Package design: the art of selling, all wrapped up

When competition for customers' attention gets ferocious, that bottle, carton or can is a lot more than just another pretty face

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In his San Francisco studio, package designer Primo Angeli explains that "there is a relationship between consumers and packages, a psychodrama, really." Indeed, packages are "silent salesmen" that appeal to the people we'd like to be, not who we really are. Although most of us drink our coffee in ratty bathrobes, we'd like to think we're the romantic Italian couple depicted in Angeli designs. Angeli and other designers, such as Gerstman + Meyers and Marc Rosen Associates, both in New York City, strive for a package shape, color and graphics that will fly a product off the shelves and ensure lifetime brand loyalty. New York designer Spencer Drate hopes his "keepsake" CD boxes will be so nifty that consumers will display them as knickknacks, and students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena are working on making packaging environment-friendly by making it reusable. But sometimes packaging is a mixed bag blister packs are perfect for product display but are often hard to open; vacuum-packed "tetrabricks," which keep food fresher longer, or metal squeeze tubes for tomato paste make a lot of sense and are a hit in Europe. But Americans have just said "No!"

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