Do Muscleheads Hate Graphic Design?

A work friend of mine recently decided to start bulking up. He purchased one of those three gallon tubs of protein powder from GNC - specifically, Russian Bear 5000. As you'll see above, the packaging layout for this product is astonishing. When was the last time you saw black, yellow, white, pink and purple integrated together? And what font is that?

I am no workout freak and definitely not in the target market for these powders, so I recognize that my personal opinion about this category might not prove too insightful. With that said, I am baffled by the packaging. Does Russian Bear 5K have a marketing department? Or even an unpaid marketing intern? Were there several designs that were rejected before they ultimately chose the packaging above?

My friend explained that he chose RB5K because it contains more calories per serving than many of the other competiting brands. I'm sure that this appeal accounts for why some protein powders succeed, but's best sellers section lists products that appear to be successful for other reasons. One example of this is MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Triple Chocolate Milkshake. Just below the pronouncement of being "hardcore" the label explains that one scoop will "immediately trigger an anabolic environment by optimizing nitrogen retention, nutrient absorption, protein synthesis and cellular regeneration."

Perhaps this swirl of black, purple, red and yellow best illustrates what this process looks like inside of your body. Or maybe it's difficult to connote badass-ness AND explain complex metabolic processes. (Even so, I don't believe they are drawing enough attention this high chocolate multiple - 3X. I wonder if that translates to 300% cacao in gourmand terms.)

Do muscle powders lack traditional notions of "good design" because the people using these products believe that what is visually attractive cannot be hardcore? Is this market so reliant on word-of-mouth that packaging is irrelevant? Or is this a strategy that no one has yet explored?

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Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned with the hammer and sickle. Who decided on that? I mean, Ivan Drago was pretty big, but...

nycrun said...

You bring up several points that do not immediately come to mind. Insightful!

JG said...

When is the next post scheduled? We are waiting for a new read!

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