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Pentagram Rebrands Cigarettes, to Make Deadliness a Virtue

DJ Stout, a partner at Pentagram, unveils a concept for cigarette packaging, in light of new tobacco regulations.

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Cig_Skel_Pack_300

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Yesterday, President Obama signed new legislation that aims to make the marketing of cigarettes more difficult than ever–and the law has some provisions that would affect graphic designers, such as a mandate that print ads be in black and white, rather than color. So the St. Petersburg Times asked Pentagram partner DJ Stout to redesign the cigarette package, in light of these changes. What he produced is meant to appeal to smokers, while also turning off others.

Stout says that to pull that off, tobacco companies could embrace tobacco’s deadly effects:

“Over the years there has been an onslaught of public awareness
messaging about the evils of smoking. Unless you’ve been
living in a cave for the last 50 years you are very aware that smoking
is not only bad for you, it could very likely kill you. All smokers
know this for sure but it doesn’t deter them.

“Our marketing advice to cigarette companies in the new heavily
regulated era is to fully accept the new aggressive anti-smoking
restrictions and wallow in the government’s apocalyptic health
warnings. Don’t make excuses or dance around the stepped-up marketing
regulations, just transform the whole cigarette pack into a three
dimensional warning label.”

But is that even possible? Wouldn’t these kind of amazing packages catch the eye of many more potential new users?

For its part, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new laws–in addition to other regulations, such as higher taxes–would curb youth smoking by 11 percent, and adult smoking by 2 percent. Presumably, taxes are really the biggest lever in that equation. What would the numbers really look like if tobacco companies went as cynical as Stout suggest? Wouldn’t the approach just make cigarettes cooler?

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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