Notes from an Oakland designer


Bon Ami’s clever packaging redesign reverts to a dated, cluttered mess

Why, Bon Ami? Why?

Bon Ami’s packaging redesign of 2010 was a perfect example of how to manage the updating of a brand that has been with us for over 125 years. Handled by Berkeley, California’s Celery Design, the new look was rolled out with the introduction of a new line of environmentally friendly products.

Bon Ami before the redesign

Bon Ami polishing cleanser before the redesign

Let’s take a look at the packaging for their powdered cleaner, before the revamp.

Bon Ami has been no stranger to package redesigns over its long history, but the white logo against a red diagonally cropped field, along with the cute chick proclaiming, “hasn’t scratched yet!” have been constants for most of the product’s history. However, let’s face it, the 120th anniversary design for Bon Ami polishing cleaner, above, was pretty awful, wasn’t it?

Cluttered and dated in its design, I kept my canister hidden under the sink or in the garage. This was a product I bought because I knew it was a) really effective, and b) environmentally friendly. It certainly wasn’t the utilitarian packaging that spoke to me in the grocery aisle.

Which brings us to the 2010 redesign.

A modern design for a classic product

Celery Design handled the updating of the brand and packaging for the new Bon Ami family of green cleaning products. While it was a dramatic departure from the previous design, it remained true to the core elements of the brand.

It was simple, clean, no frills, and classic—just like the product. For a cleaner and more contemporary spin on an already recognizable brand, the logo was updated to lose the harsh drop shadow and superfluous dot over the i, but remained against its red diagonal field. Plus, the chick! I loved that the new art harkened back to the early days of the product; it was a sweet and appropriate nod to its past.

Bon Ami 2010 redesign

Celery Design’s 2010 Bon Ami 2010 redesign

Celery Design put quite a lot of research and thought into the project, that you can read about on their website. The new product line and redesign got some nice attention in the press (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, and many more). My cleanser came out from under the sink because it looked so great.

So, what happened?

Bon Ami kills their awesome packaging redesign

I noticed the other day that Bon Ami has reverted an updated version of the old packaging design—just for the powdered cleanser, not for the rest of its product line. Here is how it looks on their website today (and don’t even get me started on the quality of the Photoshop job. Pro tip: photograph the canister from the same angle as in the previous photo shoot for a better match).

Bon Ami 2013 redesign

One of these things is not like the other…

This new canister design is simpler than the pre-2010 packaging, but back in force are the garish foil, a very cluttered look, and oddly, the heavy-handed old logo. Even the chick had reverted to its pre-redesign, more literal and less folksy version.

What really leaps out is the discrepancy between the looks of the products in the Bon Ami family. They’re no longer a unified collection of products. The decision to use two different versions of the logo is particularly perplexing.

I have to wonder how this strange decision will impact their overall brand recognition and the feeling of connection to a product among those who discovered it over the past few years, thanks in part to the redesign. In a world where folks freak out en masse and create petitions over small design changes to their Facebook layout, this startling regression to a less sophisticated design could alienate a new and loyal customer base.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Bon Ami. In the meantime, I’ll be going back to keeping my canister under the kitchen sink.

Full disclosure: While I have no connections to the folks at Celery Design, I do have a friend at Bon Ami.

  • wholeddy

    Ha, I have just the opposite response. I just noticed the reversion to the old foil can today — and I’m on my second can since they went back to the old. I, for one, thought the redesign to clean and cutesy was a mistake. Maybe just because I’m a cranky old guy who doesn’t like change, but also, as a graphic designer myself, I didn’t see what the value was for radically redesigning the package of a venerable product. My hope was that the new “natural” dull paper packaging might boost this great product’s credibility among epic-bearded hipsters with backyard henhouses and beer brewing in the garage. But apparently not, as I rather doubt the company would revert unless the packaging failed to deliver new interest in the product. Also, as a longtime loyal purchaser, I couldn’t even find the product when the redesign first hit the market, so maybe they lost a crucial percentage of the cranky old person market. Me, I hid the redesigned can away because it looked so Graphic Designerly, but it’s back on the counter in all its glitsy Donald Trumpesque cylinder of faux gold glory (which also withstood getting wet better than the absorbent redesign paper).

  • Alicia

    I absolutely agree with you! I loved the simple, clean, and well-designed look with the cute chick. It fit the product so well. Celery Design did a great job. I don’t understand the switch back to the ugly and dated gold canister. I still buy the product, because it works well, but I wish they would go back to the Celery Design canister.