Design Review: Squirt


Guest reviewer Tim Lapetino is a brand strategist and designer at Hexanine. Today he takes a look at a recent beverage packaging reboot.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group has recently given its flagship citrus beverage, Squirt, a facelift, and we're going to look at the new look from a package design perspective. Did DPSG meet its objectives, set itself apart, and basically spend its Squirt marketing budget wisely?

New Squirt Design

New Squirt Design

There are so many factors that influence the success of a beverage brand that have nothing to do with the actual flavor or taste of the drink. In some sense, the way a drink tastes is last in a long chain of events leading up to purchase and guzzling. Every step that leads up to the actual drink pouring down your throat is what brand designers call a "moment of brand engagement," a singular opportunity for beverage makers to connect with you, the prospective audience/purchaser.

Old Squirt Design

Old Squirt Design

Advertisements, commercials, product placement in movies & TV, logo design, the label style, and bottle shape – even the color of the cap plays a part in either attracting people to the drink or pushing them away. It's not an exact science, but there are some things that we graphic designers look for when evaluating package designs, whether it's work we've done, or the offerings of a competitor. (Of course, if someone hates or loves a beverage's taste, few forces on earth can change that decided mind, but that's beside the point today.) Below are some major points we consider when judging whether a beverage is doing a good job of selling itself on the crowded shelves of the modern marketplace.

1. Appetite Appeal
In a nutshell, this is about taste. Does the package design look like something that would make you hungry or thirsty? Do the colors and graphical elements suggest flavors or flavor cues that you're familiar and comfortable with (like slices of fruit or bunches of berries)? Is it easy to tell what the main flavor ingredients are (regardless of whether they're artificial or natural)?

2. Design Craft
Is the design created with a high level of craftsmanship? Is the logo (and the brand identity) well-executed and unique in its market? Do the elements fit well together? Is the color palette harmonious? (A fancy way of saying, "Do these colors work well together?") Is the printing executed well, making it easy to read and simple to understand? Is the logo being supported by appropriate design elements, like photography, illustration, patterns

3. Shelf Power
Does the design help it pop off the shelf? Does it use basic design principles of contrast, gestalt, and hierarchy to deliver a clear and powerful message? (In the case of beverages, this would be something along the lines of "Buy me and drink me!")

4. Competitive Differentiation/Distinctiveness
Is it easily discernible amongst the competition? How does the brand identity measure up? Is the overall design communicating something that none of the other soda brands can claim? How does the branding carve out a unique niche for itself? Does the bottle shape stand out from others – i.e. Does it have a texture that separates it from other flavors in the same line, or even other brands? Does the drink protect and retain its brand equity – the essential brand elements that have built equity and connection with buyers over time?

So, those are the ground rules, and I'm going to go ahead and walk through them with the new Squirt packaging, to see how it fares when held up to these broad standards.

Squirt Appetite Appeal
The new Squirt doesn't do a terrible job in this area, but the redesign has certainly left some crucial flavor elements by the side of the road. Some of this stems from the issue that the makers of Squirt have never come out directly and said what sort of "citrus soda" it is that we're drinking. Is it lemon? Lemon-lime? Grapefruit? Some sort of blend? Hard to tell. But if you look carefully at the previous designs, and even do some digging into historical imagery, you'll see a clear line of grapefruit styled images as part of the branding.

Vintage Squirt Design

Vintage Squirt Design
(Source: Flickr, used via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Notice that the grapefruit images have gotten significantly less prominent in the new designs – on the actual bottles they are very hard to spot. The previous package design uses a stylized grapefruit (or is it an orange? A lemon-lime? See, it's that nebulous "citrus" flavor!) as a prominent art element, and the typography is centered on the slice of fruit.

Old Design: Grapefruit iconography

Old Design: Grapefruit iconography

But the new design seems to be doing its best to marginalize the fruit, instead relying on the old "citrus" standby pallette of yellow, greens, and red. More about color schemes in a moment. So, it's not simple to tell what flavors you'll be getting from the new Squirt, but that's sort of par for the course in this sub-section of sodaland. The competitors share many of these same colors.

Squirt Design Craft
Sadly, it seems like this is the place where the DPSG design team has really dropped the ball. Overall, they took a powerful, bold type treatment and turned it into a weak, less-effective logotype. The logo lettering has gotten thinner and more vertical, while also being tilted counterclockwise. This makes the whole affair far less readable, lessening the shelf impact.

New Design: Thinner, angled lettering

New Design: Thinner, angled lettering

Where the previous logotype was bold, thick, and powerful, the new Squirt lettering seems weak and a little antiquated. Perhaps the designers were reaching back into the brand's history to tie into some long-held nostalgia, but I don't think it's working in this case. Also, by placing the type against a solid yellow background, with very little white outline, the new type doesn't have enough contrast to "pop" off the bottle the way the previous version did.

Old Design: Great contrast and "pop"

Old Design: Great contrast and "pop"

A thick white outline and green keyline really set the previous logo apart from its fruit background, giving it some visual punch. But the lower-contrast current packaging just comes off as simpler, weaker, and skinnier – like it's just asking to get beat up by a tougher beverage like its rowdy Mountain Dew cousin.

Squirt Shelf Power
Because of the design choices we mentioned above, it's clear that the new Squirt isn't standing out on the crowded shelf the way it once did. The design has less visual energy, less readability, and a visually-weaker logo. The design team has seemingly tried to replace the now-marginalized grapefruit images with a more prominent "squirt spray" of citrus drops, but theses come across as seeming whimsical, rather than promising bold "citrus bursts."

New Design: Weak "spray" of citrus drops

New Design: Weak "spray" of citrus drops

In fact, the "citrus burst" line has been removed all together from the new packaging – perhaps we're witnessing a kinder, gentler Squirt. This could all be by design, but we'd have to get our hands on the prescriptive design brief to know for sure.

Squirt Differentiation and Distinctiveness
This is an interesting area, because a look at Squirt's competitors (Pepsi's Citrus Blast, Coke's Fanta Grapefruit, Fresca, and Canfield's 50/50) reveals that they are all basically playing in the same ballpark.

Comparison: Old Squirt vs. Citrus Blast

Comparison: Old Squirt vs. Citrus Blast

Pepsi's Citrus Blast seems like it has copied, almost note-for-note, the previous Squirt package design. From the outward-shooting citrus starburst graphics to the small "spray" coming out from the "i" in Citrus, Pepsi has unabashedly echoed its competitors previous design. In this tight drink market, this isn't unusual, but it's still rather lame.

Comparison: New Squirt vs. Citrus Blast

Comparison: New Squirt vs. Citrus Blast

Of interest, however, this newer Squirt design does differentiate from the Citrus Blast look, albeit slightly.

Fresca and Fanta Grapefruit

Fresca and Fanta Grapefruit

Fanta Grapefruit and Fresca have distanced themselves visually from the red-heavy designs of Squirt and Citrus, preferring to stick to a palette of cooler colors – greens and blues, though I'd argue that designs that are predominately blue or green aren't going to have the same appetite appeal unless they're heavily focusing on the lime flavor, and that doesn't seem to be the case. 50/50 seems to stand on its own, with a mostly white and silver packaging.

Conclusion
By de-emphasizing the citrus fruit imagery and playing up the "spray" art elements, I think Squirt has abandoned some of the visual equity it had built, trading it for a much weaker set of elements. Overall, the design doesn't work as hard as previous iterations, and I think that in the non-cola drink arena, this could cost DPSG some sales.

Comments

  1. Well, as a 'regular' consumer – I like the redesign – so does my wife. In fact we both noticed it on Sunday when shopping and commented on it…

  2. FernLaPlante says:

    I like the taste of Squirt. It's refreshing on a hot day so the package design won't necessarily influence me to buy more or less. However, I am one of those "oooh! The package is new. I need to buy this." type of person so it does catch my eye in the store.

    That being said, I understand what Squirt is going for (I think). A retro look that may pull at people's nostalgia – but I don't feel (I could be wrong) that Squirt carries as much nostalgia as other sodas. But the new font looks anemic. The previous design with the mystery-citrus fruit on the label said "Refreshing!" "Cool!" and possibly even "healthy" – it does have a fruit on it, afterall. The new design reminds me of Mello-Yello (does that still exist?) and looks dated as opposed to nostalgic. It actually looks slightly unappealing – something about the yellow color is less citrus and more jaundice.

    As for the competitors. I don't love Fresca but the can design looks like it would be thirst quenching, refreshing, cool (temperature). The Fanta design I hate and the Citrus Blast (which I have never heard of until I read this) doesn't even look like a Pepsi product. It looks like a generic store-brand.

  3. Although I don't regularly buy Squirt, I like the redesign. I'm all for simpler antiquated designs, so the older it looks the more apt I am to buy it. That's just the way I am. I think Pepsi hit the nail on the head with their throwback sodas, Great soda with great packaging IMO.

  4. The new Squirt logo looks even worse the Citrus Blast one and more generic. Although Citrus Blast tastes better.

  5. Wouldn't it be nice if Squirt still contained the 5 simple ingredients listed in that old 1930's image, water, sugar, grapefruit juice, citric acid & grapefruit oil. Today's version is Squirt in name only and bears no resemblance to the original formula. Ingredients:Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Less Than 2% of: Concentrated Grapefruit Juices, Citric Acid, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin, Brominated Vegetable Oil.

  6. The logo would have looked good in the lates 70s, early 80s. Too bad they didn't mean to do that as they could have gone with a retro fusion look. In my opinion, this fails on a graphic design level.

  7. Phillip says:

    I love Squirt, and while I liked the old design, I think that other than going too thin on the font, it is a good redesign. Either way I will still buy it only on occasion though.

    Also, to respond to commenter #2 (Fern) Mello Yello is still around(and delicious) and actually also recently(in the last year) redesigned their logo(it's lower-case like Pepsi's new stuff).

  8. I agree that the new design is weaker overall, and would be less likely to grab my attention in the unlikely event that I was seeking a Squirt-like beverage.

    The main thing lacking in the new design is a sense of fun. The new design has a much more reserved and cautious attitude. But it's a beverage named Squirt, for goodness sake, who are they trying to kid?

    I suppose this could turn out to be an advantage with some consumers. Customers wanting to avoid a beverage that looks too unhealthy or too much like a kids' drink might be more likely to reach for the new design.

  9. The main thing lacking in the new design is a sense of fun. The new design has a much more reserved and cautious attitude. Package design should look like something that would attract you a lot.

  10. Actually, I like the new design. It actually drew my eye back to the Squirt bottle in the store, making me go "Oh yeah, Squirt! I like Squirt and haven't had it in forever." It's cleaner and more direct and makes the brand more easier to spot.

Trackbacks

  1. […] drink doesn't have a grapefruit flavor, it would feel comfortable next to the taste profiles of Squirt and Mountain Dew White Out. Overall, this is a very tasty drink, though the aftertaste does suffer […]

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