The Art and Social Consequence of Fruit Crate Labels



Label design for a Sunkist fruit crate
  • Label design for a Sunkist fruit crate

Some people just eat. Some eat and think about food. Some people eat, think about food and ponder its ramifications in culture.

So this piece on the Smithsonian's Design Decoded blog about the history of fruit crate labels is more information than you really needed about fruit crate labels, but if you're in the latter category of eater/thinker/ponderer, it's very interesting.

The blogger notes that the original orange crate labels painted California as the exotic land of sunshine and fresh fruit, attracting so many settlers that eventually the groves were bulldozed to build housing for the waves of new arrivals.

Crate and can labels are the album covers of the food world. Food historians love them, and decry the loss of individuality and artistry in the face of focus-grouped, neural research specificity. If you've ever seen fruit crate and can labels from early 20th century, they're really quite beautiful works of art. The design, the commitment to difficult printing processes and quality papers signal such pride in the contents. I own antique can labels printed in metallic ink and embossed. Imagine putting that kind of label on a canned food nowadays.

So read it, eat it, and think about it.

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