When I was in high school, way back last century, there was a brief nationwide infatuation with generic food. Long stretches of shelf space at our local Kroger’s were devoted to yellow cans with plain text labels. You want sweet peas? Get the big yellow can labeled “sweet peas”. You want beer? Grab a yellow six pack of … “beer”. The price was low, which was the whole idea, but the idea that there was “no” packaging design always struck me as funny. After all, no-design is a design. Just look at the differentiation among these generics.
A similar attempt at generic no-design these days might be outed as ironical knowingness. In fact, I don’t know how you’d do generic packaging anymore. That’s why WalMart and Sam’s Club carry name brands these days. Everything’s cheap, and they might as well be generics. It all sorta runs together.
Via Twitter I recently came across this post, in which the author observed the impulse purchase items near the register were labeled “Impulse Items: Small $1.99 Large $4.99”. That’s either refreshingly honest or annoyingly meta-ironical, depending on your point of view.
I enjoyed reading what the author, Mimi O Chun, had to say, and I was about to add my own Twitter message about it, when I noticed something at the bottom of the page: a little section called Echo that displays all the Twitter messages about the post. If I tweeted something snappy, it would be immediately appended to this very page. It started to feel like a hall of mirrors, me watching you watching me. It’s the hall of mirrors we all live in now. If you start to feel dizzy, remember: the antidote is a simple and straightforward sincerity. For, as Groucho Marx once said, “The key to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”