Creative Packaging: The Gift of Nothing

I had only begun trying to sell, rather than giving away, my kitsch little pieces of handmade jewellery on the advice of others. But when my list of requests, mostly for relatives and friends, ran thin, I admit it, I was hurt. At craft fairs people commented on how lovely the jewellery was. They picked them up. And then they put them down. And then they walked away. I’d watch far more organised businesses smile as a constant stream of custom came their way. I could never work out what they had that I didn’t. Now I know.

At Christmas I received a ‘joke’ gift from a friend. Meant to make me laugh, the gift actually changed my life. What strikes me even more about the fact a joke has had such a detrimental effect on my life is that the gift I unwrapped was ‘The gift of nothing’.

A  simple, white piece of cardboard displaying the nothingness within its half bubble of transparent plastic. I turned it in my hand; beside a barcode on the back of the packet was a price sticker. It amazed me. The creator, in his / her quest to answer the question, ‘what to buy for someone who has everything?’, had turned the answer into a solution, a gift, a tangible joke…and a source of income.

I won’t go as far as to say packaging has saved my business, but discovering creative packaging  and thinking about packaging for the first time in twenty years, I feel reinvigorated. I am excited again. somehow I had grown up and become one of the people who buy a present and then frown, bewildered, by the child who only wants to play with the box. But now I remember.

When I was a child, there was no purer pleasure than twisting open the hexagonal, interlocked boxes of Turkish delight my grandfather used to buy me. It was the sole reason I liked Turkish delight, if I am honest. The interlocking pieces of lid that needed carefully twisting apart, causing the box to open like a flower.  I can’t tell you about the turkish delight itself, because I don’t remember it, but that box, it was pure magic.

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Media Studies: Is It Worth It?

Physics is the study of matter in time and space; mathematics, the study of life’s numerical code, geography, the importance of environmental awareness, and politics the complication of simple matters. Ok the last one was a bit of a dig, but media studies I hear you say? To anyone else, a media student is some sort of desperate attempt at legitimizing watching films and calling it study. It is constantly teased by other academic subjects, right in the bullying corner with philosophy and creative writing, because honestly: what life advantages could one take from the study of film? I would like to share some insight from a long-term film disciple, and hopefully restore some of your faith in the field of media studies.

I began studying film after being on a different course for 6 weeks at college. I switched over and, despite joining so late, found myself creeping to the top of the class. It wasn’t that it was too easy, it was that I had finally found a subject I was both good at and interested in. Movies have been around for over 120 years; it would be foolish to think that the everyday images you see, hear, and buy have no effect on your brain. I have thought hard about the following list, and would like to outline the reasons why studying media is so vastly important to our culture:

Ok, We’re Rolling…

Physics may study the effect of matter in everyday life; but we are surrounded by media in the form of television ads, films, product packaging, radio, etc. The list really does go on, and having an awareness of the effects these things have on society pulls you out of the crowd. Although, having this knowledge means that almost every film/advert I have ever watched since studying at college I have deconstructed and analysed during, a trait my friends often wish I would keep to myself. Despite making some movies completely unbearable, studying film enhances your viewing experience by making you aware of filmic devices such as camera work and sound.

The Reel World

You may think having these skills will simply ruin watching movies, but it’s not just film that you can apply the theories to. Jobs in advertising, marketing, film, tv, radio and theatre production all require an intricate knowledge of filmic devices and design. The practical upshot of studying media at university gives you access to professional broadcast equipment allowing you to make your own movies and gain a great deal of technical experience. You can’t say it doesn’t look like fun!

Developing Talent

I don’t ever like ­summarising people by course, though it does often appear that some people are meant for their subject. Studying something you enjoy, especially if it’s in the creative industry, gives younger members of society the opportunity to make something inspirational. The way the media industry constantly adapts to incorporate new technology and culturally relevant material is an attractive prospect to creative-minded people. Take a look at this project by Creative England as an example.

Media is absolutely everywhere now, and if you’re dead set on making a career from staying on top of it then get to studying, but don’t forget that it’s a creative subject, your viewing experience may turn out something wholly unexpected. Exciting stuff!

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I don’t care what it is; The Packaging is Cool, I’m having It.

It’s both a maddening and exciting idea (depending which side of the fence you’re sat on) that a poor product can become successful with the right packaging while a quality product can flop completely if its packaging misses the mark. But, either way, it is a reality…

When I worked in a record store, I would handle thousands of CD and DVD cases every single day. Some stuck in your mind. Most didn’t. The ones which did, I’d later recall, not because of the artist, movie or song usually, but their innovative or attractive packaging and I was surprised at how much I learned about the level of influence packaging had over customers’ choices. Growing up in a generation in which almost every English house had an internet ready computer, I figured people would be conscious of many of the techniques used and attempts commonly made to persuade them to buy a product, and if that they would resist them.

Instead, I discovered a new culture; as people became more aware of marketing techniques, packaging simply became fashionable. Consumers as well as companies began studying-up, turning to books like  Really Good Packages Explained: Top Design Professionals Critique 300 Designs & Explain What Makes Them Work. Packaging, in return, would evolve to exploit their target customer’s awareness, where previously they may have exploited their ignorance. So, the shape of packaging or particular copy used would seem like it was meant as a private joke between itself and the customer. What’s more, customers began buying products to show recognition for particularly clever packaging or to actually own the packaging, not the product, and ‘creative packaging’ began to feature in conversation amongst friends and in ‘top ten’ list on blogs and in newspapers.

Hence, more and more, artists and businesses are wisely enlisting the services of creative packaging companies. Movie makers at every level too are relying on companies such as Key Production, to provide them with bespoke DVD packaging.  And it works.  When the first ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ movie was released, I had planned to download the soundtrack. Then I saw the three CDs unfold before me, the sleek frosted slip case, artwork  and full colour booklet…and even I had to admit, ‘giving in’, never felt so good.

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The Impact of TV Advertising

TV is one of many new technological innovations introduced in the 20th century which has had a huge impact and made a noticeable difference to how we conduct our lives and present ourselves. It seems as though no one prior to the introduction of radio, TV and the internet in the 20th could predict the impact it could make on people from all walks of life in a relatively short spell of time.

When TV was first introduced in the early 20th century it was only the wealthier members of society that could afford to watch a TV set. Throughout the twentieth century TVs have become more sophisticated in their construction and have become cheaper to manufacture and assemble. The social impact of this fairly fast transition is a literal social revolution. As more people had access to TV programming the nature of the programs being broadcast began to change to target the new audience which logically progressed to the introduction of advertising becoming the norm on the majority of channels by the 1980’s. As TV advertising became more commonplace body’s such as the ASA were formed to regulate the content and claims made by advertising professionals.


all response media

Even though sites like Youtube and streaming services are increasing in popularity all the time it is still debatably targeting a niche audience. Many media analysts have predicted a steep decline in TV’s popularity and its ability to influence today’s youth and future generations. However like many great, enduring ideas the key to its success is its ability to adapt and change with the current trends and patterns to reflect the attitudes of not just the youth but all cross sections and demographics of society. For example, All Response Media have a distinctive, vibrant style to their advertising which reflects the key values of today’s youth.

To some extent it is impossible to predict how the next decade of TV advertising will pan out, let alone the next generation. With more people watching TV online through streaming services and using set top boxes like Youview and sky products it is questionable how much affect TV will have on the younger generation however it cannot be denied that it will still continue to function in its current incarnation for some time and as the nature of TV standards changes there will always be avenue for manufacturers and advertising executives to collaborate so that the right audience is being targeted with relevant and unobtrusive TV advertising.

One of the ways in which TV advertising is evolving is by using humor, music and pop culture references and celebrities to create engaging yet entertaining and often funny or satirical adverts. A great round up of humorous print ads can be found in this post from One Extra Pixel.

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Reinventing the Classics

Disney is a wonderful brand, that for a lot of children and adults is simply synonymous with happiness and nostalgia. The classic stories that they have brought us over the years have taught us all about love, loss, heroics, courage and togetherness. Their adorable anthropomorphic animals and creatures have smiled, sung and danced their way through hardships and obstacles that captured our imaginations and held onto them for years to come. The characters they’ve created became instant classics, and the ones they reinvented quickly became the standard image of a beautiful princess or prince charming.

The progression of art and culture is all about taking what has come before and reworking and reinventing it in the modern day. Cinderalla, or sleeping beauty were wonderful fairy tales that have been told to children for hundreds of years being passed down through the oral tradition. But in the 20th century the wonderful invention of animation allowed for Disney to bring to life some of the images, and stories that everyone had heard with such joy and passion that these images soon became the standard. The longevity of these images is phenomenal; today it is not uncommon to see a little girl playing in sleeping beauty fancy dress, but the animated classic itself first arrived on our screens in 1959. Even the songs from the film, which most children could sing to you, are actually adaptations of the arrangements from the classic 1890 ballet version of sleeping beauty by Tchaikovsky.

By taking a classic character and reinventing it for a modern audience, Disney has managed to strike a perfect balance and develop characters so iconic that they have a nearly supernatural longevity; working on images, themes and ideas that are already hugely present in the public consciousness.

With this in mind, it seems a shame that Disney seems to be perpetually in legal battles over copyright laws to protect their brand and their characters. It is easy to see why they are fighting so ferociously to hold onto their creative property, the fantastically iconic character Mickey Mouse was created in 1928 and the copyright for the cartoons are constantly being updated so that they can’t be borrowed and distributed without the permission of Disney. It is often said that without the battles that Disney fights, Mickey Mouse would enter into the public domain – meaning anyone could reproduce the character or use him in films without asking, crediting or paying Disney for the use. However, the character is actually trademarked, meaning he belongs to Disney as long as they keep on using him as a company. But the earlier cartoons themselves could fall into the public domain without the extended copyright laws – often called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act by campaigners in large support of the public domain.

The character itself has permeated into the public consciousness in the same way that the characters of fairy tales became part of the oral tradition, it’s part of what makes up our culture. Mickey Mouse is something of the folk hero of the modern age, and perhaps in years to come, the image of the anthropomorphic mouse could be belong to all of the people and lives that he has touched over the course of nearly a century. From this, he could be changed, adapted, reworked and reimagined in order to reach more people and evolve for the future.

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