Feb 24, 2014

Simply more complicated

I would definitely rank myself in the top 10 fans of the original Dorset Cereals packaging. It remains a shining exemplar of the amazing power of design to transform the codes of a market, and attract a large new group of buyers to a previously tired category. If you really want to know how design works and you’re not about to go into a meeting, I’d thoroughly recommend this forensic semiotic analysis of how Dorset’s design codes took over the world (of muesli).

But success brings its own challenges, like how to extend a big hit into adjacent segments. Dorset’s new granola range (in ‘simply’, ‘gently’ and ‘decadently’ baked varieties to name but three) chooses to differentiate itself from its parent design with the use of kaleidoscopic art. Look carefully and the trademark leaves are still in there somewhere, but only a designer would notice. It’s a similar story on another extension into toasted muesli, but this time the leaves are strangely grafted onto a magical flowering fruit tree with attendant swallows.

With so many brands and private labels now copying the dorset school, it’s more important than ever to define the brand design DNA. Whilst these extensions clearly tick most of the right boxes, I wonder if the dominance of the ‘etsy’ illustrations dilutes the honest simplicity (and uniqueness) just a little?