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The Transformative Power of Design (and the Tragedy of Poor and Careless Design)

Companies in the Czech Republic, foreign-owned or not, have a responsibility to help raise the level of design awareness and appreciation in the country. It will be good for the people, for brands, business and for the economy, as well the soul of the nation.

At Butterflies & Hurricanes we believe in the transformative power of design: Good packaging and branding design adds value and aids positive social change by reflecting positive self-esteem and respect; poor or careless design, at the very least, increases complexity, adds no value and can slow growth and change, and at worst it can lower value, harm the brand relationship with customers and inhibit change by reflecting insecurity, low self-worth and hopelessness.

All day long we are surrounded by packaging, from our coffee and breakfast foods, to products we pass in shops and windows, to our bedtime snacks. Many psychological studies over many years have shown that environment, architecture and the things we surround ourselves with affect our moods as well as our psychological development and our sense of self-worth. The things we surround ourselves with say something about us as people. If we are surrounded by cheap and careless products and design it reflects back on who we are.

Prague is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A person can hardly walk down a street without noticing some glorious element of design. However, walk into just about any grocery store or shop, and the eyes are met with visual smog—the least common denominators of packaging design. If this is a result of the market, then what does this say about us as a nation? As a people? If it is not, then what does it say about the people in the companies who make the decisions to push poor design on us?

What follows are some examples of products found on Czech shelves, from an afternoon walk around Vinohrady.

The label on this jar of honey says it is Květový Smíšený (Mixed flower honey) but the image is a forest picture, which communicates Lesný Med (forest honey), which has a distinctly different and usually stronger taste than flower honey. Furthermore, the image is poor quality and the text is in two different and standard fonts. Not only is this confusing, it also communicates cheapness, low quality, and a lack of care and professional standards. It raises the question: If they skimp on the label what else might they be skimping on? Cleanliness? Purity?

Korbáčky cheese. Can you tell the difference between these two? Tiny packaging difference, huge taste difference. (Hint the one on the right is smoked cheese. Just above the smaller red banner is the only indication of the difference.)

Lacki Dammer sliced cheese. Can you tell at a glance which is smoked and which is not?

Pribináček. The packaging for this creamy favorite children’s snack is pretty good, and shows moderately good differentiation, but here carelessness is communicated by its placement on the shelves. This picture is a common sight in stores. The boxes and shadows hide the differentiation. Companies should at the very least provide their retailers with shelving guidelines, if not monitors to check the shelving of their product in stores.

Tescoma obviously had a desire to show that the product can look good, but something is missing. Are you buying gingerbread cookies, cookie cutters, or the icing to decorate cookies? The customer has to do work the designer should have done and it raises the possibility of disappointment or anger.

Hamé’s Veselá Pastýřka. Other than the unappetizing green, the flavor differentiation is also a problem. Again this requires the shopper to do work that should have been done by the designer.

Now, just so you know we are not picking on our Czech brands here is one that we just find insulting:

Hellman's Gently Spicy or Extra Spicy something (Ketchup?). Hellmann's is an international brand, whose mayonnaise jar has been recognizable world-wide for many decades, but that hasn’t stopped them from dumping some bad design on the Czech market. Again the problem here, other than ugly unappetizing design, both the bottle an the label, lack serious differentiation. And a serious lack of respect for their customers. No customer-centricity here.

Giana Peaches. Here is another foreign product. What is the difference between the two? This lack of differentiation increases the work the potential customer must do and complicates the decision to buy. Furthermore, it runs the risk of angering the customer when they get it home to find something different than what they expected.

Hope you weren’t serving soup?

We love Moravian wines, most of which come from small producers. However some of the labels on them are . . . well, see for your self.

And the one below looks like the owner had his teenage son the art student draw it. These are actually quite good wines, but had they not been included in a bulk shipment buy a wine seller we trust to pick good tasting wines, we would never have picked them up off the shelf. Yuck.

With wines it has been shown a that carefully crafted label can actually boost enjoyment of the wine itself—good design literally, due to how the brain is wired, makes the wine taste better (Link). This is a win-win for seller and consumer.

And to be fair there are some Moravian wineries who get it, or are at least trying.

We are not just pointing out what is wrong with designs. We want to show that it can be done very well. The Feez cartons at the top of the page is an example. Here are some more examples of good packaging that communicates clearly, differentiates well, grabs the eye, and is appetizing and inspiring.

"In the future, all companies will become design companies." - Alex Center, Coca-Cola, said at the Dieline Summit in Paris, November 2014.

Call To Action:

  • Love your customers, make them feel good about themselves, and they are more likely to love you back. A win-win for both sides.

  • Small and family-owned companies need to increase their understanding of the importance and the power of good packaging and brand design to increase and build their brands and businesses. Just because a cousin knows how to use Photoshop, it does not mean he is a designer.

  • Larger companies, especially the foreign owned and managed ones who should know better, need to stop underestimating the intelligence and taste of the people here, and set good design examples. They should help inspire and guide the markets toward a more lively, involved, and more profitable level of design awareness and education.

  • Designers in the Czech Republic, we have a responsibility to raise design awareness, educate our clients and the public about the positive effects and the inspiration that good design brings. And we have an obligation to design as best we can, to push the envelop, to put some beauty and positivity into the world.

  • And if anyone is still not convinced of the importance and power of design? Study this infographic.





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