Sometimes I write letters to companies, praising or complaining or just babbling. It's possibly the dumbest hobby ever. Here's my most recent letter to General Mills re: Rice Chex.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Hi, my name is Alexandra and I recently purchased my first ever box of Gluten-Free Rice Chex after a lifetime of faithful and well-documented Cheerios addiction. I did this on a complete whim and found your product totally satisfactory, but this message isn't about the cereal. This is about the packaging.
I have in my hand a box of Rice Chex, and I am very very sad. This is not the state I should be in when contemplating a healthy cereal, so let me point to the cause: this box's packaging has made me feel this way. This might be a strange complaint coming from a consumer, but I'm still in art school and I know for a solid FACT I could have designed a more professional and engaging design than this sad, lifeless vector depiction of a lineup of people who, despite having their own bowls of cereal, have decided to line up conga-style in order to share with each other.
Here's where you're about to stop reading. May I demand a moment more of your time? I need to get this off my chest.
Whose idea was this packaging? It is utterly joyless, from the main character's zombielike gaze to his complete lack of passion as he reaches for a bowl of lumpy yellow mash, to the half-hearted snowflake-like asterisks that your illustrator stuck in at the last moment to fill space. Need I mention the inexplicably orange ear-muffs the aforementioned character is wearing? You have employed a man or woman who can't even be bothered to create new freckles, but instead must copy and paste from one cheek to the next. This is an individual who could not find the time to create two hairstyles for the women on the back cover, but recolors them with all the expertise of a seven-year-old playing around in MS Paint. These characters gaze into nothingness with all the alertness of a drugged and concussed sloth, their placid expressions bearing witness to (and stop me if I exaggerate) a total lack of enthusiasm in the delicious cereal within.
Now, I am not a proponent of the hyperactive, eye-bleedingly bright designs of some of your more ostentatious competitors; more than once I have been turned off from a box of cereal by the incessantly cheerful and aggressively youth-oriented packaging. I applaud your efforts to tone down the overal cereal experience by using such a calming blue and a simple, clean style of illustration.
But for the love of god, General Mills, this work is nothing short of shoddy and amateur. You're a gigantic cereal conglomerate. You're the MAFIA of cereal. Can't you afford an illustrator who has some pride in his work? I shudder to think what you paid for this branding, as these stoned sticklike characters appear even on the Chex website, gazing blandly to the right as though sharing some horribly unfunny private joke. I do not throw this word around, but this style is heinous. It doesn't appeal to adults OR children. I'm not even sure what the target audience was, but I can bet they don't use many adjectives.
The back of this box proudly mentions the "5 Recipes, 15 minutes" slogan, promising "Lots of Wows!" I can only imaging your package artist made a similar pitch. He could have completed this design in the same time it would have taken me to, apparently, whip up a batch of Chex Mix. Sadly, the "wow" this package illicited was one of disbelief. You are paying too much, even if you are paying him in stale Chex and merchandise.
I am always saddened to see an otherwise great product with lackluster packaging. Many companies don't seem to feel that packaging is important anymore. In the past, we had wonderful illustrations that sung the praises of companies in beautiful and innovative ways; Coca-cola comes to mind in particular. Even cereal boxes of the past had wonderful and charming box designs, so much so that recently I noticed a "revival" of retro designs (marred, unfortunately, by an aggravating T-shirt giveaway ad in the corner). Why is it that in this day and age, when talent is so vast and varied and utterly accessible, companies feel it is perfectly fine to cut corners, and believe that they're not losing anything?
Anyway, I probably sound like a crazy person to whoever is reading this, if it is indeed read at all. I promise I am not a graphic design-obsessed nutjob who will seek revenge for sub-par marketing decisions. But if anything sticks from my message, let it be that you guys can do better. Yeah, it's "good enough", but is "good enough" good enough for you?
To see what I'm talking about here, pick up a box of Rice Chex at the grocery store. For the record, I love General Mills and mean no disrespect.