Turner Duckworth’s work for Coca Cola deserves every accolade it receives. Just recently it picked up a Benchmark Best of Show Award to go with its Yellow Pencils, Cannes Grand Prix for Design and many others.
It is a great visual identity system and a superb example of how creative and clever design for mass market products can be, if you try really, really hard. It’s brave and it’s beautiful, which are not words one readily associates with multinational corporations.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that it has won so many awards despite inhabiting territory that turns many judges off. Mass market products rarely make it to the shortlist of some of the most prestigious awards let alone the winners’ podium and it is not because they are not good enough.
I’ve judged all sorts of awards and time and time again design for mainstream brands gets overlooked in favour of tiny, boutique brands. The sheer number of entries that one normally has to get through means that each candidate has about seven seconds to impress you, so naturally the more shocking executions make the greatest impressions that’s just human nature.
And it is easier to create radical designs for new brands because you start from a blank sheet of paper with no brand heritage to protect and evolve and no loyal consumers to retain. Also start-ups and boutique brands tend to be small companies who are better able to take riskier decisions their brands have to make a massive noise through packaging because they can’t afford to market themselves in any other way.
I love the weird and wonderful, but I am also passionate about mainstream, mass market, every day brands. It is harder to sell extreme designs to them; not because they lack courage or are weighed down by process but because those sorts of designs are often inappropriate for the product. There is a great deal of creativity in the mass market arena and one doesn’t have to be satisfied with a little tweak here and a slight change, there as Turner Duckworth has demonstrated so well.
I can’t help feeling that many judging panels look down their collective noses at mass market packaging that it is dull be default and sometimes overlook good, creative solutions in the process.
The Coca Cola identity is a lesson to us all: it should inspire designers and design judges alike.