their own appropriately pastel-colored wrapping. Although I doubt any candy released today would go pastel, I am ok with this use of the easy on the eyes blue. That is however aside from the small issue I have with the overwhelming urge to regard these colors as “minty” in the wintergreen sense, as often utilized by chewing gum brands. Perhaps this packaging lacks the jazzy addition of purple and magenta I would be inclined to add to the mix. Nevertheless, I must finally point out that in terms of hierarchy and layout the design elements are pretty decently distributed and balanced. The only awkward moment being on the front where the oblong circle encompassing “480 PIECES” covers a bit too much of the berries causing the leafy green tips of one berry to poke out in a strange way from underneath.
If you recall I started this post by claiming the finding of this bag to be an unexpected surprise, and ultimately that’s because this is truly a vintage artifact of fantastical, magical (by virtue of it’s longevity), and certainly silly design awesomeness. I can only wonder if this design will survive into the next decade, and if not what the update look like.
So in the end what have we learned? Raspberries has an ‘s’ in it. Don’t name your candy “Frooties” because that mistake’s already been made. Chicago is awesome. And design in the 70’s, thankfully had it going on.
It was really beginning to snow and I had already found 2 other items of interest in a half-mile stroll when I happened upon this “utz Baked Cheese Curls” bag very tightly crumpled up in a ball at 6:57pm. It was discarded on the sidewalk along the west-bound side of North Ave. between Howard St. and Maryland, just east of the North Ave. Motel in front of the Ronald Taylor, II Funeral Home.
I actually thought twice about keeping this sample since it wasn’t a terribly unique find, but in the interest of the project I decided I’d better hang onto it since it is at least remotely specific to Baltimore in my mind. Plus it might be nice to start seeing how many different utz products I can collect.
Perhaps the best part of this find was the fact that it was so precisely crumpled, a nice effect that only a found sample of this kind can deliver. I can very easily imagine the distinctly stressful circumstances behind the crumpling of this bag, given the often angry, tension-filled, and frequently off-putting behavior of people on Baltimore streets. Whomever crumpled this bag may have very well been a victim of, or contributor to that atmosphere.
As far as branding goes, the number one triumph of utz has always been their logo. A girl with a giant bow in her hair, snacking on a bag of this or that utz product can certainly appeal to a wide ranging audience… Little girls for starters, boys that like girls, girls that like girls, boys that like boys – but whom find girls cute and fun, boys and girls (within the wide spectrum of sexual preferences) that like snacks… you see where I am going with this? Who doesn’t the utz girl appeal to? Plus, isn’t it completely awesome that she has a matching outfit (and magical compact containing every imaginable color of blush) for each utz product color combination? This girl really has her closet together! So let’s not forget the fashionistas out there with similar closet skills whom utz must also appeal to. Whew! I think that pretty much covers everybody.
So in terms of design, at least we have that success to crown this package with from the beginning… That being said what immediately bothers me about this package design is the “Cheese Curls” type. While not obnoxiously offensive, a type choice with a tad bit more sophistication would give the product name a helpful boost in the “Cheese” arena. I say that with the belief that whomever chose this font was surely hung up on the “Curls” portion of the phrase “Cheese Curls.”
“Baked” itself could use some help from the type fairy… And what of the cyclone enrapturing the photo of the “actual” Cheese Curls? Does anyone else find the jagged, tribal, somewhat mid 90’s aesthetic of the stroke a little unnecessary? I understand that Cheese Curls by their nature are festive snacks, but that’s no reason to “go wild” with silly jazzed-up line effects. Nevertheless I have seen far worse “tribalization” of design elsewhere so I will let utz off easy with a warning this time.
As far as pros go, the large swaths of orange and blue on the package provide for some nice breathing room. Plus I really enjoy the small, yet crucial detail of the cheese wedge mimicking the sweeping cyclone movement of swirling lines surrounding the photo. Ultimately, despite its offenses and all together uninspired design, the utz logo and the large empty spaces of saturated blue and orange keep this package from teetering on the brink of uncool.
Concerning the design of the back of this package, I don’t really think it’s worth going into too much detail, except to say that I love the development of the utz girl’s personality with the additional illustration of her. All things considered, it’s a pretty fair interpretation of her appearance and body language as derived from the logo. This really makes me wish utz would push the development of her character into other arenas! Imagine what that could do for them from a marketing perspective beyond snack foods. Wouldn’t you want an utz girl action figure, or doll? hmm… perhaps I’ve said too much.
This “Chewy Lemonhead & Friends” box was found at 6:55 pm, Sunday March 1st 2009 on the sidewalk along the west-bound side of North Ave. between the North Ave. light rail stop and Howard St. I discovered it shortly after I picked up the “BlackJack” Maryland Lottery scratcher.
Over the course of the past year and a half I have come across several of these Ferrara Pan brand candy boxes in the radius anywhere from North Ave. to about 26th St. roughly between Howard St. and St. Paul. I think I’ve found every type of fruithead candy box (of which the variety is clearly denoted on this example) except for an Applehead box.
I remember a plain Lemonhead box was the first sample I found, and as I began to find other fruithead boxes I became more excited with each addition to my collection. This is probably because as a kid I remember only being aware of Lemonhead, and just recently in my early twenties did I find out about his other friends!
The feeling surrounding this newly discovered information is in some ways comparable to my 3rd grade experience of finding out that there were actually three original Star Wars movies and not only two, as I had been previously led to believe by my parents during the first 8 years of my life. (Apparently at the time they had only been able to tape the the last 2 movies of the trilogy off the television for me).
In either case, I recall the epic conversation in the bathroom before lunch recess with Chris Jason who very adamantly (for an 8-year old) insisted that there was a movie that took place before “The Empire Strikes Back.” I very stubbornly told him he was wrong, as it seemed to me that there was just no way that another movie could possibly exist. I only knew of two and that was all there was… perhaps he was just getting this “other Star Wars movie” confused with one of the Ewok movies? “No no no!” he told me. And as we left the bathroom I’m pretty sure neither of us were convinced the other knew just what they were talking about.
So… I digress. Except to say that I only used to get Lemonheads on Halloween from trick or treating at the houses that found it unnecessary to buy the kiddies chocolate but more appropriate to purchase hard candy that could shatter their teeth. I definitely found Lemonheads to be among the more disappointing of the Halloween candy I collected and distinctly remember sneaking them into UNM Lobo Basketball games in my jacket pockets near the end of the basketball season when all my chocolate candy had long since been devoured. What was tip-off or half time in February without Lemonheads or Jujyfruits? I guess only I would know the answer to that question…
Now on to the design critique! Ok, let’s see here… lots of bright colors – very good for a candy box. The Lemonhead type certainly has something nice going on, but a slight update from the pseudo-serif Copperplate-like action going on here wouldn’t hurt. I absolutely love the fruithead characters, as these guys are the perfect salesmen for this product. In fact, I couldn’t think of more spot on mascots in terms of illustration style, plus who can argue with their cute little bow ties?
Another nice aspect is the gushing rainbow, which I can only assume signifies the bursting fruit juiciness of the product? However, I wish the execution was considered more as I feel the gushing could be a lot more effective if it didn’t flow off the edges of the box. And that leads me to my definitive complaint… I feel like each design aspect of this box was created independently of the other parts, and everything was just thrown into whatever space was previously empty. Absolutely nothing here was considered in terms of how the various forms of type and illustration fit together.
Thanks to the hap-hazard nightmare that has been created, there should be no question in anyone’s mind that once upon a time the design of this box was much simpler and has since been sadly degraded with each “new feature” tagged onto the product. Sadly it has fallen victim to a form of abominating that often occurs when multiple products from the same brand are combined into one package…
Is it really necessary for “Chewy” to be wavy and therefore so klunky, causing it to visually clash with “Lemonhead?” Why exactly is “Made with Real Fruit Juice” in a bubble floating off to who knows where? And the placement of “Assorted Pack” is definitely senseless, not mention that all the little heads are bumbling around in space without a say for themselves. In short, it’s a good thing the heads are cute and that this product exists in some sort of time warp where you can still buy a box of candy for 25¢!!!
This “Blackout BINGO” Maryland Lottery scratcher was found at 5:43 pm, Thursday February 26th 2009 on the light rail to Penn Station. I found it sitting on one of the seats in the light rail car after frantically running to the Mt. Royal stop to catch the train to Hunt Valley. Of course only after the train veered off to Penn Station did I realize that I had hopped on the wrong train. I figured this would happen to me sooner or later. I really need to start paying attention to which train I catch at the Mt. Royal stop.
What really caught my eye about the design of this lottery scratcher was not only the radioactive neon green type, but the varnish printing of the stars in the starburst emmanating from “Blackout BINGO” which is unfortunately kind of hard to see here.