Or more correctly speaking JAM Pedals’ Greek Design Agency Group ’Beetroot’ won the Gold Award in the ’17.8 Printed Miscellaneous’ category of this year’s European Design Awards. And well deserved in my opinion as JAM Pedals is one of the relatively few companies that focuses as much attention on its packaging as it does the enclosure artwork and of course its key circuit designs.
Modern day ’Unboxing’ has risen to a new level of artistry where for luxury brands it is a key foundation part of the experience. Peeling back quality sticky labels and undoing ribbons and layers of chiffon paper are what elevates high fashion above the mundane. Unpacking a luxury item is its own sensory experience and defines to a degree how you first feel about your new purchase.
Natalie Massenet - creator of designer fashion portal Net-a-Porter cites high-quality packaging as playing a huge part in her then new brand gaining global traction so quickly, and Apple of course led the way for technology brands - making a ritual of the unboxing of its flagship products.
For JAM Pedals the packaging designs are obviously inspired by their colourful enclosure artworks - but still there is some formidable work in designing the mechanics of those 2-stage sleeves with cut-aways exposing intriguing design details. JAM Pedal should rightfully be lauded and celebrated for its packaging - but I have other examples which may even be a step more inspired.
In fact my favourite pedal unboxing experiences to date comes from Chase Bliss Audio - or at least for their now alas retired wooden 'Bliss Boxes'. The individually naturally dyed boxes with slightly mysterious inner pouches and superbly formatted manuals were just a joy to receive, unpack and own.
I think I would have preferred the pouches to be a little more velvety in nature / material but other than that this was the pinnacle of pedal unboxing for me. There wasn't much in the way of case candy - where nowadays you get pin-badges, keyrings, plectrums and lots and lots of sticker. I really haven't used those much since my DJ-ing days - possibly if I was a touring musician they would come more in handy, but I don't necessarily miss the assortment of goodies included with many pedals nowadays. As I only play Jazz III size plectrums - I have a huge collection of case candy plectrums which are all pretty much useless for me.
Apart from a proper quality full-colour manual with setting / serving suggestions - the only thing I really like seeing in my pedal box is those little rubber feet - mind you the medium-sized ones and not the tiddlers! In any case the Chase Bliss Audio experience used to be nigh on perfect and I expected more of their replacement cardboard series of boxes. I came late to their MOOD Micro-Looper Pedal and ended up with my one and only Chase Bliss Audio cardboard pedal box - and I have to say it's a real disappointment versus its predecessor - it still has the great manual format as far as I recall, but there is no pouch and no flair or excitement any more - the design of the box is altogether a little uninspiring - especially since it was preceded by one of the greatest range re-launches of recent time.
I credited Matthews Effects as 'Best Range Revamp in recent memory' - where Rick Matthews superbly drew from the ornate Victorian-themed pedal artwork for the packaging and filled it with some cool case candy. I have just one of those new pedals - The Architect V3, but the unboxing experience was a joy - with a beautifully designed assortment of warranty card, business card, pedal guide etc inside that very attractive cardboard box.
Rick obviously leveraged his joining the Boutique Amps Distribution family and they were able to provide him with economies of scale for his range re-launch. This is just a solid cardboard engineering exercise - it doesn't have any of that hideous frazzly paper filler or the like - just a well constructed box - whose structure provides ample protection for the pedal without needing any of those annoying packing materials.
This to me is a benchmark exercise in range revamp and packaging upgrade - everything about this was done exactly right in my opinion. It doesn't quite have the charm of the CBA Bliss Box - which was alway going to be unsustainable in the longer term. And Rick's solution here is about as sensible and sustainable as it can be while still having bundles of flair and pizazz!
Another expert on flair and pizazz is Dutch Maestro Roel Aben of Dr. No Effects who creates some extraordinary packaging for his marvellous otherworldly pedal creations. None better than the hollow story book for his Sarah Lipstate / Noveller signature Moon Canyon - Overdrive + Effects-Loop + Reverb + Delay Pedal.
Obviously somewhat a visual pun on the 'Noveller' moniker in using an actual story book novel as the main pedal packaging - the whole thing is just inspired and looks gorgeous to boot! This is probably the finest example by Dr. No and should serve as inspiration for everyone as to how to take packaging to the next level. This definitely makes it feel that you've gotten hold of something really special.
For a fledgling brand, Mikey Demus' Redbeard Effects got off to a proper flying start with some really clever and unique packaging choices. Leading on 'More Flavour' - the original Red Mist MKIV pedal was packed into a foil-lined paper coffee bag which was set into a suitably classy reverse-printed box - as pictured above.
Plenty of case candy here too in the form of Thank You Card, Contact Card, Plectrum, Keyring and a couple of stickers. The only think missing here was a guide / manual - and some of those rubber feet I like so well. Instead of a manual there is a Q-code on the side of the box which brings you to the relevant page of the website. Obviously great for eco reasons and ease of updating - but I'm one of the few that still likes to scan a hardcopy manual or guide-card before I get stuck in. In this instance the manual really is just for the sample settings as everything else is as straightforward as it gets. Very cool pedal launch - which pretty much got everything right - right from the start!
Most of you aren't aware of quite how deep a thinker Adrian Thorpe is - he has to be one of the most quick-witted of pedal designers as he puts together the whole concept of each pedal right from the start - not just the circuit, but the name, graphic / artwork, enclosure and knob colour choices. I feel this art is at its peak for the Camoflange Flanger Pedal - everything there is just spot on - particularly with my version which has 3 knob colours derived from the standard British Army Multi-Terrain Pattern of camouflage.
And in keeping up the great tradition of coming up with everything single-handedly, Adrian has evolved his new packaging to take on the look of a standard British Army ammo box crate. Considering the military nature / angle of everything Thorpy does - this is another inspired choice - and is a significant improvement over the previous line of packaging. It all kind of underscores Adrian's connected thinking and how that pervades every aspect of his production and brand. Surely a sign of great quality.
Adrian Thorpe and I have a rather delightful relationship in that I often challenge him with some pretty wild ideas and he usually tells me I'm being rather impractical - before later finding a way to accommodate those ideas to some degree within his own core innovations. I work similarly myself in always having an opinion on a subject, but being flexible enough to take-on board new and improved evidence - which usually leads to everyone's benefit.
He rightly advises that there can be a considerable cost to packaging which most customers don't really willingly pay for - and which for instance brought to a close the Chase Bliss Audio Bliss Box Wooden Crates - which were great when Chase Bliss Audio was a smaller boutique - but totally impractical once they were shipping thousands of units.
So cool, clever and smart packaging can have significant cost implications. There are also environmental impacts in what you choose as your packaging or filler agent - or whether you rely on some more finely honed cardboard engineering for pedal protection.
I obviously loved the Chase Bliss Audio Unboxing experience and am deeply disappointed with its replacement - which just no longer matches the quality and innovation of those actual pedals that the inferior boxes contain. The new unboxing experience / reveal doesn't feel at all special any more.
JAM Pedals, Dr.No, Matthews Effects, Redbeard Effects and ThorpyFX all have great takes on this medium and most pedal-builders would do well to follow their lead. Many of us are used to unboxing Apple goods by now - so we know how high the standard is set to - the textures, sounds, smells and all-round sensory experience of the unboxing activity. So strong in fact that there are entire YouTube Channels dedicated to the task.
A good unboxing can help build the brand relationship and grow customer loyalty. With so many pedals ploughing similar furrows - the quality of packaging can be a significant differentiator and a trigger to bring the customer back to you for more of the same experience.
There is no consumer benefit in a plain white box - it has zero-take away and a net negative impact. I've often said that pedals are little jewel boxes of their own - and that the packaging element should be a significant part of the bonding experience. Jewellery is another classic example of the packaging art where finely carved and velvet--lined boxes accompany those precious gems - adding value and appeal to them all along the way.
What do you guys think - and do you have any personal favourites that I've overlooked here? Please drop me a line and let me know!