Limited Edition Designs: the Rule of Trinity

With this year’s Olympic Games in London and European Soccer Championship in Poland and Ukraine, it is likely that many brands will try to use these events to reinforce their engagement with consumers. Among other things, we could expect the introduction of several limited editions. In particular, Coca-Cola has got a long track record when it comes to linking to the biggest sport events on earth. Some of these limited editions will be a huge success, while others – like Coca Cola’s ‘polar bear cans’ last winter – turned out as failures.

Looking back at that case, it may seem quite simple to point out why consumers did not accept the design change. But it would be more interesting to find a design development approach in which this could have been noticed upfront. From the experience in packaging design, we know how sensitive it can be to create a limited edition. Over the years we have found a way to support our clients with the most surprising, inspirational and foremost relevant limited edition concepts. In fact, it turned out to be quite simple. Only three aspects are essential in driving a successful limited edition: brand recognition, brand story, and brand inspiration. At CARTILS, we call this the Limited Edition Trinity® that, when well balanced and executed, should bring great and inspiring design to the brand.


Photos: CARTILS’s Trinity principles, implemented on Danzka Vodka

How does it work? Let’s take the example of Danzka for which we have recently developed a limited edition that really can be called successful in many aspects, including consumers’ response.

Brand recognition – One of the main requirements for a limited edition is an ability to respect and preserve a brand’s visual identity. While the limited edition needs to stand out from the original design, it still has the important task of respecting a brand’s recognizable design elements. Consumers want to be able to find their favourite brands instantaneously, even when the product packaging is a limited edition.

Danzka’s recognition highly depends on the aluminium bottle, the specific bold logo writing and the minimalist Danish style. These iconic elements were preserved in the limited edition, ensuring brand identification and credibility.

Brand story – In the development of a limited edition design it is vital to choose a theme that fits with the brand values. As mentioned, a common pitfall is to create an attractive or distinctive design without connection or relevance to the brand. A mismatch between the brand and the theme of the limited edition can confuse consumers and weaken the brand’s consistent image. It is therefore important that a contribution is made towards the brand, and that the design is not just a creative gimmick or outburst.

Photo:Danish Danzka Vodka limited edition

The Danzka brand story is obviously embedded in the brand name: its Danish roots and the iconic Danish style which is minimalist, sophisticated and colourful. These elements formed the basis in the design process of the limited edition, resulting in a clear visual link to the origin of this brand and therewith the brand story.

Brand inspiration – The most important task of a limited edition is to surprise and inspire consumers. A limited edition should therefore be different from the regular design and its surprising element should be appealing and inspiring to the target group. Study the most appealing theme for your target audience and think of new ways to reach out to this group.

Question was what could be surprisingly different for Danzka? What would be appealing to the Danzka target audience and at the same time balance surprise with recognition? Differentiation was created through adding an eye catching relevant colour and a distinguishing graphic lay-out by playfully using the Danish flag. We decided to respect the aluminium bottle in order to safeguard the Danzka product expectation.

The Danzka limited edition was enthusiastically received in the market and therewith met its goal: to surprise and inspire its consumer group. This of course should also be the case for all limited editions that will be developed and introduced in the upcoming period of sport events. It may be clear that it is not easy to develop the right kind of surprise and inspiration, but using the model described above might help to get all the basics right and surprise us with some great design works. We surely look forward to it!

About the Author

Gaston van de Laar is the Client Services Director at CARTILS, an international brand design agency with offices in Amsterdam and London.  Gaston has over 20 years of comprehensive design and branding experience and is overseeing all strategic and creative output and responsible for client relationships.