Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lynn's Comments: I have always loved making up names on things like cereal boxes. In art school, one of the things we had to do for commercial design was to come up with an entire cereal box--from the size to the ingredients to the illustration on the cover. This meant we had to figure out how much space we needed for type (in two official languages): brand name, logos, contents, weight, nutritional value, and directions. Packaging is a whole industry of its own, so this was a really good exercise. The cereal I came up with was "Sugar Soggs." The art showed a kid eating some gruesome candy-coated gruel. It was okay, but the best design was done by one of the guys in the class; he called his cereal "Uncle Brian's Grumpies." On the cover was a grimacing caricature of the instructor, whose name was Brian, and the ingredients he made up were hilarious. In terms of funny, he had me beat by a mile. Neither of us got a good mark because we hadn't taken the project seriously. It seemed to us that despite the prof's objections, cartoons do sell!

Later, when I worked for Standard Engravers, a packaging firm in Hamilton, Ontario, I was given the opportunity to design a giveaway on a cereal box. I thought this would be neat, until I was given a space about 2 inches square on the bottom right corner. This was a real challenge--and that's good. If you give a cartoonist or graphic artist a blank page and say "draw something," they have to think for a while. Give them a tiny, awkward space, and suddenly the ideas come out of the blue. A great example of this is Sergio Aragones' "marginals"--the tiny cartoons that tumble around the page borders in Mad magazine. When he suggested he be hired to do these, he was told that he'd run out of ideas. Some 45 years later, he's still producing them, and each one is wonderfully different.

For the small corner space on the cereal box, I designed finger puppets, pencil toppers, decals, and "spinners" (a top made from paper). It was fun. I thought this could be a surprisingly satisfying career, but things went in other directions. I still get to work on cereal boxes but in a different way!

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Originally Run: 1986-02-23
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