The Evolution of Soda Can Package Design

As brands evolve, so do their packaging. Recently, while raiding my mother’s kitchen, I noticed a vintage Pepsi soda can collecting dust atop of the refrigerator. What sparked my interest was the vast difference in design aesthetic compared to today’s current design, despite the fact the color palette was exactly the same. After a bit of dusting and researching, I learned that this intriguing vintage packaging was actually designed in 1959. This got me thinking. How many different versions of the design are there? How do these versions compare to their competitors of the time? Are there any commonalities between the major beverage companies and their designs of each decade? Today, I will be discussing the evolution of the Pepsi and Coca-Cola brands, in addition to showing you a few more examples of this fascinating change over time.

Pepsi

Pepsi Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Take a look at the image above and you will find the 1959 soda can I was referring to. It turns out that this is the last design that includes their script style typography that is similar to Coca-Cola’s logo. The design itself consists of white pinstripes on an all blue background.

Previous to this design, Pepsi used a distinctive cone top with a bottle cap closure. Their 1948 design even features the shape of a bottle cap, which in less than ten years, would evolve into a circular shape. In 1967, we are first introduced to the new sans serif typography and simplified design aesthetic. The major change that takes place over the next few decades is the emphasis on the color red apposed to blue. Using red, while competing with Coca-Cola, doesn’t seem like best design decision in my opinion.

In the early 1990s, Pepsi introduced a series of limited edition “COOL CANS” that featured designs such as a girl in Pepsi sunglasses, a neon version of the logo, and a festive blue and pink design. Eventually in 1997, Pepsi returns to its emphasis on blue, by making the entire background that color. This 1997, the design doesn’t change much until 2009, when the company redesigned its circular logo shape and went from a bold uppercase sans serif, to a thinner lowercase version. The current design is ahead of the curve following the recent trend of flat, minimalistic design.

Interestingly enough, most of these beverage companies started with flat design and evolved into bold 3D graphics in the 1990s. I predict that all of these brands will return to flat, minimalistic design within a few years if they have not already.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Similar to Pepsi, Coca-Cola started out with a flat, minimalistic design that features geometric shapes. In 1970, the famous script style typographic logo was replaced with a serif that just read, “Coke”. This was changed back to script less than a year later, but was re-introduced in 1976. In 1985, the “Coke” serif was again replaced by script in order to differentiate the classic brand from “New Coke”. Like many brands, Coke used bold graphics in the 1990s ranging from showing an entire coke bottle, to doing a close-up of the bottle and having the rest bleed off of the side. In 2007, the beverage company finally went back to a simple, yet modernized version of their original design, focusing on the script type and bold red color.

Scroll down to see a few more examples of this fascinating evolution in packaging design.

7UP

7UP Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Dr.Pepper

Dr.Pepper Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Squirt

Squirt Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Crush

Crush Soda Can Packaging Evolution

Typography and Packaging Design are just two of the many areas covered in the Graphic Design program at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

Images courtesy of Leibold.com 

 

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mobrien@fidm.edu

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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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