Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Lunch Hour Pops

I like tea, though never more so than in the last six weeks, in which I’ve forsaken coffee. On the whole, tea gives me enough-but-not-too-much caffeine, tastes pleasant enough that I need to add neither sugar nor dairy products, and doesn’t leave my breath smelling offensive. So when I was at a relative’s house over the Christmas break and saw her using an instrument that purportedly brews the world’s best cup of tea, I decided I had to get one myself. (Check out if you’re interested in the product itself. It is, in fact, both the cheapest and best device I’ve found for brewing with loose leaf tea.) But this post will not simply plug the wares of Teavana, wonderful though they may be. No, it will also focus a strip of packaging that came wrapped around my product, a scan of which appears below.

I’m not sure what intern was learning Photoshop the day this project was due, but it kind of blows, both esthetically and as visual account of what came to somebody’s head when brainstorming about the word “tea.” Let’s move left to right: We have an Asian lady, in what would appear to be geisha make-up and beneath an parasol; next we have jolly, leaping African tribesman; then we have a different kind of Asian lady, doing a dance or something; and last we have… rugby players. Or, more specifically, a rugby player and then another rugby player’s bottom. Superficially, I could assume that the good graphic designers as Teavana want me to know that the four kinds of people who drink tea are Asian ladies, African tribesman who leap, other Asian ladies, and men playing rugby, but I feel that’s not true. Upon considering the matter for a moment, I’d imagine instead that whoever got saddled the assignment of designing this piece of product packaging simply turned to their officemate and asked, “Hey, what are, like, four countries that drink tea?” Naturally, the officemate would have responded with China — which, of course, resulted in the fucking geisha — and then Africa — rooibos, after all — then that other kind of Asia that’s closer to India, and then England, because they, like, invented it or something. Ten minutes on a stock photography website putting in those geographical keywords ended up with this: representations of the current world of tea drinkers that are about as accurate as a cowboy, Indian, Eskimo, and a girl in a hula skirt being offered as representatives of the United States. What would have been only slightly worse and would have looked only slightly crappier: (left to right) General Mao, Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandi, and Queen Elizabeth — possibly each with a steaming mug crudely Photoshopped into their hand, possibly each with the same mug. Then, to top off a project that was doomed from the get-go, Mr. or Mrs. Photoshop Pilot then decided to evoke tea by recasting the color of all four images into a greenish brown, only to make the entire multicultural panorama look as if it were being depicted on a Game Boy, in classic creamed spinach color.

In short, product itself: thumbs up. Packaging accompanying product: thumbs down for design, but some recovery points for amusement factor.

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