published 27 March 2013
Seasoned designers know that constraint engenders creativity, rather than inhibit it. Following is one example. There are countless more.
In my research for an upcoming presentation, I stumbled on an account describing the evolution of the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle. In the early part of the 20th century, the Coca-Cola Company was confronting an influx of copycat beverages.
In defense of the brand, the company issued a call for design entries with one unique requirement: That the bottle, and therefore the brand, could be recognized in the dark.
As retold by The Coca-Cola Company,
The Company … decided to create a distinctive bottle shape to assure people they were actually getting a real Coca-Cola. The Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, won a contest to design a bottle that could be recognized in the dark. In 1916, they began manufacturing the famous contour bottle. The contour bottle, which remains the signature shape of Coca-Cola today, was chosen for its attractive appearance, original design and the fact that, even in the dark, you could identify the genuine article.
Today the glass contour bottle is one of the world’s most recognized designs, and it came about in large part because of constraints imposed on the bottle’s designers.
But that wasn’t the only constraint. The Root Glass Company and designer Earl Dean imposed a constraint of their own: Base the design on nature.
Chapman J. Root, president of the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, turned the project over to members of his supervisory staff, including company auditor T. Clyde Edwards, plant superintendent Alexander Samuelsson, and Earl R. Dean, bottle designer and supervisor of the bottle molding room. Root and his subordinates decided to base the bottle’s design on one of the soda’s two ingredients, the coca leaf or the kola nut, but were unaware of what either ingredient looked like. Dean and Edwards went to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library and were unable to find any information about coca or kola. Instead, Dean was inspired by a picture of the gourd-shaped cocoa pod in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Dean made a rough sketch of the pod and returned to the plant to show Root. He explained to Root how he could transform the shape of the pod into a bottle. Root gave Dean his approval.
File this under Did Not Know But Thrilled To Have Stumbled On It.
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