Anthology of Pizza Box Graphic Design

I literally have no idea where to start with this one:


The word ARTISANS emblazoned under the instantly-recognizable Domino’s logo was powerful enough to halt my brisk walk to the train station and deglove my hands in 1°C weather to take a picture. Upon closer inspection I saw the “not,” and the combination of delight and confusion hit me so hard I thought I was going to puke. I started to read the text but “we don’t wear black berets…” was instantly too much, and tears of silent, body-shaking laughter started to freeze on my cheeks.

This pizza box essentially triggered a bout of full-blown mania, and I feel like God is speaking directly to me through it. My life makes sense. The world is a beautiful place. My thoughts are so rollicksome that I will have to make a simple list to point out everything that is going on here in this nugget of perfect, perfect awfulness:

1. Why all the pride in sucking?

The care taken in embellishing the word “NOT” is sad and confusing. The first sentence implies that “this pizza is going to be 100 times worse than any other pizza you have ever had.” I mean, you can make a pizza with all the passion you want (and how do you apply integrity to pizza-making, anyway?), but if you’re cooking it in a microwave or whatever the hell Domino’s uses, it’s still going to suck.

There’s also a bit of a hipster dive bar vs. craft cocktail establishment going on here. Like, “not sucking is so mainstream; we sucked before it was cool and we’re going to keep on sucking.”

2. Pizza chefs DO NOT wear “black berets”

Does this guy look like he’s about to start tossing some dough in the air?

No, it looks like he’s going to war.

3. And in the end they call their pizza artisanal!

PICK AN ANGLE, GUYS. Are you or aren’t you?

4. That blank signature field says it all

Bitch, please. Nobody wants their name attached to that shit, Domino’s. And what the FUCK is the tiny “oh yes we did!” referring to? We totally lied to you and now you’re eating something that an excess of twelve rats scampered across since yesterday when we made it and heated it up in microwave for you just now?

Today’s edition of The Anthology of Pizza Box Graphic Design brings us to Picnic Pizza in Kingston, NY. Like so many excellent New York area pizza holes, Picnic is located in a cement building minutes away from the highway.

Don’t be alarmed by the aforementioned cement and the casual use of neon — this place is gourmet at its best. During our last visit, Mr. Max, Lena and I shared 4 slices: white with broccoli, eggplant parm, tangy roasted tomato and mushroom, and classic tomato basil (natch). All were exceptional — bold flavor, crisp crust, and the perfect amount of sauce. Massachusetts has NOTHING on this.

Before we left, we made sure to snap a pic of their collection of pizza box designs (assisted by the ever-obliging counter staff).

Box #1:

A somber take on the city scene genre. In addition to the tiled streets and brick buildings, this abandoned square features a stone fountain flanked by adorable decorative plants. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be any water in the fountain. And where are the people? Is this a post-apocalyptic city? Is that a drone in the sky? Should I stop watching so many war documentaries?

Box #2:

Another quaint city scene. I’ve reached the point with TAOPBGD where i have to search my own archives to find out whether or not I’ve reviewed something. It turns out I’ve seen this one before, albeit in a color scheme I termed “autumn vomit.” It looks much better in traditional pizza box red and black ink, and I definitely appreciate the classic script font. Look at those swirls and loops! God I just love tacky fonts. (Take that, Helvetica.)

In my continuing mission to document America’s greatest design treasure, I’ve traveled near and far to collect four new entries for the Anthology of Pizza Box Graphic Design.

Adorable Vegetables: Part 1

Design Assessment: They’ve packed more cuteness into this line art than a bathtub full of baby sloths. I love the bulbous garlic and jaunty, plump mushrooms.

Generic Product Claim: They pull us in with “Fresh oven baked…” and seal the deal with “It’s the greatest!”

Adorable Vegetables: Part 2

Design Assessment: This design puts a pie front and center, with mushrooms, olives, a tomato, and a wheat sprig (which I’m guessing is meant to be a symbol, not a topping) peeking out from behind.

Generic Product Claim: A slight rearrangement of the prior box: “Baked oven fresh.”

Little City

Design Assessment: Let’s be honest: this looks like a photocopy of an office memo. There’s no generic product claims (Hot! Fresh!) or cute renderings of cartoon toppings. I can’t even figure out if the drippy ink is a “style” or the result of inexpensive screen printing. However, none of this really matters. Why? Because the margherita pie it contained was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. It would have been delicious served out of a black hefty bag.

Fake Classicism: Sbarro

Design Assessment: Sbarro is the official fake pizza joint of American malls, and this box design is authentic in its inauthenticity. While the red ink, tacky uppercase font, and unnecessary exclamation mark are all elements common to classic boxes, something just feels wrong about the combination here. The text isn’t where it should be, there’s a weird white box around the logo, and the 50th anniversary banner just confuses me.

Generic Product Claim: A slightly wordy take on an old standard: “Hot and delicious pizza!”

Behold the WikiPizza:


Visual Assessment: With all honesty, I didn’t read a single word on this box until right now and am currently struggling to make it through a sentence. I’m getting tired. This pizza box is wearisome. In order to stay awake, I’m going to insert some more media because there’s certainly nothing fun to see on that tedious, tedious box unless you find a Wingdings crown at all stimulating.

A spot-on comparison by Attempted Blogger and, like Dr. B’s labels, this pizza box lid requires some parsing.

They start out by quoting themselves welcoming you to their/your pizza. Weird. Here you’ll also find the only exclamation point; the rest of the box drones on using oddly-placed ellipses about family pride, fresh ingredients and ends up sounding like a eulogy for St. Anthony Polcari: the hardest working man ever.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear about how great the pizza they used to make was. We spend an awful lot of time in the past on this pizza box, and even though they try to twist it around to say everything has been delicious and wonderful for 85 years, they can’t completely hide their wistfulness with the almost-morbid “Since those early days, the faces have changed.” The follow-up of “But the Polcari family still keeps a watchful eye over all” is weird and menacing and WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS IT IS A PIZZA BOX NOT A NOVELLA. Oh, but it is.

Generic product claims: Despite this pizza box already being a big old windbag, they still slide in a few things that everyone already knows about pizza. Namely, that pride and hard work make the best pizzas, as does using the freshest, finest ingredients. Yawn city.

Overall:  Way too much lore, and it’s poorly-written and weird. Comic Sans, a QR code, and a shitty crown are the only visual jazz, and the actual name of the pizzeria is jammed down in the lower corner.  All visual content critiques aside, the pizza itself was very delicious and highly recommended. As the Polcari’s “special pride” warrants, I was “happily satisfied” indeed.

We’ve got two piping hot entries for this installment of TAOPBGD. And, unlike the pizzas contained within, these boxes won’t give you heartburn for four straight days.

City Scenes, Again

Visual Assessment: I never noticed the abundance of street scene-themed boxes until I started documenting the trend here on The Lower Crust. I’m guessing boxes like these are supposed to invoke a romanticized vision of Little Italy (primarily drawn from that spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp). Like generic product claims (“Fresh dough daily!”), this is pure fiction; modern pizza joints aren’t found down quaint cobblestone streets — they’re sandwiched between a nail place and a Dollar General in a dilapidated strip mall. Because that’s America. 

Italian Stereotype(s): There’s a pair of them standing right between the bored-looking couple and the guy on the bike who looks like he was drawn by The Oatmeal. Two for one!

Pizza: Not a Symbol

Visual Assessment: Red and green printing and a script font put this box squarely in the “classic” design category. I’m a little confused by the regal imagery, though. It makes me think I’m looking at a Medieval Times takeout box.

Generic Product Claim: This one’s a little weird. Instead of being “Hot” or “Fresh,” we’re told that “pizza” is a “symbol of quality.” Uh…I don’t think pizza is a recognized symbol of anything. Also, “symbol of quality” is one of those expressions that makes less and less sense the more you think about it.

Presumptuous Thank You: “Thank you from your favorite pizza shop.” How do you know it’s my favorite pizza shop? Maybe it sucks — you don’t know. (Actually, this pizza was pretty tasty. But don’t tell me what to think, dude.)

Box #1 was collected on the trek home from our family vacation in Cape Cod.

Visual Assessment There’s the presence of pizza box red ink, and the promise of “Italian Family Dining,” but the place is called “The Chateau”? I’m a little confused.

Generic Product Claim: The old stand-by: “Fresh Hot Pizza.”

Rating: Weird but memorable.

Box #2 was found abandoned in a community fridge. I usually stick with boxes from pizza that I personally purchased, but in this case the box was too good to resist.

Visual Assessment: Classicism on steroids. Classic red ink, an Italian Stereotype with a healthy ‘stache and eyebrows, and a nicely rendered slice complete with bubbly cheese.

Generic Product Claim: “Fresh, Hot And Delicious” (with punctuation). Also, PIZZA.

Rating: Probably one of my favorite chef-focused design. Love that neckerchief!

Every six months or so this flyer arrives from Holyoke’s oldest pizzeria, Italian Friendly.

Did you know they are Italian? I mean, they’re called Italian Friendly but just in case it wasn’t clear the following phrases appear on the front page:

“Ay, Forgettaboutit” (I always wondered how to spell that)

“Now you know what I’m talkin’ about”

“Bada bing!”

Need more evidence? The inside menu lists such items as:

“Al Pacino”

“Italian Delight”

and (once again) “Bada Bing”

I’m surprised they didn’t put a cartoon Italian Stereotype chef on the front. To each their own, I guess.