The Anthology of Pizza Box Graphic Design: This Modern World

As you may have noticed, I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to Pizza Box Graphic Design. Mario-esque chefs, black and/or red ink designs, generic product claims — these are at the heart of TAOPBGD.

But this week I’m taking a little detour into modernism with not one but TWO non-vintage box designs.

Box #1: The Upper Crust

This box came from Sam’s, a “pizza cafe” in the heart of Northampton, MA. Northampton (or NoHo, if you feel like being irritating) is home  to both Smith College and a gazillion locally owned coffee shops — ensuring a nearly 100% chance of seeing a tattoo of a nautical symbol or a nose ring on any given day.

Sam’s is a bit more uppity than the places we usually seek out for pizza  (example: we once went to a pizza joint based on a Yelp review describing it as “dirty but good”). But they do have gourmet slices, are open very late, and serve coffee — all facts that, bucking traditionalism, they print right on the box.

Visual Assessment: Red and black ink and “Free Delivery” are the only elements common to the traditional pizza box of yore. No genre scene of Italian stereotypes. No wacky fonts or italics. The word “pizza” doesn’t even appear prominently– instead it’s “pizzeria and cafe.” And a URL. A URL on a pizza box? At least they skipped the QR code.

Generic Product Claims: Hours, a phone number, a menu of sorts… this box really gets into the nitty-gritty with the details. None of your daddy’s generic product claims like “Hot” or “Fresh” or “Made Just for You.” And (at least for Massachusetts) a telltale sign of a truly modern dining establishment: espresso NOT spelled “expresso.”

Rating: It’s a modern box, and therefore not my chosen genre. But definite points for spelling, the use of traditional pizza colors  (red and black), and the inventive application of an eighth note as an apostrophe. Cute!

Box #2: The Deconstructed

Ummm…Yeah.

I have a BFA, which means that I 1) was 17 when I chose my college major and 2) have seen more outstanding displays of BS passed off as art than you could possibly imagine.

Once, in a college metalworking class, I witnessed a student successfully deliver a ham sandwich as a completed assignment. The assignment was supposed to utilize modular units to make a sculpture. It was a club sandwich.

So my first reaction to this pizza box was to imagine a hipster designer standing before this “piece” and defending it as an example of “extreme deconstruction.”

Art degrees do that to you.

But in this humble design-less cardboard box was perfection: a bubbly cheese pie with feta and kalamata olives. It was organic, and with local ingredients, but still traditional in execution and, despite being from Massachusetts, very very New York.

Mr. Max thinks the picture doesn’t do it justice. But I think, even with my dinky camera, it’s clear that this is a bad photo of GOOD pizza.

Rating: The pizza’s a definite win, but the box just wasn’t trying, so I’m going all gym teacher and giving it an incomplete.

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