Archive for September, 2012

Vertical Branding

In a recent post, I mentioned that one of the things that makes the Himalayan water bottle stand out from its competitors is its vertical branding. Similarly, have noticed that several other products – Coca-Cola cans, Fosters beers, Cinthol talcum powder and deodorant, Axe range of products, Eva, etc. –  are also using vertical branding on their packaging. It got me wondering about whether this is the latest trend in packaging design, and even though we are seeing it more and more of it these days, whether it really works. I could think of several factors both for and against it – for instance, when most products have horizontal branding, vertical branding stands out on the shelf, but it could make the brand name difficult to read for many people, especially in a country with low literacy levels. As an aside, one reason it may work well for Himalayan water is that the target audience is well educated and can read the brand name easily.

I reached out to Poornima Burte, Graphic Designer and Owner of Design Orb, a boutique brand design firm, for more information.  [Disclosure: Escape Velocity has worked with Poornima and the Design Orb team in the past]

Excerpts from the discussion with Poornima Burte given below:

RJ: Are there any particular industries, products, packaging type, etc. where vertical branding works well? Any cases in which it should be avoided?

PB: Generally vertical branding works well in horizontally constrained spaces or when using on a curved surface or if the name is long. Vertical branding helps avoid distortion of the brand name on a curved surface, especially if it’s a long name, making it easier to read.

Apart from space constraints, whether to use vertical branding or not depends on how the consumer is going to interact with the product too. For example, in the case of FMCG products that are typically stacked on racks that go all the way to the floor, and the consumer is typically only a foot away from it, it makes it difficult to read a vertically oriented name, especially if they are stocked on the bottom racks. Also, in the case of FMCG products, the shelves that they are stocked on often have a 1-2 inch high railing to prevent the products from falling off the shelves. These railings hide the bottom of all packaging – in such cases also vertical branding is not recommended.

On the other hand, in a chemist shop, a consumer seems the products from a 2-3 feet distance making it easier to read vertically oriented names. Also chemist shelves don’t run all the way to the floor, making it easier to view. Chemist shop shelves are generally glass shelves with no railing in the front, hence avoiding covering any part of the packaging.

That said, while vertical branding works better in chemist shop environments vs. general retail, I would not use vertical branding for prescription products. Prescription products typically have very direct and precise content – for instance, dosage instructions, ingredients, side effects, etc. – that needs to be communicated in a clear manner. On the other hand, in case of an OTC product, apart from such medical oriented content, it may need to convey the same message in a consumer friendly manner too, wherein a lot more imagery and symbols could be used to convey the message. In such cases, vertical branding could be used.

Several products are available in very small pack sizes and in such cases also vertical branding would work especially if they are in a bottle. Say for example, the small 20gm pack size of talcum powders. The bottles are so small that if they continue to use the same packaging design as the regular sized bottles, the logo and imagery used really suffer. They need to be downsized to such a degree that it becomes difficult for consumers to read.

In a more formal corporate setting, vertical logos do not work, but when it comes to packaging it is fine to use a vertical orientation. Industries like fashion, photography, foods and beverages are more open to and use exploratory ways of showing their name, while you’ll hardly find any Fortune 500 company with a logo not oriented horizontally.


RJ: Could you give me some examples of vertical branding where you think it has worked well?

PB:Nowadays I am seeing several beauty and skin care products using vertical branding like in the case of new Sunsilk hair care range called Keratinology. Contrast this to their regular line of hair care which has its branding horizontally oriented. The new packaging is using taller, slimmer bottles and hence vertical branding works better here.


RJ: Do you think vertical branding is the new trend in packaging design?

PB: Logos need to last, they need a certain degree of longevity and therefore one shouldn’t move with trends. Orienting the logo is more about being appropriate than being trendy.

Vertical branding is not the latest trend, it’s been around for a while; given its nature and constraints, it needs to be deployed with sensitivity for optimum results.


  • Roshni Jhaveri


September 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm 2 comments

Rest In Peace, Verghese Kurien

(Note from Ed : This post is reproduced from another blog – with the author’s approval, of course. Here’s a link to the original post)

The news this week in India is full of tributes to Verghese Kurien, the father of the “white revolution” there. Thanks to his life’s work of helping form milk cooperatives throughout the country, dairy farmers thrived, and India went from milk deficiency to production titan over the last several decades.

Kurien’s death on September 9 even caused the Amul girl to shed tears – she’s the cartoon mascot of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation who anyone who’s bought butter in India knows well.

The Jester believes the story of Amul is exactly the kind that the development community needs to tell more of: helping those at the roots of the global economic tree self-organize so as to improve their bargaining power with respect to those who control the trunk. It’s notable that in awarding him the World Food Prize, the committee cited “his recognition that feeding the world’s citizens includes coordinating breakthroughs in production with effective management and distribution strategies” (NYT Sept. 10, 2012). The Jester can almost hear the sound of one hand slapping… the collective palms of the WFP officials striking their foreheads when they realized it’s not just chemicals, new seeds, and artificially inseminated cows! You need effective management and distribution strategies! Whoa, what an idea! Did you hear that, Rich Philanthropists and Multilateral Policy Makers?

Apparently, Kurien didn’t stop at milk: In the 1980s, he began working to expand vegetable oil cooperatives. If there were a Kurien for every smallholder farm product, “international development” might very well go the way of “groovy” and “far out” in the American lexicon.

“Thanks, Jester, for stating the obvious,” the old-hat reader might say. “But why is this topic of interest to the Jester?”

What caught the Jester’s eye was a little sentence buried in an obituary by the New York Times (thanks to Melissa Ho for sending). It said, “Mr. Kurien returned from doing graduate work in mechanical engineering… and began working at a government research creamery.” That’s right — Kurien studied mechanical engineering!

Looking back from 2012, it’s incredible that Kurien didn’t feel the crushing internal pressure ”to put his technical skills to use for society” as the Jester all-too-often hears from idealistic technology graduates (who are obviously not reading the Jester’s archives!).

It’s amazing that he didn’t decide to design a fancy-but-affordable contraption to milk cows more efficiently (cow-milking machines designed in the developed world are not sensitive to the subcontinent’s local context — there are lots of buffalos in Mother India, don’t you know? And, buffalos from different states respond to different languages, to say nothing of the varying dialects from district to district.).

And it’s absolutely, positively stunning that he didn’t invent a wireless udder monitor that sends cattle owners an SMS when their cows are due for a milking, thus saving dairy farmers the arduous task of squinting to see if an udder is full. (Then again, Kurien had the great advantage of having been exposed to the challenges of dairy farmers well before time division multiple access communication protocols.)

Yes, that’s right — it is actually possible to apply the problem-solving skills that one hones through a good engineering education towards helping people organize, own, and manage their own production capacity, as opposed to helping design fancy gadgets that streamline production capacity that otherwise barely exists.

This week, the Jester’s hat flies at half mast. Verghese Kurien — the Jester wishes that you are resting in a deep, profoundly well-deserved peace.

(Note from Ed : For more posts by the same author, here’s a link to his blog)

September 18, 2012 at 4:07 am Leave a comment

We’ve reached a century!

A 100 posts that is!

Thank you to all our guest contributors and encouraging readers.

Reason enough to rejoice and have some fun. So here it is, a post with no objective other than for us to chill out and celebrate this milestone.

A few numerical facts first:

  • Simple stuff first; One hundred is the square of 10 (in scientific notation it is written as 102).
  • One hundred is the basis of percentages (per cent meaning “per hundred” in Latin), with 100% being a full amount.
  • It is the sum of the first nine prime numbers… (did you know this? if you’re wondering which ones, here’s the answer, it’s 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17,19,23)
  • … as well as the sum of first 10 odd numbers (1+3+5+7+9+11+13+15+17+19 = 100)
  • … as well as the sum of four pairs of prime numbers (47 + 53, 17 + 83, 3 + 97, 41 + 59)
  • Also, 26 + 62 = 100, thus 100 is a Leyland number. (Now we’re really getting down to business, aren’t we!)
  • A googol is 10 raised to the power hundred, or the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros ;
  • Incidentally, a googolplex is 10 raised to the power of a googol; a googolplex is 1 with a googol of zeros. As per this site, you will get some idea of the size of this very large but finite number from the fact that there would not be enough room to write it, if you went to the farthest star, touring all the nebulae and putting down zeros every inch of the way.

And now some lighter stuff:

  • To begin, a useful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson for all in stressful jobs, ‘Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence.’
  • The 100th day of the year in a non-leap year is April 10th
  • Year 100 was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Roman calendar
  • Nostradamus’ collection of prophetic verses are a total of 942 quatrains (a quatrain is a poem of 4 lines) divided into ten sections called ‘Centuries’, which refers to the number of verses in each section. Like the rest of us, he did some adjustment too, one of the centuries had only 42 quatrains.
  • There are 4 Indians in the Forbes list of top 100 richest people in the World: Mukesh Ambani, Lakshmi Mittal, Azim Premji and Savitri Jindal & family
  • Usain Bolt holds the record for the fastest 100m sprint: 9.63 seconds. The fastest 100m sprint by an Indian is by Amit Kumar Prakash at 10.30 seconds
  • You hear 100 blasts of the Shofar in the service of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
  • There are 100 tiles in a standard Scrabble set
  • The 100th element on the periodic table of elements is Fermium, a rare radioactive earth metal, a member of the actinide series
  • Indian cinema turned 100 in April 2012
  • ‘100 Days’ is a Bollywood film released in 1991 starring Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff, Moon Moon Sen, and Javed Jaffrey. The film is a mystery thriller that follows the adventures of a woman with extrasensory perception. (Apologies to those who feel we’ve skipped from the sublime to the ridiculous)
  • One Hundred Horses – a lovely hand scroll with ink and colors on silk by Lang Shih Ning (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766), an Italian Jesuit who became a Chinese court painter for Emperor Ch’ien Lung (ruled 1736-1795). The painting is on exhibit at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, and you can view it at this site; for maximizing viewing pleasure, click on the ‘enlargement’ button
  • Dante’s Commedia has 100 cantos (34 cantos Inferno, 33 cantos Purgatorio and 33 cantos Paradiso)
  • In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra had 100 sons called the Kauravas
  • And to end, a quote from Walden by Henry David Thoreau:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three,
and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen,
and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”

Sources – Wikipedia and assorted websites

Compiled by,

Zenobia Driver

September 13, 2012 at 9:01 am 4 comments


Sometime last year, we’d run a series of posts on the topic on dealing with the challenge of ‘need, but don’t want’ in the health and wellness domain – you can read the posts in the series here, here, here and here. These discussed the problem of physiological (and often, medical) need for the product, but no desire to buy from the consumer; it’s a topic that we keep thinking about and researching ourselves, while keeping our eyes peeled for information on this topic from other sources.

As we mentioned in one of these posts :

In the healthcare space, while it’s tempting to say that there is the tangible benefit of getting better and that should matter to patients, the basic issue is that all the ill-effects of ailments such as diabetes, high cholesterol or BP are typically not evident immediately, thus, the benefit of taking medication regularly and of making other lifestyle modifications is unclear to many patients. Habit change is always hard, when the reward for it is nebulous and indeterminate, it only becomes more so.

Recently, thanks to my friends R & G, I came across this TED Talk that threw more light on this subject and I just had to share it with readers of this blog. In a nutshell, the speaker says that giving people medical information in a form that they can comprehend and that helps them see the way ahead to better outcomes, can actually boost their motivation to do something to achieve those outcomes.

A few sentences from the transcript of the talk are reproduced below to whet your appetite, hope you actually watch the entire video after reading these.

You’re looking at things where people are actually given information, and they’re not following through with it. It’s a problem that manifests itself in diabetes, obesity, many forms of heart disease, even some forms of cancer- when you think of smoking. Those are all behaviours where people know what they’re supposed to do. They know what they’re supposed to be doing, but they’re not doing it.


But for as much as clinical medicine agonises over behaviour change, there’s not a lot of work done in terms of trying to fix that problem. So the crux of it comes down to this notion of decision-making – giving people information in a form that doesn’t just educate them or inform them, but actually leads them to make better decisions, better choices in their lives. 

  • Zenobia Driver

September 7, 2012 at 10:41 am 2 comments

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