The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is situated near the bustling London hub of Notting Hill, having recently moved from it’s previous location in a mews neighbouring Portobello Road, due to ever increasing visitor numbers it eventually outgrew the premises. Because of this recent move, much of the museum is still in somewhat of a limbo. However, there are two rooms currently open to the public to view at a 50% discounted rate, while the rest of their artefacts are set up in the remainder of the building.
We enter the museum through the gift shop, giving us a sense of foreshadowing as we pass the retro style products and brightly coloured postcards. As we progress into the museum itself, the reason for their increasing visitor numbers becomes clearly evident. What we see is two rooms, connected by a central doorway, the first of which documents the iterations in graphic design of the most popular and well known brands of the modern era. We’re able to see the many styles of packaging used by Cadburys on their famous Milk Tray, throughout the product’s history; from the victorian era’s ornately decorated cream box, to today’s smooth finish and iconic shade of purple, Pantone 2685C.
The next room shows us the range of products available in each decade of the 20th century, as a “consumer timeline”, a select corner of this room is devoted to the other elements of packaging rather than purely the design. Two cases explore the innovations in packaging technology and materials, such as; airtight tins, bottles, crown caps, folding & waxed cartons as well as how a design can be applied onto them. Adjacent to this, another case investigates the origins of the brand name, explaining how a product may fail, but the name can be reused in future by the manufacturers. For example, Unilever registered the brandname “Wisk” in the 1920’s, and first applied it to a scouring powder, this product failed and the name has since been used for washing powder, paper dishcloths, and multi stain remover.
The “Consumer Timeline” displays packaging items and a few select posters from the Georgian and Victorian era’s, each decade of the 20th century, and the 2000’s to present. Each decade has it’s own individual display case, with the biggest being those of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. The layout of the objects makes it simple for us as viewers to see and appreciate the graphic styles of branding and packaging during these moments in history. It also shows us the trends in advertising and marketing, noticeable by the language and imagery being used in the designs. It’s easy to compare era’s and appreciate the advancement of society, through the inventions in packaging and production technologies. For example, we can see the use of imagery change from printed paintings to photography in the 60’s with the invention of colour film, and the introduction of thin plastic as a packaging material in the 70’s.
For those with graphic design knowledge and those without, the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is not to be missed. For us artists, it’s a unique look into the history of product branding in english speaking countries, but for everyone it’s a nostalgic and evocative journey back in time.