CD Packaging for V

Hot off the press and available from CD Baby (and iTunes) is the new EP from Victor Johnson a.k.a “V”. Victor’s second release is a dreamy, moody but ultimately optimistic collection of songs you’ll love as much as we hope you dig the packaging. We combined vintage photographs with striking, dream-like colors to allude to the story in the title song “Know Your Exit” in which each life is like a balloon floated off into the unknown filled with potential. Though no one knew it at the time the early hot air balloon flights pictured were a tentative first step into space. A crucial and adventurous first step on the very same journey that made it possible to put a footprint on the moon.

Yummy Dummy Chocolate


Why would seven girls from Davis, California start a chocolate company? Because it’s yummy dummy. In other words, for the sheer pleasure of it. That’s probably why they donate 100% of their profits to charities benefiting children and the environment. Who can resist that combination? 71% Cocoa is an unusual rating but I dig that they threw in the extra 1% for good measure. It’s kind of like an old-school baker’s dozen. The plain bar I sampled (actually I ate the entire thing… does that still count as sampling?) was nice, smooth and enjoyably crisp at room temperature. It’s a pretty straightforward flavor that provides balanced sweetness and a little bitterness but not the strong after taste characteristic of many single source bars. Still it’s strong enough to engage neurons in your milk proximity detection lobe so make sure you’ve got a cold glass close at hand.

Yummy Dummy chocolate isn’t fancy. In fact the wrapping job is reminiscent of my little brother’s approach to Christmas gift preparation. Sort of loose around the middle with an assiduous avoidance of square corners. But it is precisely this distinctly hand-crafted quality that makes the design so charming – particularly in conjunction with the “girl owned and operated” slogan. It’s not that my expectations are lower. More that the home spun design and production fit so nicely with the overall story (what we have somewhat cynically come to call the “brand”). Many big chocolate companies hire agencies and buy fancy folding equipment and only manage to produce a lifeless and uninspiring container the only redeeming qualities of which are the squareness of the corners (I’m looking at you Nestlé). Not Risa (who does much of the design work), Sara, Bay, Rowan, Rachel, Stream and Sedona. They are content to revel in the simple secret revealed when you first unfold the wrapper and are greeted with this simple phrase: “Oh sweet mystery of life at last I found you.”

Yummy-Dummy’s website proceeds in the same spirit as their packaging – including the self-styled proverb: “Man can not live by chocolate alone, but girls can…” It’s a fun read actually and you’ll learn about things like their Nut-O-Matic machine. To get the full experience you should purchase a bar the next time you are at the Davis Farmer’s Market. If that isn’t going to be any time soon you can order bars online.

Yummy Dummy Chocolates

Davis, CA 95618

TCHO Chocolate


TCHO chocolates come in four 70% cacao flavors made from organic, fair trade beans. Chocolatey, Fruity, Nutty and Citrus. These flavors are derived from chocolates inherent nuances and not from additional ingredients so the affects are subtle but quite distinct from one another. Citrus has a sharper almost malty impact at the back of the mouth and an after taste that lingers like wine. Fruity is a rounder, richer flavor that seems to happen more on the sides of the tongue and is my preference. I’m looking forward to trying chocolatey and nutty next.

I discovered these little squares of chocolate in a small grocery store in the tiny town of Point Reyes Station, California and couldn’t resist the simple pleasure of the foiled, geometric designs on bright colored wrappers. I was delighted to discover the chocolates themselves also have a complementary geometric design engraved into them. TCHO’s is definitely a design friendly company. The identity and packaging were designed by Spiekermann Partners in Berlin and you can even read about the design from Susanna Dulkinys’ perspective on the site.

The TCHO website is nice and clean, full of fun information and the only site I’ve seen that boasts a colophon. They also have an ongoing blog.

Interactive types will appreciate that TCHO went through a beta phase and has now fully launched version 1.0. I would recommend you find some of this great chocolate. You’ll enjoy the experience while rewarding a company that values design as a partner in its business. If there is not a location near you try ordering online. As an interesting side note the first web based order was placed by Herbie Hancock.

TCHO Chocolates

Pier 17 (on the Embarcadero)
San Francisco, CA 94111
phone: 415.981.0189

Available in Minnesota at Product Exchange on Lake Street. Find other locations.

Update (11.13.09)
It looks like I’m not the only one to notice TCHO. Scott Hansen has a nice post on his iso50 blog worth checking out. If you can forgive him for the fact that he does “not really enjoy chocolate on it’s own” it is worth taking a gander at his fantastic poster designs while you’re at it (I already have three so try not to look as a poor substitute for self-control).

Have You Obscene This?


I don’t normally rant since it is typically pointless but I’ve got to tell you the recent decision to pull Cycles Gladiator wine from shelves in Alabama because its lovely wine label (shown above) has been deemed pornographic (despite the fact that they approved it way back in 2006. And despite the fact that it is actually a famous piece of advertising art from 1895 for a French bicycle company) mystifies me. No so much because the illustration features a rather classical nude in profile – you’re free to object to nudity if you want- but because of what I perceive as a radical imbalance in our cultural perception of what is obscene (defined as: offensive to moral principals).

How is it that this wine label which celebrates the female form as a work of art is an offensive thing to have in liquor stores where minors have no business (granted wine is sold in one isle of grocery stores in many states) yet the lower shelves at my local Blockbuster video rental store, where minors are a core customer, are choked with DVD covers like the one pictured below for The Saw that celebrate incredibly graphic and dehumanizing violence?

I don’t want to start banning things because I have no interest in returning to any of the deeply flawed puritanical or medieval cultures of the past but if we go that route I would pose this question. Which one of these two pieces of professional illustration/design is at odds with our culture’s moral principals?


Putting the “I” in iTunes

V CD on iTunes



Hey I’ve got an album cover on iTunes! Of course Victor Johnson aka “V” deserves the credit for making the music but it’s still fun to see my illustration/design in such a high profile virtual location. The story on the cover of a new born bird learning to fly while the gaping jaws of a wolf eagerly await the bird’s failure plays out further on the liner notes inside. Check out CD Baby if you want a hard copy of the CD so you can find out how that goes.

Victor is back in the recording studio and a new EP should be out around the end of the year which means I’m back in the design studio to create a new cover – which will be on iTunes – which I’ll blog about… it’s an endless cycle.

Lagrange 34 Chocolate

This chocolate won’t melt in your mouth because you can’t have any unless you happen to be in Torino, Itally. Lagrange 34 sure has taken the art of the chocolate bar to a wonderful new level though. The glowing color of the packaging radiates the promise of the yummy goodness inside and then you open it up and the design of the chocolate bar itself is even more rewarding. Dare I say it’s like a beautiful sun dress draped over an even more lovely set of legs? Certainly not, this is a family oriented blog after all.

On a side note the Lagrange 34 site is the only site I’ve visited that makes the site traffic data visible. Click the “ShinyStat” link on the bottom left and let’s see if the RedBlackBrown community can put a big spike in the traffic for our chocolate loving Italian fratelli e sorelle.

Theo Chocolate 3400 Phinney

The organic and fair trade certified “Nib Brittle” bar featured here contains 65% cacao which is a little low for high end dark chocolate. The flavor isn’t any lower though so if you’re not a percentage snob and just want an unique treat that won’t mark you as someone who buys chocolate at gas stations this could be the one for you. The flavor is sweet and the texture gives the impression of raw sugar in the mix. There’s a slightly woody after taste which isn’t super appealing but is easily overcome by taking another bite. The really good news is that listed under “Nutrition Facts” it says serving size is one bar. That means when your girlfriend asks you to share you can say no based on a legitimate fear of being malnourished. Although, I’d recommend surprising her with a bar of her very own so you don’t end up sleeping on the sofa.

Theo caught my eye again. This time with a series of whimsical illustrative wrappers around flavored dark and milk chocolate bars named for the address of their factory in Seattle. The packaging is more fantastic work by Kitten Chops so you can order the type of chocolate you like comfortable in the knowledge that it will attract favorable attention on your desk at work amidst all the screen printed concert posters and Kidrobot collectables.

You can learn more about Theo’s full range of products by visiting their website (which despite my recommendation they haven’t let Kitten Chops redesign yet. Which is not only too bad for visitors but means my opinion holds considerably less sway in the national design community than I had led myself to believe.

Theo Chocolate

3400 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103
206 632.5100 phone

Available through The Meadow or Is there anything you can’t buy through Amazon?


Scotland seems an unlikely place for a chocolate company, but then so does Minnesota. Perhaps they cherish the rich, warm flavor of good chocolate for the same reasons we do here in the land of perpetual ice and snow. The flavor of the 69% dark chocolate bar is warm and slightly honey sweet. There seems to be a very light mint finish and the overall effect is quite subtle. I would suggest that this would be a good chocolate to nibble on during a heavy make-out session but I won’t because I know this blog is read by millions of school children around the world who would interpret that as “gross” which of course is the reverse of what I mean.

The 1.5 oz bar featured here is not actually bar shaped but a square divided into four smaller squares. It seems slightly thicker and makes a great snap when you bite into it. Packaging and website design were created by Marque and both are really fantastic. The entire line of chocolates is given some consistency through the use of clean contemporary design with rich, earthy tones and strong, sans serif type. The tins are super cool and you would want to find another use for them once emptied of their chocolate goodness.

Based in Scotland (with additional offices in London and New York) Third Eye Design has a nice collection of clean and elegant design work in their portfolio and the packaging they’ve done for Kshocolat is no exception. They also created the website which is something of a stand out in this category. The black background and reflections aren’t exactly revolutionary but do a great job of enhancing all the colors for a rich effect. Their is some bold type similar to the packaging, but the site is pretty light on information. That’s strange since most chocolatiers are so eager to tell you the source(s) of their cacoa. It would be nice if they added that somewhere. I also think the Kshocolat logo would look great in white on a dark chocolate brown t-shirt but perhaps I’m getting carried away.

Kshocolat Chocolate

113 West Regent St, 3rd Floor
Glasgow G2 2RU

Available through The Meadow. You can also order it from them through My order shipped quickly and even included a sample of another chocolate and a coupon for my next order. Cool!

Vere Chocolate

Vere Chocolate (pronounced very) is fair wage, organic, sustainable, certified, vegan and a bunch of other good stuff. In a time when even Wal Mart has jumped on the “organic” bandwagon (which seems a little dubious) any of these could be considered the marketing spin d’jour, but added together and in conjunction with the attention to detail lavished on design it suggests the company is going far beyond the common way to produce chocolate you can feel good about while you revel in your violation of that commandment about gluttony (It is better savored in small doses but if you have to eat a lot of something this is probably more pure than the air you’re breathing). This attention to quality is hard to mass produce which makes obtaining it from their New York shop harder than hitting the vending machine but honestly would you want it any other way?

Vere makes many different chocolate delicacies but I’ve restricted myself to dark chocolate bars. This one is 75% cacao, low sugar and contains a grand total of five ingredients so it’s fairly stiff and simple. It is also pretty unique in your mouth. It has a slightly bitter aspect but isn’t in the least bit heavy or oily and has almost no after taste. For some reason it reminds me of water – refreshing, but not in that horrible, artificial, minty, way tooth paste companies mean. You could almost use it to cleanse your palette which is rather remarkable and a very interesting parallel to the packaging.

The square box containing two stacked bars is a delightful change from the typical rectangular configuration and the company’s earth and body friendly philosophy is further evidenced by the absence of plastic or foil. The minimalist, stark white box adorned with the simple vere logotype serves a thoughtful counterpoint to a dash of chaos in the form of chocolate drizzled the way a chef in a fancy restaurant would put it on a plate containing an agonizingly small slice of the kind of chocolate cake that will keep you up all night. The bars themselves are great fun too (divided in half with the top divided in half again) they are evocative of the golden ratio, except yummier. What is also interesting is that owner Kathy Moskal was and is deeply involved in developing and implementing the creative approach throughout the company. She collaborated with designer Brigid Kavanagh who also worked with Kathy on the creation of packaging for legwear company Hue and is now busy working with New York’s MoMA and Chilewich. Victor Schrager provided the photography and with any luck got stuck with the delicious task of cleaning up.

The website is similarly clean and straightforward letting the chocolates play the role of hero. There are a few break downs in the CSS that an impending redesign will fix. But don’t wait to take a spin through the site to learn more about the company’s philosophy. You’ll see that design plays an integral role.

03.23.2010: It looks like the Vere is no longer making Chocolates and the website is now dedicated to another, non-chocolaty product line.

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