NuPrint UK posed the question: does our culture impact on our understanding of design? With twelve designers in twelve countries challenged to produce a design for a can of carbonated orange drink, the NuPrint UK research sought to understand how the nationality of the designer impacted the outcome.
Globalisation and the internet may come with the danger of erasing our sense of identity. When appealing to a mass market with a commercial product, will the results offer a universal language of design?
We look at the results of the twelve designs from all points of the compass. The findings suggest that there are generic choices that cross borders. However, there are also some clear cultural influences in the end designs.
For the UK designer, the target market played a significant part in the design choices made. The can uses cartoon imagery, with a hint of fun, which clearly defines the can being aimed at a younger potential buyer. The UK market is highly commercialised, and the carbonated drinks market is saturated. Therefore, the bold design responds to a desire to compete and challenge the audience to choose this drink over the one next to it on the shelf.
The ingredients inspired the UAE designer in this design. The emphasis is on the natural products of the orange and a sense of freshness. This choice was part of a design language used by all artists across the world. The use of the orange immediately communicates to the consumer the flavour of the drink. The oranges and greens also suggest vibrancy and health, competing with the narrative of fast food and sugary beverages that would concern parents.
The designer from Nigeria looked to the brands that were already on the shelf. The aim here was to create a carbonated can design that would compete with what already exists in the shop. From this exploration of the marketplace came generic choices, the use of the fruit as the main selling point of the brand. The emphasis is on brightness and vibrancy, making the can appealing from a distance, so the buyer has purchased with their eyes before selecting the product.
The Canadian designer offers a much more grown-up design than the others. Rather than a mass market, appealing to the younger age bracket, here the designer has gone for a more sophisticated branding. The Canadian designer may have been the only one to choose this approach because there is a more discerning and less commercialised culture here. The sharp typography and muted tones are appealing to a Canadian market. Equally, the designer could be seeking a way to stand out from the other brands in a crowded sector.
The Bulgarian designer is the only one to call on distinctive imagery from the East European country. The use of the weave design in the font is an apparent reference to the heritage of the country. This traditional look is not one that would be suited to all markets, proving that local culture still has an impact.
The overall effect on the Indonesian market would be artisanal. This is a product created by skilled craftspeople and therefore one that has been produced with more thought to the customer. The designer was clear that he had the target market for the brand in mind when creating the design. Therefore, the emphasis on natural ingredients and the more muted colours suggests that parents rather than the children would be the buyer.
The Spanish designer has opted for the emphasis on fun. The dominant colour is a vibrant green, a colour contrasting with the orange of the fruit. This design is the most impactful and does seem to speak of some of the vibrancy of a holiday resort. Of all the countries on this list, when you visit the stores of Spain, you do expect to see a different design language than elsewhere. This is evident in the design of the carbonated orange drink proposed by the Spanish designer.
The Norwegian designer opted for a matte design with gloss accents. The matte tin will make it easier to hold, while the gloss accents will sparkle on the shelf. As with most of the designers across the world, there is an emphasis on a different shade of orange. However, the orange was not so vibrant, as the designer clearly wants to avoid hints that drink had a chemical feel. This demonstrates a clear understanding of the brand that promotes natural ingredients. The Norwegian design noted that the target market was younger – but that this target market would be active and playful. Therefore, there is a striking design of dots, stripes, etc. It could be assumed that this is a different version of the youth market than might be found in other areas of the world.
The designer from Pakistan felt passionate that this can shines with a modern tale that is set in Pakistan. The emphasis is on the vibrancy of the orange – with the splash of orange linked to the brand name – emphasising the freshness of the juice inside the can. Despite the belief of the designer that this is a unique story of Pakistan, the design language is similar to the ones which we see around the world.
Of all the designers, the artist from New Zealand appeals most to the idea of home country. The predominance of the grass on the tin is a reflection of the outdoors culture of New Zealanders. This is also a smart way of representing the natural ingredients within the product. As with the Spanish designer, the New Zealander has used the colour contrast of green and orange to the full, but here the colours are a more muted palette. This again prevents the connection to the chemicals that go into carbonated drinks.
The commonalities between the Spanish and the Brazilian design suggest that vibrancy of colour could be part of a passionate Latinate culture. There is an obvious use of standard symbols, again using the splash of liquid to suggest refreshment.
You could argue strongly that there is a common design language that crosses borders. The use of imagery and colour are similar, no matter what part of the world a designer comes from. However, there are some influences of culture in the design – some strong – such as with the Bulgarian design – and some subtle, as with the design from Pakistan. With all designers stressing the need to consider the mass market for the carbonated drink, there was always going to be an influence of the national culture in the design of the can.
Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!