Thursday, May 08, 2003

ghastly greens

As any infant who ever stared down overdone leafy greens in terror will verify, there is one aesthetic lesson learnt well in early life: if it’s good for you, it must also look horrid. Treats with a sugar content geared to the junior palate are packaged well in primary colours and, even when unwrapped, excite the gaze as much as the metabolism. Wholesome food products, by contrast, such as ‘health’ bars, muesli or indeed anything with a surplus of oats, seem to take their design cue from government issue text books.
Coco, the Coco Pops monkey, is a striking psychedelic rebel whom I would have very much liked to have free-based cane sugar with as a child. An enticing dealer, Coco continues to tempt small persons into his yellow world of compromised values and high glucose thrills. Look at Quaker Food's product range. It simply appears as though it was designed by the world’s least thrilling pharmacist. Oatmeal, although really quite agreeable, looks like medicine to the childish eye. Coco Pops are packaged as an irresistible dose of contraband.
One matures, makes personal purchasing decisions and, presumably, discovers that both spinach and breakfast carbs might be acceptably prepared and eaten. The graphic lessons of childhood, however, are indelibly writ: if it’s wholesome or if it is worthy, it MUST be as ugly as sin.
An stockpile of dietary advice across the last few decades has transported many consumers from saturated fat dependence. Persuasive packaging aside, we have acquired the skill of swallowing vegetables, lean meat and grains all on our own. Without the help of pretty boxes or, indeed, mom.
Adult consumers might very well wise up in a culinary sense. Many of us overcome nutritional guilt in our twenties. We can hurl garbanzo beans or lentils into our carts and our digestive tracts without a second thought. Yet, a new kind of consumer guilt has supplanted the old. The shame we once reserved for the damage we were doing to our guts is now afforded to the damage we could be doing to the planet.
A new kind of guilt demands a new kind of Hair Shirt packaging. The graphic design creed If It’s Virtuous, It’s Gotta Look Crap is now amply applied to environmentally friendly product lines.
SAFE toilet tissue is a decent product. The job for which it is intended is adequately done. I am an adult consumer unafraid of the legumes and high fibre victuals aforementioned and my research finds that this toilet paper is of a respectable grade. So WHY does it look so darn awful? I am mildly pleased, I guess, to discover that it is wrapped in ‘biodegradable’ paper (as opposed to that other kind of nasty paper made from polythene trees that does not degrade) and is wrought from virgin plantation pine pulp and recycled clean office waste. I am utterly confident that no dolphin’s blow hole was obstructed in the making of this product. I am, however, aghast by its design elements. Specifically
(1) There is a great big Check forming the ‘A’ in the SAFE logo. Excuse me? I am a cranky 34 year old woman who many years ago ditched her desire to please Professional Educators. I do not care to be given an ‘A” for effort, neatness nor anything else and I DO NOT crave a ruddy great check. As a relatively green consumer, I am pleased to learn that only virgin plantations and office recycling bins have been violated en route to my fundament. I did not at any point, however, in making my FMCG choice ask for some upright hippie’s approval. I do not want to be awarded a grade. In selecting SAFE toilet tissue, a secret covenant was forged between my anus and the earth. The ‘check’ is a hindrance. The environmental Bell Curve just gives former fans of Coco the Cheeky Monkey license to rebel. No gold star nor green check on my forehead, or anywhere else, thank you.
(2) The ghastly type-face. Family friendly and sans-serif, the SAFE font blares faux-innocence and triple fronted brick veneer. There are many people who do not, even if they have reproduced, wish to be reminded of children’s hand-writing. What in the good earth’s name could a kid’s scrawl possibly hope to sell apart from toffee at a mini fete?
Erath Choice dishwashing liquid does the job. In utter candour, it is infinitely more cost effective than many other non-Green brands. Again with the colossal graphic design failure! A World Book Encyclopaedia circa 1983 type ‘Blue Planet’ is the crest of this product. Australia is facing the viewer and night appears to be falling across my continent. Which, if you ask me, only serves to remind slovenly house-keepers that it’s twilight and we still haven’t done the frigging dishes. Morning Fresh, by contrast, offers a rising sun and complete sterility. Naturally, there are more amorphous bush type leaves and indistinct lines.
As you will have observed, dolphins are frolicking on many Enviro-loving household cleaning items. This is also beyond my ken.
There is no need for the High Moral Ground to be entirely decorated for people without a design clue. Let’s get market share and masterful graphic minds on the green products case.

No comments: