The Night I Fell in Love With a Mustard Bottle

I was at a bar the other night with a friend of mine. Kinda drunk, super hungry. We ordered a round (okay, another round) and decided to split a burger.

While we waited, we started talking about her challenges as a business owner. See, I’m a digital content nerd who talks about marketing strategies when I’m drunk. Talking shop is pretty much standard Saturday night conversation. (FYI to future friends.)

I was in the thick of a particularly poignant soliloquy on the critical elements of effective website design when our burger arrived. I leaned over to grab the ketchup and mustard when it happened…

I fell in love with a mustard bottle.

The connection was immediate, almost frighteningly so.

The stylistic restraint…

The conscientious font choice…

The flow of large to small, wide to narrow, organically leading the eye down to the exquisitely executed slogan…

The muthafuckin’ literary consonance…

It was the most beautiful mustard bottle I’d ever seen.

“Oh my god,” I breathed as I plucked the bottle out of the condiment basket.

“Oh my god what?” she asked, stabbing a knife through the center of the burger.

“Check out this mustard bottle. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Great design is HARD! Look at this freaking tagline! ‘A common condiment done uncommonly well.’ And the font’s, like, kinda retro, ya know? Like, what else does mustard really need to be?”

Oh yes, the genius was flowing now.

I continued. “I mean… do you even know how many hours went into making this label?!? The meetings, the revisions, the rejects? It’s effing brilliant!”

Wide-eyed, I held the bottle aloft in the amber bar lights.

“Yeah, I guess I never thought about it,” she mused between mouthfuls of burger.

I accepted this as genuine interest.

Here’s the thing about great design…

It’s not obvious.

And it’s not just about graphics or color or packaging. It’s about the entire user experience.

Great design marries visual, textual, and functional elements. And when we’re talking about design for consumer goods – or anything consumer-facing, really, whether that’s a website, an app, or a bottle of Heinz – you have an incredible amount of practicality involved. There are untold hours spent making sure that bottle fits just right into your greasy hands so you can easily squeeze mustard on your burger, no matter how many sheets to the wind you are. The ego drops away as graphic designers, writers, marketers, and packaging experts work together to make something that works and sells.

Great design is the one-click checkout of Amazon. It’s the easy scroll through curated episodes of “Seinfeld” on Hulu. It’s the one-handed ordering of five pizzas in 1.6 minutes on the Little Caesar’s app. (Guilty.) (Every Friday night.)

It’s the moment you fall in love with the Heinz mustard bottle.