May 4 2007

Packaging has power – enormous power – over what we buy. The fashions we wear express who we are. Packaging does that for products. We identify with a product because we believe that it does for us what we wish it to do. And as any brand manager will tell you, we buy the “brand promise” and the package carries a lot of that promise.

Try this test scenario. You are dying to break your shampoo routine, or for some reason cannot find your usual brand. How do you select an alternative? You generally pick a package that appeals to you or draws your attention. Often you do that out of necessity – you don’t have the chance to taste or try most products. The package must do the selling right there on the spot.

Ask retail anthropologist Paco Underhill (author of Why we buy and Call of the mall) and he’ll likely produce studies and surveys on shelf impact, shopping behavior and consumer psychology, all showing that it does matter what the box looks like, even when we say it doesn’t.

Martin Lindstrom’s latest book Buyology – Truth and Lies about Why We Buy covers the results of Lindstrom's $7-million study that attempted to figure out what really makes us vote with our wallets. The over-arching revelation – if it is indeed a revelation – is that, more often than not, we as consumers do not know why we buy. We do not know what actually affects us when we make a buying decision.

What we do know – and what marketers know – is that it is all about emotions. How does the brand make us feel, is what matters. Our first impressions, whether about products or people, are strong and quick. In many cases, packaging is the main influencer. The billions spent on packaging and branding annually are not spent on spec. Marketers know it works, although even they don’t always know how or why.

Packaging has a huge impact on many other things as well, not just on our buying decisions. On store shelves, the battle for space and shelf impact is tough. There is a reason why a box of twelve pills is five or more times larger than it actually needs to be to contain the pills. Theft is one concern, possibly also anti-tampering, but mostly it is about taking up space, taking it away from the competition.

As the brand gains shelf space with the bigger box, other things happen as well. The bigger the box, the more shelving is needed. The more shelving is used, the larger the store needs to be. The larger the store, the higher the rent and the more staff is needed to keep it running. We can keep going along this route.

The larger box also means larger cartons to ship the boxes, larger warehouses, larger trucks and so on. A larger box uses up more materials, more trees are cut down, more plastic is used, more garbage is accumulated... And of course, it all costs more. We are not trying to say that packaging is the cause of all ills, but we are suggesting that designing and producing “a slightly bigger box” is not a small decision.

We also feel that we must finally start seriously caring about the environmental impact of unnecessary and eco-unfriendly packaging. Designers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers are the ones that can influence what happens in the packaging world. Packaging manufacturers will follow and start making whatever the market wants to buy. Ideally, of course, manufacturers of packaging should also invest more in developing eco-friendly options, but if unfriendly options keep selling well, why would they change?

Our daily behavior proves that branding and packaging are important. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.

But there is a bigger picture and it includes the inconvenient truth that much of packaging still ends up in garbage, in landfills or in the oceans.

The challenge is to keep the cool, the impact, the fun and the practical function of packaging, but to do it in a way that doesn’t do any damage.

As always, we at The Coolhunter are looking for genuinely original packaging. Let us know when you see it!

From milk cartons to cosmetics, if its packaging that really pops, let us know about it! - Tuija Seipell

Looking for a design studio who can deliver - look no further than TCH Design

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April 28 2007

Ikea pack furniture in it. Gehry has made furniture from it. Now architects are shaping spaces with it. Is there any limit to the creative re-use of corrugated cardboard? With its unique physical consistency, its decidedly axial strength, and its deadening acoustic absorption, corrugated cardboard has many inherent qualities. As such it was the perfect material for this particular sound installation.

Made from 720 half square sheets of 7mm thick corrugated cardboard, stacked in 360 layers, this cavernous sound space is set within a 2.5m cube. As a space for listening to and experiencing music, the initial concept for the design developed from the architect's ambition to create a strong spatial intensity and a distinct internal atmosphere. With an irregular free-form interior set within a regular cubic volume, the object has a profound duality. Made from one material it also has an implied solidity that strengthens the architect's distinction between inside and out - a distinction that is heightened when the full acoustic ambience is experienced from within.

Cutting the cardboard took three working days, and assembly just one. The structure sits under its own dead weight, without any fixings or glue. And, for those of a technical persuasion, a simple calculation reveals that the combined compression of the 360 layers of cardboard is 20mm over the 2.5m height, or an average of 500ths of a millimetre per sheet. All services are integrated within the stack, including cable runs and apertures for the six-speaker surround sound system. R. G.

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April 22 2007

Aqua Dome is a 140-room, four-star-plus hotel and spa complex in Tirol Therme Längenfeld, the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. The altitude must have had an effect on the planners and designers because the place is out-of-this world heavenly.

The services are impressive and the facilities absolutely beautiful although somewhat counterproductively named with words too difficult to pronounce unless you speak German. The dome-ceilinged, glass-walled thermal spring hall Ursprung (Origins) is the main indoor area with two pools and a huge waterfall. From there, you swim via two canal pools to the amazing outdoor area, Talfrische (Freshness Valley). With its illuminated structures and steaming vessels it resembles the potion-making lab of a gigantic but friendly sorcerer. The two canals lead to a cone-shaped illuminated tower. From there you proceed to the three bowl pools that look like gigantic martini glasses. Bobbing in one of these eight-metre-high bowls that are 12 to 16 meters in diameter, you can gaze upon the Alps and contemplate your good fortune.

The beauty center and spa are known as Morgentau (Morning Dew), the rest room (not a bathroom but a room for rest) is called Besinnung (Reflection) and the view terrace is called Umsicht (View). GletscherglĂźhen (Glowing Glacier) is the impressive “sauna world” with various Finnish saunas from earth lodge and hay sauna to a loft sauna, a steam cathedral, a salt water (they call it brine) grotto, herbal bath, ice pool and a panorama whirlpool. The fitness center called Gipfelsturm (Peak Push), the kids’ area called Alpen Arche Noah (Alpine Noah’s Ark), the medical center (Medalp 4health) plus several restaurants ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Aqua Dome is one of the six VAMED Vitality World resorts, all located in Austria.

What also impressed us about Aqua Dome are its architecture and its surroundings. Aqua Dome is located about 70 kilometers from Innsbruck and 180 kilometers from Munich in Längenfeld in the heart of the beautiful 67-kilometre-long Tirolean Ötztal valley known as a thermal springs area since the 16th century. Aqua Dome’s 3000-year-old, 40-degree Celsius sodium-chloride-sulphate-sulphur thermal waters flow from this ancient valley.

The Aqua Dome is Austria’s largest tourism project of recent years. It has revitalized tourism in the entire area, long known for fabulous hiking, skiing, mountaineering and white water rafting.

We don’t know about you, but we’ll climb a mountain or two any day if the reward is a warm evening spent in one of Aqua Dome’s misty martini glasses. By Tuija Seipell


April 21 2007

Camouflage, or cryptic colouration, is something living organisms have developed over millions of years in order to remain indiscernible from the surrounding environment.  

Buildings, something humans have designed and built for thousands of years, have never been indiscernible from the surrounding environment. If anything, our egotistical fascination with conquering nature has meant our buildings are designed to triumph over its surroundings. Of course, nature inspires building design. But it rarely seeks to mimic it.

That is, until this twist on nature landed on The Cool Hunter doorstep. Set among shrubs and budding fir trees, this home has been encased in a façade matching the greenery around it. The concealing mesh is permeable to let the sunshine filter onto the house. But it also allows the light from inside to radiate out. Allowing the build to sit anonymously by day, but emerge discretely at night. Blurring the boundaries between what is human, and what is not.

Inside, the materials are organic and neutral. Wood decking and paneling cover the inside and outer reaches, while neutral colors blend rooms into a seamless array of angles and hard wood furnishings. But perhaps what’s more inspiring, is the building’s impact. The structure, while inherently human, isn’t trying to dominate the landscape it resides in. The single-storey house will soon be engulfed as the surrounding woodland matures, and the materials used to give the house its shape, will darken and merge with the backdrop. It’s an idea based on nature — to evolve with nature, and to mimic the concept of nature.  Something in our opinion, there should be more of. By Matthew Hussey


April 17 2007

The skeptics that we are, we get a bit suspicious when talk of big plans starts sounding a bit too promising. Words like word-class, cutting-edge, sensational and head-turning just doesn’t do it for us. But we’d like to make an exception with the dreamers in Middlesborough (in North East of England) whose grandiose plans to revive the Middlehaven docs and the redundant waterfront are actually starting to become reality.

Practically gushing at their own daring, the town leaders unveiled an agreement between the Tees Valley Regeneration  and BioRegional Quintain, one of the UK’s biggest developers. The agreement will apparently bring £200m of investment to Middlesbrough plus 1,000 new jobs; 750 homes designed by top architects, shops, stylish bars, cafés and restaurants and a luxury hotel.

This will also - or so we hope - mean that the master plan of the daring architect Will Alsop will start to materialize in the form of some of the crazy “Meet-the Robinsons-esque” new buildings we’ve seen in the plans.

Alsop is the man who has designed, for example, the Palestra Building, the Peckham Library and the Ben Pimlott Building at goldsmith College — all in London — Hotel du Department des Bouches du Rhone in Marseille, and the Sharp Centre for Design in Toronto. He’s known for fun, playful building with strong colors, unusual shapes and angles.

And we are not the only ones noticing the Middlehaven plans. In March, a team led by Tees Valley Regeneration, developer BioRegional Quintain and its architects Studio Egret West emerged as winners in the “big urban projects” category at the MIPIM (Architectural Review) Future Projects Awards, against other short-listed projects Plot-Scape in Bursa, Turkey and the massive redevelopment of the King’s Cross Station area in London. By Tuija Seipell


April 17 2007

How much fun can you have around a product as un-fun as a radiator? Lots, apparently. Just check the Jaga Radiator Factory website. From the amazing chocolate sculptures at Zona Tortona Design 07 in Milan to massive desert art at Burning Man to the latest Jaga Experience: The Jaga Experience Truck, Jaga is really taking the concept of product promotion to another world.

Built on a Mercedes Actros platform, and designed by Arne Quinze the truck looks somewhat like a milk truck that’s about to become a massive light fixture. Inside, a VIP lounge with white leather furnishings by Moroso, a projections room, kitchen and shower will take care of your comfort. Quinze designs furniture for Moroso in addition to designing under his own label. He’s known for example, for his first collection, Primary Pouf, of 1999 that still sells more than 15,000 pieces annually.

Through the Experience Truck’s 182 windows, the magic of the multicolor LED lighting system (of one mile of LED strips) creates an ever-changing collage. A Dolby surround sound system inside and 4000 Watts of Bose sound power outside guarantee that your ears will have an experience, too. To find out what goes on inside the truck, you just need to leave your computer screen and go where it is (in Milan at the moment) and have a Jaga Experience. By Tuija Seipell

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April 12 2007

This years Geneva Auto Show stunned audiences with a car which teeters on the edge of an optical illusion. Exasis, is a transparent Rinspeed creation has an insect like body, transparent high tech plastic and yellow trim. At first glance it looks like a large scale Meccano set, upon closer inspection the image is literally transparent! Perfect for someone with a Wonder Woman fetish who wants to re-enact the invisible plane routine. How did that poor woman ever find where she parked that damn thing? We suggest adorning it with beaded seat covers ala Taxi Drvier style to help it stand out in the crowd. by Andy G


April 9 2007

My first thought when asked to review a ‘boutique’ hotel, was something along the lines of ‘God help me’. It seems this new breed of hotel was designed purely for city boys and city girls to pour money into for the duration of yet another pointless business trip.  Overpriced, understaffed, and all because people want a kooky carpet in every room. 

So it was with a strange recalcitrance that I walked into London’s Zetter hotel for my Sunday night stay. The former 19th century warehouse sits on the Clerkenwell Road amidst design houses and refurbished blocks in the increasingly trendy Farringdon. Opened in 2004 by Michael Benyan and Mark Sainsbury — the pair behind acclaimed restaurant Moro in nearby Exmouth Market — the focus is strongly on cutting edge-design and eco-friendly living. Natural light floods in from the building's five-storey semi-elliptical atrium, while a borehole drilled beneath the property provides water purified and bottled for drinking.

The tiny lobby is dominated by its chandelier of pink glass calla lilies, and offers three options. To your right, a wood panelled, cork stooled bar, with the Mediterranean themed restaurant beyond. To your left, a small, perfectly formed reception desk. And straight ahead, the red mirrored, boudoir themed lifts. 

Reaching the fifth floor, the aspects of design suddenly become more apparent. The large atrium pushes natural light through the building, and the artwork from local artists breaks up the slightly drab pastel décor. My room for the evening didn’t feel like your bog-standard abode. The eclectic mix of original Penguin Classics, wide screen TV and soft furnishings felt more like an affluent teenagers bedroom than twenty something playground. The enormous wood decked balcony matched the room in size, while London’s newly emerging skyline provided the perfect backdrop.

Add to this ambient mood lighting, free wireless broadband, DVD player and access to a 4000-track music library, my preconceptions of ‘trendy’ hotels suddenly seemed a bit archaic.  The hotel has done away with the outdated amenities that characterise so many other establishments. Most rooms don't have a mini-bar or tea-and coffee-making facilities. Instead, coffee and vending machines on each floor dispense everything from champagne to disposable cameras. Greeting fellow travellers in matching robe and slippers while buying a bottle of champagne is surprisingly relaxing.  

What started out as another over priced, poncy auberge, became a well thought out, modest getaway for the design orientated traveller. But then again, there’s nothing worse than a pretentious critic being proved wrong. By Matthew Hussey


April 9 2007

A new week, a hot new bar: Melbourne.

Some cities put their drinking holes on bold display. All glass frontage and brazen invitation. Some don't. Melbourne is certainly in the latter camp and, so not surprisingly, its latest bar offering, New Gold Mountain - is a hole-in-the-wall affair found down a cobble-stoned laneway and somewhat reminiscent of a womb. Or the inside of I Dream of Jeannie's bottle.

New Gold Mountain, is brought to us by a team of four locals who've worked in leading bars in Melbourne and London. They've teamed with young Australian architect Cassandra Fahey, who for those who follow such things, designed the controversial house for Australian football sensationalist Sam Newman back in 2000... the one with the two story glass frontage imbedded with Pamela Anderson's face. For this project, Fayey took the old tailor's studio on the outskirts of the city's Chinatown district and created a space that works to a distinct opium den theme. Downstairs speaks of colonial-era Shanghai, with two fireplaces decorated with the Chinese zodiac. Upstairs is the Poppy Room featuring plush pink fabrics suspended from the ceiling. And nana-esque furniture. Pretty and comforting. Just as Jeannie would like it.
And the drinks? They specialize in sours. The music? Something described as "nouvelle-vague-Joy Division revisions". Which certainly pegs the clientele into a certain age bracket. A space you might have to track down yourself, but will certainly envelope you once you're in. Sarah W

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April 8 2007

To the relief of many, a visit to a winery no longer has to resemble an agricultural outing with the mandatory trudging along dirt paths and in dark cellars listening to winegrowers go on and on about the terroir of their cru. Wineries — and not just in the newer wine-producing regions — are starting to wake up to today’s design sensibilities.

With winery buildings now often designed by famous architects, and with spectacular winery hotels, wineries with luxurious spas, cool wine-tasting bars, and imaginative wine shops popping up everywhere, the once stuffy wine culture is beginning to feel a bit more like something that even someone without a burning interest in either viti- or viniculture could enjoy.

Wineries are now full-blown brands, where everything from the buildings all the way down to the towels used in the winery’s spa reflects the brand story and the brand identity. This is not to say that the wine itself no longer matters. On the contrary. Most often, the more passionate the wine growing and the more distinctive the qualities of the wine, the more attention is paid to the overall brand. Of course, money plays a role here as well. If the wine is no good and nobody buys it, there isn’t likely to be a designer spa on the property.

An early example of a winery that took the winery visit idea a bit further is the Wilson Daniels estate winery Pegase di Domaine Clos in California’s Napa Valley. It’s often touted as a place of pilgrimage and “America’s first monument to wine as art.” Designed by Michael Graves and completed in 1987, the intriguing winery structure with its 20,000 square feet of caves now houses 1,000 works of art including Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.

A more recent example of winery-as-design-destination is the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marques de Riscal in the medieval Spanish village of Elciego. The startling Gehry building, located at one of the oldest vineyards in Spain, has 43 rooms, a cooking school and two elite restaurants. The spa offers specialized wine therapy treatments that with the help of the wine’s antioxidant properties are said to relieve stress and slow ageing.

So although we are duly impressed with those who are fluent with appellations, terroirs and crus, we must admit that we are more drawn to all things beautiful to the eye. So we’d love to see more of the world’s most amazing wineries, wine-tasting bars, wine showrooms and winery hotels. Let us know where they are, so that we can share the joy with the world. Send your tips to [email protected] or via here . By Tuija Seipell\

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