Earlier this month, Occipital, LLC, released the first accurate barcode scanning application for the iPhone. Named RedLaser, the application allows serious shoppers to compare in-store prices with online ones in under a minute, and is available as a $1.99 USD download at the Apple iPhone App Store. Here’s how it works: while browsing the aisles of your favorite store, you spot the digital camera you know your son has had his eye on for quite some time. His birthday is coming up, and it’s on sale. It seems like a great deal, but to be sure you pull out your iPhone and use it to take a picture of the barcode on the camera. Viola! Your iPhone instantly displays a list of online product prices from Google product search and Amazon. RedLaser tells you Amazon is offering the camera for 10% less than the store you are standing in is — and Amazon’s also offering free shipping. You then email yourself the information for the camera as a reminder to purchase the product online when you return home. As of now, RedLaser only scans UPC and EAN barcodes, and is sometimes unable to scan tiny ones. The makers of the product, however, say they are working on improving the functionality of the application, and upgrade its "brains" as often as once a day.
Monthly Archives: May 2009
One of the main reasons small businesses don't use professional graphic design is because of the expense. If you want a wine label designed, for example, you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars with a designer to create a few options for you to choose from.
Alec Lynch, the founder of DesignBay, has created a company that helps resolve this problem. DesignBay is a crowdsourcing marketplace for graphic design, logo design and web design. What this means is that you can get multiple designs from multiple graphic designers for one very low price. DesignBay organizes "design contests" where graphic designers from around the world will submit designs based on your specifications.
An example best describes how this process works. Look at the Key Lager Beer labels above. This is for a small brewery in the Florida Keys that wanted to create a new beer label. They created a design contest on DesignBay with a $250 budget. They received 16 different designs from several designers, and they were able to review all the entries before selecting the winning designs pictured here. The only additional cost is a $30 posting fee. So, you can get completely different ideas from professional graphic designers for less than the cost of hiring one freelance designer.
There are more than 1,000 designers from all over the world registered with DesignBay. Everything is done online, so it doesn't matter if the designer is in the US, Britain, Australia or India, you will interact with them through the DesignBay web site.
I think this is a great idea that takes away the main objection most small businesses have in working with professional designers. Not only that, but you get a number of different ideas to choose from. So, if you are looking to design some new product labels why not give DesignBay a try.
"IZZE Soda" by Jake Spurlock, available under a Creative Commons License.
I remember when I first ordered an Izze sparkling juice a year ago, I made my decision based solely on the way the bottle looked and what it told me about the product. That’s it – I did not know about Izze until I saw a bottle of it call to me from inside the cooler of a gelato shop in Denver last summer.
Apparently I am not the only one to be seduced by Izze’s minimalist design. According to typeface retailer FontShop, Izze’s sales grew 450% per year over the first two years without any TV, print, or online advertising. I agree with FontShop that Izze’s bottle design is largely responsible for its success.
Although I was conscious at the time that my decision to purchase that first bottle of Izze was based on the way the bottle looked, it is only now that I realize what exactly it was about the bottle design that was so attractive to me. Clearly branded with Trade Gothic™ capital letters, a Caslon™ asterisk, and a simple graphic that depicts a cross-section of the fruit the beverage is made from, the Izze bottle proves that less is more when it comes to effective packaging design. People are on information overload today, and they expect to be able to determine exactly what your product is and why it’s so great in a single glance.
The Izze bottle’s design also respects the fact that readability, not content, is King. Content is important because it tells consumers what about the product inside the packaging and why they should buy it. Readability, however, is even more important because it makes the content visible.
And finally, Izze’s design adheres to the principal that effective product designs use a maximum of three fonts. Anything more looks busy and is difficult to read. The Izze bottle only uses one font (two if you count the asterisk). I challenge you to design your next product label with only one or two fonts. Izze’s did it, and so can you!
Have you ever noticed that clear blue skies put you in a good mood? Or that meetings held in plain white rooms make you sleepy? If so, you have experienced firsthand how color influences emotions. Color psychology is the study of this phenomenon, and is becoming increasingly recognized as an important factor in consumer purchasing behavior.
A recent color psychology study exposed 98 college students to a wide range of colors and evaluated their emotional responses to individual colors. The study found the color green to most consistently evoke positive emotions such as relaxation and comfort in the students because it reminded them of nature. Walking through a green forest in the summertime is a peaceful experience for many people, and so the color green often triggers similar emotions in people who have had such experiences. Yellow-green elicited the lowest number of positive responses. The researchers attributed this to the fact that many students associated this color with vomit, and it therefore produced feelings of sickness and disgust.
Here is a list of colors and the emotional and physiological responses commonly associated with them. As you read this list, I encourage you to ask yourself what emotions you hope to produce in the target market for the products you sell, and what colors are associated with these emotions. Are you currently incorporating these colors into your packaging and marketing materials? I’d love to hear what colors you are currently using in your designs, why you chose them, and in what ways (if any) you believe they are influencing your sales.
- WHITE – Relaxation, security, and complacency. Feelings of lightness.
- PINK – Tranquility, relaxation, and in some cases, fatigue.
- GREEN – Peacefulness, happiness, and relaxation. Has been known to reduce blood pressure.
- LIGHT BLUE – Comfort, spirituality, and relaxation.
- BLUE – Creativity and happiness. Safety.
- DARK BLUE & GREY-BLUE – Sadness OR security.
- RED – Everything from energy, warmth, and sensuality to danger, mistakes, and failure. This color can actually increase one’s heart rate.
- LIGHT YELLOW – Cheerfulness, optimism, spontaneity, and hunger.
- BRIGHT YELLOW – Irritability. Danger.
- YELLOW-GREEN – Nausea.
- PURPLE – Introspection, sensitivity, and security.
- ORANGE – Clarity, vitality, and hunger.
- BROWN – Relaxation, passivity, security, vitality, and in some cases, depression.
- BLACK – Virility, rationality, and stability; as well as hopelessness and sorrow.
Choosing legible combinations for your text and background colors can be daunting if done haphazardly. If you follow a few basic principles of color theory, however, you can be confident the text you incorporate into your designs will be easy on the eyes in more ways than one.
The key to successfully pairing text and background colors is contrast: contrast between lightness and darkness, also known as value; and contrast between hues. The greater the contrast, the greater the legibility of your text. Increased contrast also minimizes eye strain and results in a more aesthetically pleasing design. The most successful designs pair text and background colors that have a large amount of contrast in both hue and value. Complementary hues provide the greatest amount of contrast, and are located directly across from each other on a color wheel.
A super-easy method for selecting text and background colors is to pair a dark color from the bottom half of a color wheel with a light one from the top. Try it and see for yourself!
What if you are considering pairing black and white together, or black or white with a color? How do you decide which combinations are the most successful, and which ones should be avoided? One solution is to simply choose a pairing from the top of this list compiled by Ganador Management Solutions. (Pairings are listed from most to least legible combinations of text and background colors.)
Black on Yellow (most legible)
Black on White
Yellow on Black
White on Black
Blue on White
White on Blue
Green on White
White on Green
Red on White
White on Red (least legible)
Several tools also exist to make choosing text and background colors both easy and fail-proof. ColorSelector is a free desktop application from Fujitsu that judges the legibility of background and text colors for the general population, as well as those with different types of vision impairments. If you are specifically concerned that people with color blindness may not be able to read your text, check out the online tool Color Accessibility Wheel. This tool will show you how your chosen colors will look to those with three different types of color blindness.
We screwed up. Earlier this year, with great fanfare, we launched the Natureflex material as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly label material. At the same time we announced that we were phasing out the corn-based EarthFirst PLA material. Unfortunately a number of quality issues have surfaced with Natureflex, and we have decided that the best course of action is to withdraw it from our list of available materials. At the same time we have reinstated EarthFirst PLA as our environmentally friendly alternative. We have notified the manufacturers of Natureflex about the problems and we hope they will get resolved soon. But in the meantime we want to offer some kind of green material. While EarthFirst PLA certainly isn’t the perfect environmentally friendly solution, it is currently the most reliable material available. So you can now order EarthFirst PLA again. We do have some stock of Natureflex still, but we will not be reordering it when our current inventory is exhausted. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you. While we are committed to providing environmentally friendly label alternatives, we are also committed to maintaining the highest quality standards. When and if the manufacturers of Natureflex can resolve their quality issues, we will be happy to consider it once again.
Long time readers of this blog will recognize the Wacky Warning Labels contest - we have reported on the winners of this contest every year since 2006. For the uninitiated, this is a contest sponsored by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, a group that focuses on legal reform and exposing frivolous lawsuits. The Wacky Warning Labels contest is run every year and the winners are the most ridiculous warning labels on products sold in this country. The contest winners for 2009 were announced last week. The grand prize winner, that you can see in action in the video above is the "off-road commode" which is a portable toilet seat that attaches to a vehicle's trailer hitch. The warning label on this product: "not for use on moving vehicles." The other winners include:
A wart removal product instruction guide that warns, “Do not use if you cannot see clearly to read the information in the information booklet.”
A label on the underside of a cereal bowl warns, “Always use this product with adult supervision.”
A small, 1” x 4” LCD panel warns, “Do not eat the LCD panel.”
A bag of livestock castration rings warns, “For animal use only.”
It’s true: Some packaging designers have in fact recently unleashed their creative powers on the humble barcode. They aim to elevate the barcode from its traditional role as a purely functional element of packaging design to one that is as decorative as it as functional. And guess what? They’re doing a stellar job!
Coca-Cola was one of the first big brands to put a new twist on the barcode . It created a barcode especially for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic equestrian events held in Hong Kong. And now they are testing this trend in the US, where one will occasionally find a bottle of Coca-Cola with a barcode shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola if they keep their eyes peeled.
As recently noted on the Packaging Design blog, Eye on Packaging, it turns out there’s a boatload of interesting things designers can do with the standard barcode to make it unique, clever, and compelling. And most importantly, all these things can be done without compromising the functionality of the barcode. Packaging blog Box Vox also recently featured some highly unusual barcode designs proving that yes, barcode design doesn’t have to be boring.
If you are thinking about incorporating decorative barcode designs into your packaging, good for you! If you are going to do this, however, make sure your graphic designer tests your barcode designs. More than once. This is crucial! After all, it’s great to be creative, but far more important for your customers to be able to purchase your products. And that means ensuring they ring up for purchase when scanned in the checkout line.