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    Visual Study: An exploration of honesty in consumer packaging Designers have been criticized for re-appropriating and recycling familiar design e… Read More
    Visual Study: An exploration of honesty in consumer packaging Designers have been criticized for re-appropriating and recycling familiar design elements, particularly ones that are “retro” or “nostalgic.” In his writing on the topic of authenticity, graphic designer Michael Beirut questioned the notion of creating a visually unique design solution in regards to pasta sauce: “Would you know what it was if you saw it on the grocery store shelf? Would you trust it enough to put its contents on your spaghetti?” This question is at the heart of the visual research presented in my thesis show. What is an appropriate balance between truth-telling and story-telling within the realm of branding? To begin to understand pasta sauce packaging I created a visual catalog of existing brands. From this visual analysis, I identified reoccurring themes within pasta sauce labeling and determined categories that would direct my visual explorations. 1. Factory/Ingredients 2. Generic/Value 3. Organic/Fresh 4. Italian/Mom 5. Youth/Audience 6. Celebrity/Chef 7. Existing Brand Some of my studies were directed at the story-telling tropes that are typical in the existing pasta sauce brands. Other studies were aimed at an extremely honest or truth-telling portrayal of pasta sauce through the emphasis of production, ingredients, nutrition facts, etc. The focus of this study began as analysis and observation and then evolved into other practices. For the purposes of the thesis show, it was determined that the best method of presentation would be to share my visual studies along with existing brands to cause the viewer to question the brand messaging and story-telling elements utilized in packaging design. The presence of familiar brands and visual clues will create a greater, heightened questioning of story-telling and truth-telling elements. This approach is not unlike the satirical work of Shawn Wolfe, an artist whose work draws attention to the deceptive nature of consumer-driven graphic design. Wolfe’s work includes fictitious but realistic looking advertisements for non-existent products with “no clear function.” Rick Poynor suggests that Wolfe’s fake advertising “satirizes the abstract nature of branding’s transcendent calls to the consumer.” Wolfe emphasizes the deception that is present in advertising through the tagline in one of his fictitious ads: “‘The general gloss of falsity is our only product.’” The blatant honesty in the statement presented in the familiar format of a magazine ad causes the viewers to consider the deceptive tactics they encounter through advertisements every day. Conclusions What can the audience take away from this research? Evaluating truth-telling and story-telling in brand messaging The visual research presented in this thesis show culminates in an interactive diagram that illustrates the duality of branding and the simultaneous presence of truth-telling and story-telling. Story-telling is a necessary part of branding that engages consumers and allows them to connect with a product or idea. Story-telling helps brands distinguish themselves from each other in an overpopulated market place. However, consumers need truth-telling messages to inform their purchasing decisions and to better understand what they are spending their money on or why they should place their trust with a certain company. Finding the place at which “truth” and “story” can overlap will prove to be valuable to both consumers and designers. Consumers will have a heightened awareness of their participation in viewing and interpreting brand messaging. Designers will have a greater consideration for the tactics used in creating brand messaging. Read Less
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