Supertrees from packaging materials. For this artwork Tom Seelbach was inspired by the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Photo: Tom Seelbach
Packaging is Art
Packaging is in any case an art in itself; the way packaging manages to come up with the right answer for all sorts of needs demonstrates how complex and precise packaging development actually is. Let’s forget about functionality now for a minute and only focus on the object. As the saying goes: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And therefore the beautiful envelopes that designers create for all types of packaging around the globe come in as numerous different styles as there are tastes. Elaborately curved glass bottles for finest drops – be they for pampering throats from the outside or the inside, velvety or smooth, polished surfaces, minimalist graphics, striking colours – when it comes to packaging designers are welcome to let their fancy roam free – provided they stay within the budget and comply with requirements.
Skilfully poured: to mark the 10th anniversary Christian Lacroix was again invited to embellish a bottle. Photo: Christian Lacroix
Whether it’s spring, summer, the run-up to Christmas or Easter, football world cups or the Olympic Games – the year has plenty of opportunities to create special, limited-edition packaging with extraordinary design care of world-famous artists. Preferred “objects” are packaging units for high-priced products, such as fragrances or spirits but also wines. But even very ordinary water can be “artily” packed. A frequently quoted and still outstanding example of extremely intricate packaging of this kind is the series by Evian. As early as 2007 this French mineral water source already invested in one new, exclusive packaging each year featuring artworks by different artists and designers. The list of VIPs includes Jean Paul Gaultier, Paul Smith, Issey Miyake, André Courrèges, Diane von Fürstenberg, Ellie Saab, Kenzo, Alexander Wang and Christian Lacroix, who embellished the first bottle back then and returned with a new design to mark the 10th anniversary.
In his photo project “Poetry of Packaging” advertising photographerTom Seelbach focuses on the central idea of packaging that turns itself rather than objects into artworks. The text accompanying the exhibition that was recently presented to a global audience at interpack in Düsseldorf reads: This is how mass-produced products turn into one-off designs that lend wings to our imagination. There are paperboard boxes piling up into skyscrapers, plastic bowls and one-way cups stacked to form towers and corrugated board made into architectural sites such as the Dancing Towers in Hamburg, the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Seelbach only uses light and shade for targeted staging; the elective Hamburg resident who hails from the Westerwald region entirely foregoes digital effects.
Why only put a flower in the bottle if the sleek glass bottle can also take spices, home-made oil or fresh ice tea? Using the right top or insert empty True Fruits bottles become entirely new products. Upcycling at its best. Photo: True Fruits
Make the most of your bottle
Repurposing packaging into other objects was also the idea of the originators of the iconic drink True Fruits. The both plain and yet exquisite glass bottles are an eye-catcher in themselves. On top of this, however, they also serve as practical components for spice jars, oil and vinegar dispensers, vases, luminaires and – even music boxes. Known as upcycling this is a trend whereby packaging that no longer serves its original purpose is turned into meaningful new products. In keeping with the hip straplines on their bottles the founders of this successful juice outfit had a nose and soon started offering add-on products at their webshop to “pimp” their bottles. Drinking lids, shakers, spouts, dispensers and even a tea strainer are offered as complements – that’s what I call meaningful packaging complements …