Exploring the graphic design of alternative milk packaging
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that art courses have modules on designing alternative milk packaging. Seriously, any good graphic designer must have an alternative milk job at some point in their career. The array of artwork on these cartons is arguably more diverse than any other product in the grocery store. From eye-catching fonts to whimsical illustrations, alternative milk packaging pops off the shelf.
Branding is important for any product. Alternative milks take it a step further by creating art. Whether they use brilliant bold fonts, satisfyingly minimalistic line art or something as random as a picture of a lady in a duck suit, they all create the sense of a premium product. I have struggled to find two brands that look alike, thus, through their artwork each brand has created a sense of their own identify. This is important in an increasingly competitive market space.
Why do alternative milks invest so heavily in their packaging? I’d like to think a single brand started this crazy art competition, but alas I find no proof of this theory. Nowadays, many products are trying to appeal to the ‘woke’ generation they are targeting. I think this is partially true for alternative milks. But this explanation does little to reason why this piece of shelf space is the modern art gallery of the store. Like an unruly teenager, alternative milks are trying to skirt around their status of ‘not quite milk’ milks. They are playing into their alternative status.
In Europe, alternative milks are not allowed to use the world ‘milk’ on their packaging. Thus, we see mylk, m*lk and m.lk on our shelves. These products are steering around the very thing they are based upon. Just imagine, a graphic designer is dropped a spec onto their table, “make some packaging for this milk-like product, but under no circumstances mention the m-word”. What you end up with is creative designs which break the template of typical food and beverage packaging.
I believe the alternative milk design space is a breath of fresh air in packaging design. I don’t think will see a more decorated group of products, instead this little bubble of art will remain exclusive to non-milk milks. Which in one way is a positive, as I think shopping would become a little migraine inducing if every item used this attention grabbing technique.