Coca-Cola recently challenged artists, designers and illustrators around the world to recreate and reimagine vintage Coca-Cola bottle imagery and iconography using only three colors: Coke Red, black and white. More than 130 artists from 15 countries responded with 250-plus pieces for the #MashupCoke project.
A collection of artists and designers from around the world came together to celebrate the first hundred years of the Coca-Cola Contour bottle. Each of them referenced the iconic bottle, using it as a lens to express their individual style and personal meaning.
“We wanted to celebrate our past, while simultaneously writing our future, through design,” explains James Sommerville, Coke’s vice president of global design. “The resulting posters are as unique and varied as their creators – each an expression of individuality linked together by the Coca-Cola bottle.”
Many of the #MashupCoke pieces will be featured in a global campaign commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Coke bottle. Select artwork will be included in The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100, an exhibit opening this weekend at the High Museum in Atlanta; the traveling art tour The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour: Inspiring Pop Culture for 100 Years; and in a limited-edition book produced by Assouline. Pieces will also be featured on Coca-Cola Design social channels, including Pinterest and Instagram.
We spoke to Sommerville last week to learn more about the project and its connection to the Coke Bottle 100 campaign.
How did you initially come up with the #MashupCoke idea?
It began as an internal, homegrown exercise. When I joined Coca-Cola in late-2013, it was important to understand my global team and their styles and talents. Rather than issuing a “blue sky” brief, I decided to challenge them all to take something from our past and make it relevant, by redesigning it for the next generation. I’d spent time in the Coke Archives and discovered several inspiring pieces of artwork featuring the contour-shaped Coca-Cola bottle. These heritage pieces showed how the bottle has inspired not only our commercial system and marketing communications over the years but also artists and designers re-thinking the Coke bottle in their own personal work. So I thought: If this work was successful 50 or 60 years ago, why couldn’t it work again? I chose 16 iconic works of art featuring the bottle and asked my design leads to choose one of them and add their own spin. We pinned up all of the pieces that came back – about 20 total – on a wall in our offices.
Coke Bottle Mashup
When did you decide to expand the project beyond your team?
The response we saw from our team showed it was just the start of what could be a very exciting project. We quickly saw the potential to expand the invitation to our respective design networks. We invited over 100 artists representing a range of styles and approaches to collaborate with Coca-Cola – from digital artists to artisans to who take a more handcrafted approach to their work. We encouraged all of them to completely reinvent the same images our team had used. The only caveat was that their work had to have some connection – no matter how loose or direct – to the original piece.
What was your vision for the project?
Like the name “Kiss the Past Hello” suggests, we wanted to embrace our heritage in an artistic and emotional way. Not in a way that positioned the Coca-Cola bottle as vintage or a relic, but as an inspiration for what we could do tomorrow. We had a vision of hanging something – like a world-renowned Andy Warhol Coke bottle art piece – alongside a Coke bottle work of art from an unknown or emerging designer. In theory, one is almost priceless and the other is technically worthless today, yet they are both equally rich and inspirational. And, who knows… maybe one day the unknown piece could become priceless. We could be hanging several future Warhols in the exhibition.
What do you want consumers to take away from this collection?
We want to reinforce how current the Coca-Cola bottle still is today with both young people and people who have known the brand for many years. When the bottle originally launched 100 years ago, it was purposefully disruptive and an inspirational piece of design at the time… enabling Coca-Cola to stand out from the competition. So there was a clear commercial mindset driving it. But over time, the bottle and more importantly the brand it represented became inspiring to others because people connected to it on an emotional level. Coca-Cola as a beverage has stayed relevant largely because of its delicious taste – and the brand continues to resonate thanks to its rich visual iconography like the Coke logo and its signature Coke red color – but the contour-shaped Coke bottle is something you can recognize simply by touch and feel. It perfectly combines form and function and is arguably one of the most successful commercial designs of all time.
Coke Bottle Mashup
How did the artists you reached out to respond?
The design community embraced the challenge in a way we didn’t expect. At first we were a bit concerned because we were asking professionals to engage in a project that was not initially a commercial assignment. But we live in a world where collaboration is key. We approached individuals who could recognize the creative potential of the Coke bottle and be inspired to use it to create a unique piece of art. We invited designers for their love of design and their own personal connection to the brand. The artists we heard back from range in age from early-20s to late-70s who are separated by two generations yet share a passion for the Coke bottle. When the work started to come in and we were able to hang these pieces and see them side by side, the breadth and diversity literally blew us away.
The #MashupCoke judges (from left): Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. 'Mr. Brainwash', street artist; Lance Wyman, graphic designer; James Sommerville, VP, global design, Coca-Cola; Deklah Polansky, global design director, Coca-Cola; and Noma Bar, graphic designer, illustrator and artist.
Will the project extend beyond the Coke Bottle 100 campaign?
Absolutely. The limited-edition posters in the exhibition are not the end of the line. And the fact that there are a finite number of gallery spots and pages in the book doesn’t mean we’re finished. We see the potential for hundreds and hundreds of pieces, and this work will hopefully inspire future packaging, equipment, licensing opportunities and more. Like the Coke bottle itself, the creative idea can recycle itself again and again in new areas and with new designers with their individual styles. For example, the famous “Lady in Red” poster from the Coke Archives inspired an amazing reinterpretation from one of our designers. And that interpretation is now inspiring our industrial design and innovation teams we hope to be able to talk about soon. This project has neither a deadline nor a cap.
Julio Ferro , Coca-Cola Design ( Argentina )
Matthew Allen, Coca-Cola Design (USA)
Matt Allen is a young designer with a passion for pop culture. Born and raised in the south, he studied Industrial Design at Georgia Tech before beginning at Coca-Cola - designing products which create and celebrate Coca-Cola brand love. He counts the 111 Navy Chair among the most exciting and challenging projects he’s worked on at Coke. With a deep appreciation for the past, Matt loves old things and the stories they tell. He loves giving new life to discarded objects and can never pass up a good patina. He lives in Atlanta and enjoys witty people, antiques, and puns.
Rapha Abreu, Coca-Cola Design (USA)
Raphael Abreu is from Rio de Janeiro. Is 37 years old and graduated in industrial and graphic design at ESDI, one of the most traditional design schools in Brazil. As a child, Rapha was one of those boys who preferred be drawing than run after the ball. Even before college, used to imagine himself designing labels of soft drinks. Dream that became true early: starting a career in the branding agency ACBD, brand strategy pioneered in Brazil, Rapha has designed a series of projects for Coca-Cola Brazil, LATAM Coca-Cola, Petrobras and L’Oreal. From there he went to Tátil Design de Ideias, where he led the graphic design team in projects of visual identity, packaging, brand experience and events for brands like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Telecom Italia and Natura. Before leaving Tátil, Raphael was responsible for the design of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games brand, chosen in a competition among 140 agencies throughout Brazil and revealed in the year-end party on Copacabana beach, live for more than two million people.
Among other awards, the Rio 2016 brand recently won the IF Awards 2012 in the category Corporate Design and Print Media. In 2011, Raphael was invited by The Coca Cola Company to begin the Design Center of Excellence in Latin America, working in the Latin Center Division headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica. His main function is to lead the design initiatives for all brands from the Division in over 30 countries, creating visual identity systems, packaging, equipment, shopper experiences that generate shared value to the Coca-Cola system. Strategically, Raphael is the ambassador and disseminator of the design culture of the Company in the Division, developing trainings, methodologies and lectures. In this role, one of his first projects was to create a visual identity system for Coca-Cola with food, a job that is currently used worldwide. In 2014, he joined the Global Design team in Atlanta, U.S., reporting to Global Design Vice President, James Sommerville.
Tom Farrell, Coca-Cola Design (USA)
Tom Farrell of Coca-Cola Design drew out two hands facing each other with a bottle cap at the tip of the fingers to form the silhouette of a Coca-Cola bottle.
James Sommerville, Coca-Cola Design (USA)
James Sommerville offers insight to the design processes that influence billions of consumers each day
To mark the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola’s world famous package design, the company has launched a year-long, global campaign that includes new advertising, a music anthem and a series of immersive exhibits. The journey takes consumers on a journey with the ubiquitous brand, showcasing the Coke bottle’s influential role in art and pop culture throughout the decades.
PSFK: From a design perspective, what does this celebration represent?
James Sommerville: I remember being a young boy on holiday with my parents and being rewarded with an ice-cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. That moment has stuck with me through the years as I am sure many similar moments of that ‘first Coke’ has lasted with other people. A brand experience like that doesn’t happen by chance.
Not only does the drink taste like no other, but the brief to the designers, that was issued in 1915, stated that the new design “must be recognizable even in the dark or broken on the ground.” That brief, in my opinion, should be celebrated as the greatest design brief of all time.
100 years later we are celebrating the world-famous package design that is really 100 years young as it remains a timeless symbol of refreshment and connection.
PSFK: What elements of Coca-Cola’s brand make it one of the world’s most renowned, and how has innovation and collaboration contributed to that?
JS: Since 1915, when the Root Glass Company developed the Coca-Cola glass contour bottle, we have innovated with new materials, such as the introduction of the aluminum contour bottle in 2005, but it has never lost that famous contour shape.
The Coca-Cola bottle fuels our design innovation, beyond just its original form and aesthetic quality. For example, for the 100th Anniversary celebration, we invited contemporary artists and designers from around the world to reinterpret the bottle in their own signature aesthetic. The result is a stunning array of “mash-up” artwork, which will be showcased at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for their exhibition — “The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100” as well as featured in the new book from French publishing house Assouline titled Kiss the Past Hello, available March 2015.
PSFK: And what aspects of the campaign do you think most champion Coca-Cola’s design ethos?
JS: Coca-Cola is for everyone. Whether you live in a small village in the countryside or a global capital city. Everyone enjoys the exact same Coca-Cola. This is also the ethos of the Coca-Cola Bottle 100th Anniversary campaign. A diverse collection of creative content has been created from engaging films, to progressive and evolving art and design executions all over the world. Overall, we believe it’s a crafted and considered global campaign, being activated in 140+ markets and we believe the campaign will appeal to everyone — just like a real Coke.
PSFK: What type of consumer reactions do you predict from this multi-layer campaign?
JS: We always look for ways to instill the principles of the Coca-Cola brand around the world — happiness, refreshment and uplift. We deploy our resources across owned, earned, shared and paid media in such a way that it delivers, excites and creates an immersive experience for the consumer.
We believe the Coca-Cola Bottle 100th Anniversary campaign will be on one hand familiar with the rich heritage of the 100-year Coke bottle journey, yet also surprising with elements. . .that resulted in a rich body of contemporary work that consumers have never seen from Coca-Cola.
PSFK: How does technology play a role in your design processes?
JS: Design Technology and Design Thinking often gets credit, but these are ‘enablers’. What is most important in my opinion is the idea and the execution. Just like in 1915, when the Root Glass Company employees who designed the Coca-Cola bottle, went to work researching potential designs, eventually finding an illustration of a mature cocoa bean, with its distinct ribs and elongated body, that evolved the form into the iconic shape we know today. Technology and ‘systems’ did not play a role back then — just a great design idea that has stood the test of time.
The brief challenged artists, designers and illustrators around the world to recreate and reimagine vintage Coca-Cola bottle imagery and iconography using only three colours: Coke Red, black and white. More than 130 artists from 15 countries responded with 250-plus pieces for the #MashupCoke project.
The successful pieces will be featured in a global campaign commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Coke bottle. Select artwork will be included in The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100, an exhibit opening 28th February at the High Museum in Atlanta; the traveling art tour The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour: Inspiring Pop Culture for 100 Years; and in a limited-edition book produced by Assouline.