MICA Flex Studio 4th group

Tuesdays, 7pm-10pm
With Your Host, Bill Dugan — bill AT billdugan.com

The purpose of this assignment is to look at an example of conventional packaging and redesign it for greater safety.

The assignment is to redesign the packaging of the Humanitarian Daily Ration, the standard food ration dropped by the US government in Afghanistan and Iraq.

12/10/03 — Click here for project updates.

Project Briefing:
In November 2001, the news services reported that the US Government was re-coloring its standard Humanitarian Daily Ration, the pre-packaged foodstuff it was dropping by the thousands over Afghanistan. The food packages, which are designed to be thrown by the handful from the backs of cargo planes, float to the ground individually. They also happen to be the same approximate size and color as unexploded cluster bomb munitions, which were dropped by the thousands in the weeks preceding the fall of the Taliban.


Announcing the change, Air Force General Richard Meyers described the possibility of a mix-up between the HDR packages and unexploded cluster bomblets as "unfortunate".
(CNN, November 1, 2001)

After several weeks of study and design, the government decided on a shade of orange officially called "salmon" to differentiate the food packages from potentially deadly explosives. Unfortunately the need for high visibility in airdrop situations precluded the use of more inviting colors; at first the government was said to be considering blue as a replacement color. However, the basic exterior design of the HDR did not change. Helpful, inviting images such as the American flag dwarf an image of a human waving a spoon in front of a square and smiling. Additionally, the instructive English text proclaims, "Food Gift From The People Of The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA". Inside the package, there are cards that show pictograms of the same smiling human waving the same square and doing odd things with its right hand. Text on the bottom reads, "Right Away Foods, McAllen, Texas".

The government also decided it needed to airdrop a flyer explaining what to do with the HDRs . Four panels show a man kneeling over a field of yellow objects, holding an HDR. The next panel (our right) shows a US transport plane dumping HDRs from the sky. On the back, the man is opening the package in one panel, and is sharing the package with his family.

The Problem:
Thanks to ongoing conflict all over the globe, there is an obvious need for continuing humanitarian relief. (consider that the US Government distributed over 6 million HDRs to refugees worldwide by 1999.) While the HDR is a step in the right direction, there is more work that could be done to help each package make more of a difference. Assuming that international aid organizations will continue to provide HDRs to countries spannng the globe, your job is to redesign the outer package for maximum impact, information, and usage. Here are some of the parameters of the problem:

  1. You must keep the new color of the HDR, both inside and out.
  2. You must retain the American flag, and the text "Food Gift From The People Of The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" (this is a job for the Government, after all) but you are free to make the text smaller and mixed-case. The final flag must be no smaller than three inches across.
  3. Your design may not include instructions in any language, including English. You must find a way to describe the contents of each package without any text. Your primary audience is a semi-literate refugee of any race, gender, or religion.
  4. You must also include an English text block which describes the contents of each package, its weight, shelf life, nutritional information, and a bar code. Where on the package you put this block will matter to the loadmasters and logistics support personnel on the docks and warehouses of the world. Of primary importance is the date stamp. HDRs have a shelf life of 36 months at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

For your final class, I want to see the following:

  1. The outside of the entire HDR package mocked up. I don't expect you to print on plastic or learn how to freeze-dry food. I'm looking for black ink on a similarly-colored orange paper (how you do this is your choice) wrapped around a box of the same size so that I can hold the package in my hands.
  2. Flat sheets with the front and back design of two of the interior packages. Black ink on white is fine here; again, I don't expect you to print on foil.
  3. Iconography examples for each of the eleven foodstuffs and non-food items. Explain to me what's in these packages and how I'm supposed to open them.
  4. Insert card for preparation. How do I prepare dried rice? What if I've never used vegetable oil before? What is a spork?

Grading Criteria
You will be graded on the following criteria:

  1. Ideas. How good is the thinking behind the work? How far did the designer push him or herself?
  2. Communication. How well does the design explain what is inside each package? How easy is it to follow the directions (if any)? How well do the icons/directions read at different sizes?
  3. Craft. How good are your comping skills? Are the pieces finished? Are the sketches readable? How do the illustrations work together?
  4. Presentation. Is the final product professional, or would I be embarassed to show this to Congress, USAID or even the President?

  Date What you gotta bring me
Class 1 Nov. 11 Ask me all the questions you can think of.
Class 2 Nov. 18 Sketches of iconography, package front and back, and insert card.
I want to see three icon sketches for each of the contents, three template sketches for the package front of each item, and three sketches of the front and back of the main package. How do the icons read to an illiterate person? How is your package information organized?
Class 3 Nov. 25 Initial layout of package front and back, insert card.
Show me how you're laying out each item. Does the template design work for each interior item? How does the packaging affect your design? How are your icons working with the template design?
Class 4 Dec. 2 Mocked-up layouts, package, and insert card.
How well do your icons work at different sizes? How do other people read the outside of your package?
Class 5 Dec. 9 Final mockups, boards, and card.
I want to see your finals professionally mounted on black board, ready to be presented to government suits.


Contact Information
You can contact me at bill AT billdugan.com. If you have more important questions, or need an immediate answer, call me before 10PM.

HDR Background and other resources Introduced in 1993, the HDR was designed to cut the cost of humanitarian relief by decreasing the overall cost of each ration. Prior to its adoption, the US was dropping standard MRE's (Meal, Ready to Eat), which have an average cost of $24US. HDRs cost $4.25US each. Additionally, after operations in Bosnia and Somalia, US officials realized that the standard MRE contents were not appropriate for Muslims and Hindus (one in four MREs contain beef or pork.) The HDR was designed to be a high-calorie, non-meat based meal with a long shelf life. Even though the rations are designed to fall from planes, some reports suggested that the design did not work as well as advertised.

The full text of the front of the package reads:



This bag contains one day's complete food requirement for one person.
Ce sac contient l'équivelant d'une journée de nourriture pour une personne.
Esta boisa contiene comida de requisito para un dia completo para una sola persona.

Food Gift From The People Of The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Click on an image for a larger version.



HDR Package

12"h X 8"w

Fig Bar

8"h X 3.5"w


5.5"h X 4"w

Crackers/Vegetable Crackers

5.5"h X 5.5"w

Peanut Butter

5"h X 2.5"w

Strawberry Jam

5"h X 2.5"w

Fruit Pastry

7"h X 5.5"w

Lentil Stew/Red Beans & Rice (brown pkgs)

8.25"h X 4.75"w X 0.5"d

Google search.

The Wornick Company, one of the producers of the HDR.

More information on the mix-up (reprinted from Reuters).

Information on the Nutrition Facts label

Project Updates:
12/10/03 OK, here's the dimensions of the main HDR package for comping. Remember, I'm just asking you for the main HDR package and one of the inside brown cardboard packages—not all of them.

12/7/03 Sorry about the late posting, but Quito found an EPS version of the USAID logo that I've modified to more closely resemble the USA logo that they run on the inside foil packages. It's in Illustrator 8 format and it's saved as a CMYK file.

12/3/03 The PMS color closest to the package, in my inexpert opinion, is PMS1625C. It's a little lighter than the real thing, but closest to the muted color of the plastic.

Remember, for next week (Dec. 9) I want to see finals mounted on black board- that'll be the outside package front (and back, if applicable), the interior package front and backs, and the insert card.

In two weeks for the final crit, I want to see the two interior boxes built and the exterior package built (and I'll get you those dimensions ASAP.) For that final crit, I'm going to mount the two HDRs I've got and a brief description of the project on some black board so that the other classes and teachers get an idea of where you started.

I also owe you guys a modified USAID/USA logo without the USAID on the top- that will be forthcoming.