The journey from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaandam was quick and as soon as I stepped out of the station I was in awe of the city’s architecture. Straight away you see the Hotel Inntel Zaandam — which literally looks like a Christmas Disney attraction. Its outer façade is a bunch of traditional Dutch houses in blue and green cladding, piled up on one another for 12 storeys. Reading up more about the design of the building I found out it is by WAM — a Delft based group who say it wasn’t designed to be shocking and they feel that it fits in place in Zaandam because “it uses the architectural language of Zaanstad’. Although this building wasn’t part of the visit to the Packaging Innovations convention it was impossible not to be amazed by it as a non-native.
At the convention I received my pass (which looked official and made me feel official) and started wandering around the exhibits.
It was hard to pinpoint and be exceptionally amazed at any one particular exhibit at first as most of the stuff that was being shown across the convention was somewhat similar in its look and also the way it was being described as i.e. ‘Some new cardboard’, ‘a new bag design’, ‘a new method of sealing containers’ etc.
But once I stopped at the more design related booths it was a lot more interesting.
A really good part was the BNO NEXTpack booth where the products being displayed where much more exciting. Instead of just presenting a new material compound, here were products that actually used some of these new materials and ideas in a real-world application.
The main ones that stood out firstly on their immediate visual impact but later on with their rationale were some Heineken and Jumbo products.
The Heineken products were a series of bottles, cans and glassware that gave the user a real experience across a range of innovative ideas, such as: a bottle with a light up star that reacts to the beat of dance music, a bottle which has a personalised label to connect with the user. Lastly a branded cup that fits on-top of cans and bottles, encouraging and allowing the user to drink responsibly by holding water. Along with these bottles were the VBAT/DBOD designed Heineken light up bottles which was cool to see.
The Jumbo stuff was much more simple but equally as impactful with its visual design. Using simple and basic product shapes: butter, milk and wine but applying the traditional Jumbo yellow all over them with bold 3D letters placed on top of them. A simple idea executed well; although I’m not sure how practical this is for the shelf.
I attended some of the talks that were taking place on the day. The first one was by Paul Earnshaw, packaging manager from the huge UK supermarket company Tesco. This was insightful as he was explaining how people are able to get their products into Tesco stores and also current food trends that the UK consumers are buying into right now, which also reflect the design, such as “retro renaissance” — 70’s/80’s looking design, “how formal is normal” — high cost products packaged in a less formal and affordable way and vice versa and “restless taste” — how consumers want the next food taste all the time. These topics were all interesting to me and I totally understood and connected with what he was saying along with his British humor and jokes. I also shop at Tesco regularly in the UK so I’ve witnessed these trends.
At the Dieline conference there were a range of talks as well as the chosen designs on display of which had won awards. What I liked here were the cans for ‘Fort Point Beer Company’ which were described as ‘ornately old-fashioned’. They were simply really nice can designs using geometric patterns and illustrations with a single weight line. The colours were also really nice and despite being dull greens and blues they really did pop and attract my attention, further research showed me that the packs and boxes that the cans were transported in were equally as beautifully designed with the same principles.
There were also some talks organised by The Dieline, one was by Leeds based branding agency — Elmwood, about design and its role in packaging and how we can really play to all of our senses. It was good but quite word heavy.
My favourite talk however was by PJ (Pieter Jelle Braaksma) from VBAT where he presented the Prophecy whiskey project.
I didn’t know much about this project and the talk was really different from the other talks as it was much more personal and wasn’t just about the beautiful design and final outcome of the bottle — the entire process was explained and it made me appreciate the bottle design a lot more than just seeing the final glossy images.
Overall it was good day out and nice to explore and experience a different part of Amsterdam and also to see some great new packaging things. The discipline of packaging isn’t what I am most interested in or directly connected to but I do like seeing these kinds of things and it’s always good to see what the future of any industry is; especially one that we as consumers are a vital part of and get to experience it daily.