Book review: The Package Design Book 3 - Thinking outside the box

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 11:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 11:47pm

The Package Design Book 3
edited by Pentawards, Julius Wiedemann

There is plenty that's visually attractive in The Package Design Book 3, which showcases the 2013 and 2014 winners of global packaging design competition Pentawards, selected by a large, impressively international jury, including several representatives from Asia. But that's not the point. While many of the entries are rather beautiful, this is a project with a commercial emphasis: it's about what sells, not what looks nice.

With more than 400 examples of packaging design from 30 countries, part of the problem is the sheer profusion of material, much of it nothing that would leap out at you if you saw it on a supermarket shelf.

The sense of monotony reaches its apogee during the 110 of the book's roughly 390 pages that are devoted to drinks packaging. Mineral water is a particular favourite, meaning the pages are plastered with pictures of destined-for-landfill plastics - not exactly a visual treat. Similarly, the "Luxury" section feels like a celebration of a consumerist culture gone insane, never more so than in the case of a snow-globe New York scene in the cap of perfume bottle, complete with Swarovski crystal Christmas tree, from France's House of Sillage.

Hearteningly, though, there are also plaudits for designs that minimise packaging, such as the recycled wine bottles used to make the jars containing Library Leaves teas from Britain, topped with lids carved by Central African artisans; Paperboy recycled paper wine bottles (apparently they're rigid and don't get wet), also British; or Qian's Gift organic rice from Guizhou, China, which comes in plant fibre bags dyed with indigo.

China gets a special mention in the (fairly short, fairly badly translated) text at the start of the book. According to Gérard Caron, the chairman of the awards jury, the number of entries from China has increased by a factor of eight in three years.

Inevitably, quite a lot of the winners in the "Tobacco Products" sub-category come from the mainland, but so do innovative entries such as the mesmerising funhouse-mirror glass embossing of the Bama Uni-President Mineral Water bottle.

Mercifully few of the entries come with accompanying text - "mercifully" because that text often sounds like it's been copied from the awards entries. Full of unsubstantiated claims and unfocused praise, it can detract credibility from the photos. "You could not do better!" reads one caption. But when it comes to writing a sentence, you could not do worse.