200 gangrenous foot please mate

News that the UK could soon be following Australia’s lead and enforcing government-designed packaging for all tobacco products prompted us to take another look at the Australian design guidelines to see what we might be in for. It ain’t pretty…

News that the UK could soon be following Australia’s lead and enforcing government-designed packaging for all tobacco products prompted us to take another look at the Australian design guidelines to see what we might be in for. It ain’t pretty…

As we reported last year, all Australian tobacco packaging is clad in Lucida Sans and Pantone 448C – a drab green somewhere between khaki and olive but with none of the merits of either. The colour choice is backed up by research which eschewed light browns (associations of gold) and rich browns (too like chocolate) to arrive at the ultimate shade of despair.

It may come as a surprise though, to see just how much detail the Australian design guide goes into. It’s not just cigarette packets that are covered by this legislation, every aspect of the industry has been standardised, from the type on cigar bands to the size of loose leaf tobacco tins. Here, for example, are the specifications for cigarettes and cigars themselves:

And is it just us, or is there some mordant gallows humour at work here, picking a gangrenous foot as the most perfectly shaped illustration for a duty-free style cigarette carton multipack?

 

 

Cigar tubes carry a stark warning on one side (above), while here are the guidelines for other information

 

And cigar boxes and tins:

 

 

 

 

Plus loose tobacco:

While here are the specs for cigarettes:

 

 

 

 

We can’t help thinking that it’s a potentially worrying trend though, to combat social and health problems by making our environment uglier. What would happen if this sort of thinking was applied to other spheres of life? Could dangerous areas be ‘uglified’ to deter muggers from loitering? What if pubs were adorned with diseased livers? Isn’t there enough ugliness in the world, without designers purposely helping make it more so? At what level does the ‘ugliness’ of the rendering of the message here aid its effectiveness?

Part of the problem lies in the – literally – murky area that is being charted here. Governments are in the process of creating a historic new genre: anti-advertising. Whatever your views of the merits or otherwise of refusing legally trading companies the right to publicise their goods, the corollary that governments should then step in and attempt to negatively brand them is a curious one to say the least. Would not the more obvious route, of dispensing with packaging altogether and making nicotine available from clinics in the way that methodone is now, be a far more sensible compromise? As things stand, we are instead teetering on the brink of turning a public health tragedy into nothing more than a very ugly farce.

CR in print
The March issue of CR magazine celebrates 150 years of the London Underground. In it we introduce a new book by Mark Ovenden, which is the first study of all aspects of the tube’s design evolution; we ask Harry Beck authority, Ken Garland, what he makes of a new tube map concept by Mark Noad; we investigate the enduring appeal of Edward Johnston’s eponymous typeface; Michael Evamy reports on the design story of world-famous roundel; we look at the London Transport Museum’s new exhibition of 150 key posters from its archive; we explore the rich history of platform art, and also the Underground’s communications and advertising, past and present. Plus, we talk to London Transport Museum’s head of trading about TfL’s approach to brand licensing and merchandising. In Crit, Rick Poynor reviews Branding Terror, a book about terrorist logos, while Paul Belford looks at how a 1980 ad managed to do away with everything bar a product demo. Finally, Daniel Benneworth-Grey reflects on the merits on working home alone. Buy your copy here.

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Lecturer Design Management

Kingston University

Design Assistant

Cultureshock Media