Coca Cola's Innovation In Design

Back in 2011 I attended a presentation by David Butler, Coca-Cola's VP of innovation and he outlined how the company were using revolutionary systems to operate on a global scale. This included designing their vending machines so that they could be easily modified to accommodate the vast stable of brands owned by the company and interchangeable languages for use throughout the world. David's presentation was an inspiration in both business agility and creating modular systems.

Coca-Cola have continued to innovate! A little earlier this year Coke announced that they had created the world's first plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based material. Coke partnered with Varent for the project who are creating chemicals and fuels using renewable resources to replace crude oil. With the plant bottle project Varent used BioForming technology that converts starches and sugars found in plants to produce the plastic. Incredibly, the plant bottle feels just like a normal PET plastic bottle.

Another recent breakthrough within their packaging design was to replace it's iconic branding and to print thousands of different peoples names on bottle labels. This was achieved with an innovatory use of digital printing techniques. The brands strong use of colour and form allowed it to maintained the products identity.

This has recently be taken one step further with the company releasing a version of it's classic red and white can without text and just it's iconic white swoosh. A similar approach was recently used when UK's Selfridges department store stocked iconic products with their band names removed This including Marmite and Heinz baked beans and Ketchup. You can read more by clicking here.

The decision to remove all copy from coke cans has more depth than just aesthetics though! These innovative coke cans will launch in the middle east over the month of Ramadan.

The Dieline website features a quote from the company:

"Coca-Cola has shared the first-ever “No Labels” cans as part of a social experiment idea during Ramadan. The cans are created to make a compelling point about removing stereotyping and prejudices. The message on the cans spells out their purpose, sharing with every consumer who grabbed those cans that labels are for cans, not for people.

The sleek cans appeared for the first time ever, without the traditional label on them, but still bearing the beautiful, iconic brand cues, as part of the social experiment."

"The cans have been released in time with Coca-Cola’s global campaign, ‘Let’s take an extra second’, where the brand invites the world to take an extra second and get to know people, in order to get rid of all the stereotypes and preconceptions one might have.

Coca-Cola is probably the one mega-brand that talks most about equality in its communication and it’s only natural for them to strip their own labels, in an effort to encourage everyone to strip the labels off of people as well.

In the Middle East, a region with over 200 nationalities and a larger number of labels dividing people, these Coca-Cola cans send a powerful and timeless message that a world without labels is a world without differences. And that we are all basically just the same - human."

Read the whole interview at the Dieline by clicking here.

Here's a great quote from David Butler on how he views designers as 'Natural Optimists'. You can read the full interview on the Coca-Cola website by clicking here.

"Designers don’t see problems as problems. We see problems as opportunities to make something better … we’re hard-wired that way. Today’s world is more connected and complicated than ever before. The types of issues we’re faced with have moved beyond complicated to what some call “wicked problems” — multidimensional, nonlinear challenges like obesity, water scarcity, global warming and the international debt crisis. We can’t really solve these problems; we can only chip away at them. They require all of us to “think like designers” with a new level of optimism as we design solutions for a dynamic and uncertain world."

David's book, Design to grow is now available. Read more here. 


My New Design Life

If your a reader of this blog, then you will know that I'm both a dad to a one year old and also the creative director of a design studio. As you can imagine, I don't get too much downtime and only get to write in a very small window, often late at night and on the weekend. My family, then my commercial design work always take priority in my life and it's become more evident to me that I'm getting less time for my hobbies such as writing my blog.

I'm cool with it! I love being a family man and I'm passionate about my work. To this end, I've decided to make a couple of changes. Firstly you may have noticed that the design life site has switched to a more classic blog style. This means that the blog is now a little more focused on writing as content over the visual form. You may also notice a lot of posts over three days in July of 2015. That's simply because I ported two years worth of posts in bulk to the new blog. I thought it would be good to keep everything in one place!

I've also started using both Blogger and Tumblr as a faster way to connect with my readers. This isn't replacing my blog, but instead giving me more scope to my readership. It also allows me to write a lot faster and on the fly, making it easier to build conversation and interaction with my readers, which for me is the most important thing about any weblog. I hope you enjoy my new, more streamlined Design Life! Let me know what you think.


Why Pink & Blue?


I recently became a dad to a wonderful, amazing little boy and he is definitely the most loved new addition to my design life.

Whilst my wife was still pregnant, we decided that we did not want to know the babies sex before the birth and loved the idea of it being a surprise. This however was met with some shock and surprise from a good many of our friends who just couldn't believe that we wouldn't want to know this in advance. How could we possibly prepare if we didn't know what colour to decorate the babies room or buy them clothes?

I suddenly started to ask myself why! Who decided that pink was a feminine colour and blue masculine, the marketeers? The branding experts, and more so, why is there a need for a gender based distinction? At this point my curiosity kicked in and I suddenly wanted some answers.

After some research, I found images of babies clothing from the 18th century, showing both girls and boys in white frilly dress style outfits. Many articles claim that It wasn't until the mid 19th century that the pastel colours began to appear, although it seems as though the colours weren't gender specific at this point and in many cases it was pink for boys and blue girls. On other occasions it was blue for blonde and blue eyed babies and pink for brunettes or those with brown eyes.

It was't until the 1940's that retailers settled on blue for boys and pink for girls. In the 1960's and 70's, trends moved towards more neutral colours, which many believe to be related to the women's liberation movement. The development of parental testing in the 1980's brought pink and blue back as the 'natural' choice for parents to dress their baby's and paint the nursery.

However some believe that colour preferences among the sexes are biological rather than that made by culture. An experiment by the University of Newcastle in Great Britain conducted tests on a number of participants from cultures without the blue and pink gender distinctions, to find that the female subjects still had a preference to pink and male towards the blue.

I would love to get your thoughts on this topic. Are these colour preferences nature or nurture?


Colour Wars

Is it acceptable for a brand to trademark a colour?Colour plays such an essential role in the identity of a brand. Think of the blue used in the Facebook logo, Caterpillars yellow or Home Depots orange. Then there's Coca Cola's red that's such a strong identity that it even managed to change the colour of Santa clause! But with this in mind, should these company's be allowed to own that specific colour?

The confectionary company Cadbury lost a five year court battle to register their distinctive shade of purple, Pantone 2685C. The company stated that they had been using the colour on their Dairy Milk bars since the first world war. Lawyers for rival company Nestlé, who use a similar colour on their quality street packaging, overturned a previous judgment that prevented other manufacturers from using the colour. In closing the judges claimed that the colour alone did not constitute as the trademark but instead only played a part with other elements.

The mobile phone provider T-Mobile fought a similar battle for it's shade of magenta and sent a letter to to cease using the colour on the lettering of it's mobile section.

My own personal thoughts on this discussion are that colour is an important part of any brand, but as with the Cadbury case, this is in relation to the typography, Imagery, shapes or graphic device that is also employed. It's only when you combine all these elements that you truly have a recognisable and successful brand mark. If someone is trying to pass off their goods or products with another's identity then surely that's wrong. For instance Christian Louboutin won the rights to trademark it's red heals. I strongly believe, that with any of these discussions, there needs to be an element of common sense and we cannot begin to cross off blocks from our Pantone books. I do agree that in certain situations a colour is an essential role of a company's identity and it's important for us not to confuse the term "trademark" as ownership, as it only allows a business to use a specific combination and shade of colour within it's own area of expertise.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts on this topic.


Lets talk about design!

Welcome to my new blog! I have created it as a place to encourage topical discussion on creativity and innovation, celebrating both the beauty and success of the finished product, but also the journey and the processes involved along the way.

I want us to talk about inspiration, ideas and where they come from, taking risks, failing and succeeding. We wont be taking anything for granted. I'm going to be asking why a lot. There will be design resources, including some great books and blogs to read, guides on fonts and packaging design, information on some of the worlds best design agencies and step by step insights into real world product development.
There will be regular feature's on vintage type, branding and packaging. This will include a vast collection of images collected over many years, often accompanied by an historical look into the way these brands have developed throughout their lifespan.

I also wanted to include a section on designing for good. Throughout the World, forward thinking creatives are using design to make a difference in a good and positive way. From reducing infection rates in hospitals to giving a voice to the homeless, I want to promote the full power of creative thinking and the big idea.

Design can make the world a better place!