They had done it before, using their design talents to elevate the "Share a Coke" campaign to a visual success. Now came the campaign’s next iteration – "Share a Coke and a Song" – and a new host of challenges for Coca-Cola Design.
For inspiration, they dug deep into Coca-Cola’s heritage and all things music, commissioned a world-renowned illustrator, and explored nuances of typography and iconography that only a graphic designer can fully appreciate.
To understand the process that went into designing the look of Share a Coke and a Song, we recently spoke with three Coca-Cola Design team members.
Frederic Kahn, Design Director
The veteran designer already had spent two years working on visuals for Share a Coke when the music campaign crossed his desk. Instead of people’s first names, now his team needed to incorporate lyrics. “This had to look like more than just words on a can,” Kahn said.
“We knew we would need bold music icons so that people could see from a distance that it’s music-related. Everything had to be in a music context.”
Kahn and his team went to work on the two most important facets of the design: How to treat the lyrics on cans, and how to incorporate a music-themed campaign on packaging of all kinds.
Step 1 became a study in typography. Coca-Cola already had a set style for Share a Coke, but what worked for a name or nickname wasn’t working for the lyrics. “It was hard to read,” he explained.
The team dove into the Coca-Cola archives, searching for inspiration and just the right typeface. The inspiration came from 1979’s “Have a Coke and a Smile” campaign. The words from that campaign were in a font known as American Typewriter.
Step 2 was finding an illustrator who could make the words and music themes sing out from packaging and cans. The natural choice was Noma Bar, a graphic designer, illustrator and artist who has illustrated more than 60 magazine covers and published more than 500 illustrations. He is familiar with Coke, as he designed the Marvel-inspired Coca-Cola Mini Cans earlier this year.
His job was: Tell a story with the icons.
James Sommerville, VP, Global Design
The nod to Coca-Cola’s heritage is rooted in a frequent phrase from Sommerville: “Kiss the past hello.” That means “how do you restore the past not just to be nostalgic, but to reimagine something to make it appeal to a new generation. So it’s about finding those great moments and making them fresh again, according to Sommerville.
The Share a Coke and a Song design was all about kissing the past hello. Old, beloved lyrics. Turntables. A stylus touching vinyl. Illustrator Bar incorporated all of those historical elements – along with heavy doses of today’s music scene, like the earbuds and boom box – into the design.
The campaign also had its challenges. The team needed to integrate the design across different shapes and packaging.
All of it fun, consistent, musical and, connected to Coke
Elyse Larouere, Design Manager
One challenge for the design of Share a Coke and a Song was “to help consumers go on this journey with us,” said Larouere. “Only instead of a name, we were now communicating lyrics, which some people might say is an even more personal connection.”
Music iconography was the vehicle with which the design team took consumers on that journey. Hence the musical notes that serve as quote marks around the lyrics. The red Coca-Cola ribbon serving as earbud wires and wrapped around 12-ounce cans. More musical notes flowing from a large guitar to a can on packaging. Even how the words of the lyrics were broken from line to line “so that you can sing that song in your head,” Larouere explained.
All of it designed, she said, to “make the connection between written type and the iconography... so that consumers know exactly what they’re looking at.”
Like the change in font for the lyrics, the team also was challenged with how to make longer sentences with lyrics (versus a single name) interact with the Coca-Cola Lippincott ribbon, which first graced Coke products in 1969.
“What we liked about the typography and ribbon lockup was that it wasn’t a departure from our heritage,” Larouere said. “We got the inspiration from the ‘Have a Coke and a Smile’ ad. So, it felt consistent with our past but was fresh.”