Can brands survive without design? Australian government to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes

Richard Prince Cowboy series
Richard Prince Untitled (cowboy), 1989 Ektacolor photograph 127 x 178 cm © 2008 Richard Prince

This week the Australian government announced that it would be the first country in the world to enforce that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging. The plan is that by 1 July 2012 cigarette packets:

  • will feature no logos,
  • will feature no brand imagery,
  • will be uncoloured,
  • will not be allowed any promotional copy.

The brand name will have to:

  • be a standard colour,
  • in a standard position,
  • in a standard font,
  • in a standard size.

As well as this the graphic health warnings will be updated. The new packet non-design will be tested for its effectiveness, but it will look something like this:

How the generic pack of cigarettes will look. Image courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

The tobacco industry will of course mount a legal challenge but I am more curious about how they will respond to the design challenge. How can a brand with no colours, mark, typography or imagery distinguish itself? I expect tobacco shops will start selling more branded cigarette tins and that the tobacco companies will start giving away promotional and durable packets within weeks if they are able.

Much of the space on supermarket shelves is taken up with products that are almost identical. Products might smell a bit different but the distinguishing properties are by and large to be found within the packaging design. With no cigarette branding it will be interesting to see how many cigarette brands survive.

How do you think cigarette brands will respond to this ultimate design challenge?


Henare Degan

Hey Eri, the Topsy link in the above comment doesn’t seem to work.

Cheers, Henare

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