Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cologne Design

A few Saturdays ago, I found myself in our local Ulta store killing time while my wife searched out various facial accoutrements. For those who have never been to an Ulta, it is what your local Macy's would look like if the make-up counter became self-aware and cannibalized the nearest four departments. So while she agonized over which shade of cheek dust to purchase, I huddled with the other disenfranchised males in the cologne aisle. It was there that I became aware of a disturbing trend in bottle design for men’s fragrances.

Since I did not record the actual fragrance names I have created Calvin Klein pseudonyms for each of the pictures I took. The first item we will call CK Wicker. 
As you can see the bottle is ensconced by a wicker exoskeleton which I assume is meant to convey a sense of danger and adventure. After all, who doesn’t look at the top of their dresser and say, “Why isn’t there more wicker up here?” 

Instead it reminds me of what would happen if Pier 1 was commissioned to create a decorative flask series. On top of looking like a cheapskate, you have the added bonus of being unable to visually asses the amount of remaining fragrance. Besides, if I drop $50 on something comprised of wicker, I am at least going to have the pleasure of sitting on it. 

The next one we will call CK Pathogen because it appears to have been designed after the vial used to transport the Chimera virus in Mission Impossible 2
The container and unnecessarily-complicated lid apparatus lend an air of danger to what would otherwise be an evening of agonizing over the dessert specials at Applebee’s. Of course, in a post-911 world I don’t know how comfortable I feel packing this in a carry on since it resembles a small-pox delivery system.

Our next contestant we will call CK Monarchy. 
Sporting a translucent, crystal container and dispensing what appears to be cheap scotch, CK Monarchy conveys the subtle dignity that your wardrobe choices cannot. Why inherit an actual trust fund when you can drop $75 and smell like you have already pissed it all away. I was unable to translate the Latin under the crest but I assume it means “My dad is tough to buy gifts for.”

The next fragrance was CK Estate Sale. 
The awkwardly-shaped triangular bottle couples with the useless faux-gold nozzle appendage to create a visual treat like no other. The only real upside to the design is the likelihood you will drop it and be forced to use another scent before your second date with the girl from T-shirt kiosk in the mall. It seems as though the designer wanted to combine the nostalgia of grandmother’s antique crystal with Joe Pesci’s overuse of gold before filling the entire container with apple juice.

The final design we will call CK Bulge. 
As you can see, it is the perfect fragrance for the unobservant male who keeps accidentally spraying himself with his wife’s Clinique Happy before heading off to work. As if a male torso wasn’t enough, the bottle design team incorporated a dongle bump to erase any remaining gender ambiguity. The bottle looks like a Ken doll that has been in a horrific accident.

I cannot fathom why these companies are investing so much money in making a smell more visually appealing. Are there that many men out there who select their fragrance based solely on bottle design? Can you see some guy telling his friends, “Sure my new cologne smells like a feline tannery operating in a Bolivian prison, but the bottle is shaped like the sword from Braveheart!” At the end of the day all we really want is an easy-to-operate bottle that dispenses a smell more appealing than the one we naturally emit.

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