Updated: Jan 28, 2020
Let’s play a quick game. Name the 5 most memorable bags that you can think of…. GO!
I played this game with myself recently and here’s what I came up with: Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdale's, Gap, IKEA and Hermes.
These brands run the gamut of products and price points: ranging from affordable furniture to luxury accessories. But what they all have in common is simple and incredibly memorable packaging/bag design.
TIFFANY & CO. is pure packaging goals. Founded in 1837, Tiffany began using its signature "Tiffany Blue" in 1845 on the cover of its first "Blue Book", with the now coveted packaging launching in 1886. The Tiffany Blue bag is nearly as sought after as the jewelry it carries and has become synonymous with luxury. The bag itself is elegantly simple: a single PMS color with white handles and a small printed black logo. There is nothing particularly unique about the bag, except for the brilliant continuity of the “Tiffany Blue”. The signature color was trademarked in 1998 and is produced as a private custom color by Pantone—PMS #1837, the year of Tiffany's foundation. The simplicity of the Tiffany & Co. bag is precisely what makes this bag timeless and memorably beautiful.
BLOOMINGDALE'S iconic bag literally speaks for itself. Introduced in 1973 and designed by Massimo Vignelli, The “Little/Medium/Big Brown Bag” design is absolute genius. I’m sure that Mr. Vignelli had no idea just how chic and recognizable the bag would come to be. When you see those three lines of rounded, bold typography on a simple kraft bag, you know immediately it’s Bloomingdale's. What cements the success of the Bloomies bag is that it is relatively unchanging. The core design has stayed consistent for decades, with a few color tweaks and or seasonal enhancements along the way. Of course, I especially love the version CPC developed in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Shown below and here.)
On the other end of the price point spectrum is GAP. The irony of the Gap bag is that it shares some of the most prevalent components with the Tiffany & Co. bag: one color PMS background with a crisp logo and often, white handles. While the Gap bag has gone through many more material iterations than the Tiffany bag (plastic drawstring, dye-cut handle and now paper), and no doubt has a different paper weight and enhancements than the Tiffany bag, the design elements that meet the eye are in fact very similar.
What’s the lesson learned from these iconic bags? Well, there are a few. Some would argue less is more, while others would insist that continuity is key. But truly, what makes packaging “successful” is what works best for the brand. One brand might create a reputation for itself by constantly introducing new and exciting packaging seasonally (Anthropologie), while another brand might create a lasting impression by keeping the same core design but swapping out background colors (Lulelemon).
The takeaway is that MEMORABLE PACKAGING IS POSSIBLE FOR EVERY BRAND—you just need a vision and the right packaging partner of course!
Tiffany Packaging Photo @The New York Times • Gap Bag Photo @pymnts.com