Friday, October 28, 2016

Winsor & Newton watercolor tube redesigns - a graphic design review

I recently noticed that I have no less than four different Winsor & Newton Professional (formerly Artists') watercolor tube designs among my art supplies, so I thought I’d write a brief review of the graphic design of their tubes - ending with a comparative design review of Daniel Smith's watercolor tubes as well.

1. The original tube

This is the original graphic design, which has been around for a long time.

Winsor & Newton watercolor tube - the original design
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


Tube color

White, which makes black text easy to read (and permits personal notations with a permanent marker on the tube, such as purchase date, pigment characteristics, etc.)

Label and text

Black text on white label in easy-to-ready fonts, both serif and sans-serif, and font sizes. The most important information is emphasized in serif; color name in English and the product range “Artists’ Water Colour”.

Color swatch

A color stripe circles the tube at the top, also on the back. This makes it easy to see what color it is at a glance from any angle (even if you store your colors upright in jars like I do). Color name in white within the stripe in a serif font that makes it easily legible.

Logo

Very small logo on the side of the tube.

Color names

In addition to the color name prominently noted in white (serif) within the color swatch, color names are noted in five languages in black on the label (English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian) with English, in a serif font, being the most prominent, the others smaller and sans-serif.

To me, this not only provides an international flair but is also very helpful if you speak another language - the German color names are quite close to the Swedish color names, for example!

Color code

Not to be confused with pigment code, the color code is the code used as a reference by retailers (ex. 0105 178). This code is located right next to the color name on the front of the tube.

Pigment name and number

Pigment name and number (aka color index name) noted on the back, important information for the watercolor artist so you know what is in the tube (e.g. Synthetic Iron Oxide PR101 in Indian Red).

Other information

Series number (relates to price, 1 through 5, series 5 being the most expensive) noted on the front together with permanence rating (AA through C (and i through vi)) on yet another color stripe for increased visibility. Lightfastness (ASTM; I through V, or N/L) noted on the back, but for some reason not on all tubes.

Conclusion

To me, the original tube has it all in terms of easily legible and easy-to-locate information. Both the color swatch and color name are prominently located at the top of the tube. The entire color swatch wraps around the tube. The tubes and labels are white with black, easy-to-read text, emphasizing the color name with a serif font. And both pigment name and number are written on the back.

Graphically, the design is less balanced, but there is still an equilibrium of sorts that works between color stripes and white areas, horizontal and vertical text, serif and sans-serif fonts, large and small fonts.


2. Redesign #1, 2013

In 2013, Winsor & Newton decided to change their watercolor tube design, bringing back historical elements, such as the metallic tube, and making the griffin logo more prominent.

Winsor & Newton watercolor tube - the first redesign (2013)
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Tube color

Metallic, which reflects light and makes text difficult to read.

Label and text

Black text on transparent label (metallic shows through) in small, hard to read font sizes, most sans-serif on a reflective surface. The only words in serif are “Winsor & Newton Professional”. I actually prefer “Artists’” to “Professional”; this sounds more inspiring and creative to me!

Color swatch

A color stripe on the front below the center of the tube and a thinner color line on the back, making it difficult to see what color it is unless the tube is lying on its own on a table.

Logo

Prominent logo at the top of the tube.

Color names

Color names in three languages (English, French, and Spanish; German and Italian have been removed) in black capitals, but small font sizes. This is the only location where the name of the color is noted.

Color code

Noted on the back.

Pigment name and number

Pigment number only (e.g. PR 101), leaving out the pigment name, in a tiny font on the back.

Other information

Permanence rating and series number noted on the front in a tiny font, transparency noted graphically on the back with a square symbol that is filled in for opaque colors and left unfilled for transparent. Lightfastness noted on some tubes

Conclusion

The first redesign put the logo first and, in doing so, forgot about the readability and usability of the product for the end user! Neither color swatch nor color name is easy to to read, the same goes for the black text on a metallic background which reflects light. The small sans-serif font is not improving the legibility. In addition, I miss the pigment names and find the tiny and narrow font used for color characteristics very hard to read.

Graphically, the logo, company and product name take up more than 50% of the front of the label, crowding out the actual color information. The label feels top-heavy, with only the color stripe providing an anchor at the lower half.


3. Redesign #2, 2014(?)

Fairly soon thereafter, a second redesign was

Winsor & Newton watercolor tube - the second redesign
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


Tube color

Metallic as before.

Label and text

Black on metallic as before, but font sizes beefed up on the front.

Color swatch

An even smaller color stripe on the front below the center of the tube, and the same thin color line on the back as before.

Logo

A much smaller logo at the top of the tube.

Color names

Color names in the same three languages in black capitals, but now in larger font sizes, albeit all the same size which I find confusing. This is still the only location where the name of the color is noted.

Color code

Noted on the back as before.

Pigment name and number

Pigment number noted in a tiny font on the back as before.

Other information

The series number is now more prominent on the front, permanence rating is noted in a smaller font below. Lightfastness noted, at least on my tubes, transparency with a symbol on the back.

Conclusion

Enter the second redesign, now with a larger color name but a smaller color swatch. The back sides are identical.

Graphically, the logo is still on top but is now reduced in size to a third of the available real estate, making its thin black lines all but invisible on the metallic surface. Still, balance is lacking in the composition as there is no one feature anchoring the design, only several disparate elements floating in space without anything tying them together, or separating them.


4. Redesign #3, 2015


Winsor & Newton watercolor tube - the third redesign (2015)
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.





Tube color

Metallic as before.

Label and text

Black on metallic as before, but the color names moved to within the color swatch and are now in white.

Color swatch

A wide color stripe right at the top on the front, but not circling the entire tube. Only a thin line on the back. Color name in white capitals within the stripe in three languages, all in a sans-serif font.

Logo

Small logo, but larger than in the prior redesign, now below the color swatch.

Color names

Color names in three languages (English, French, and Spanish) in white capitals on the color swatch.

Color code

Noted on the back as before, but now further down.

Pigment name and number

Pigment number noted in a tiny font on the back as before, but now further down.

Other information

Series number and permanence rating noted on the front as before. Lightfastness noted in a small font on the back (but still not on all tubes?!), transparency with a symbol.

Conclusion

The third, and probably final, redesign returned the color swatch to the top of the tube and widened it to boot, yet did not extend its entire width to the back side but left it only a slim line. The color name is located within the swatch as it was in the original design, but in a sans-serif font in white ink that I find hard to read at a glance. I would have liked to see some hierarchy between the color names as all three languages are now located within the swatch.

The information on the back has also been reconfigured, but I must say I found the prior version better, which established the hierarchy of information with color characteristics at the top and company information below instead of the opposite, which is now the case.

All in all, this design works much better than the prior two, but is still a bit hard to read.

Graphically, the color swatch and color names now take center stage, but the logo is so small and thin that it does not quite manage to balance the composition, which carry most weight at the top.


Daniel Smith comparison


Daniel Smith watercolor tube
© 2016 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


Why not take a look at the graphic design of a Daniel Smith watercolor tube as well?!

Tube color

This tube is black, which makes it impossible to make notes on unless using a white marker.

Label and text

However, the label is white and could be written upon! Black text in sans-serif fonts (except the company name, which is in serif), are just a bit bigger and less narrow than Winsor & Newton's, making this tube easier to read even if the fonts still are small.

Color swatch

A color stripe right at the top, circling the entire tube. The flower logo is also printed in this color, as an extra bonus, very elegant! Color name in black right below the color swatch.

Logo

Located at the bottom half of the label in the same color as the color in the tube!

Color names

Color names in five languages (English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian) in black, with English more prominently displayed.

Color code

Noted on the back.

Pigment name and number

Pigment name and number noted on the back, and not only that, also the vehicle (gum arabic solution) is noted, in both English and French.

Other information

Series number and lightfastness noted on the back, also in both English and French. Separate permanence ratings or transparency not noted.

Conclusion

A very clean and well balanced graphic design, in my opinion. The yellow stripe on top is balanced by and connected to the logo below and the font sizes lead the eyes to the most important information, something you can easily see if you hold the tube at an arm’s length distance.

On the front, only the necessary information is noted: Color name, in five languages no less, company name and logo, and volume/weight.

The back side is less clear, with company information on top, then color code, series and lightfastness, with pigment information located below the bar code. As with W&N, I recommend locating the company information on the bottom and keeping color characteristics on top where the eye first travels at a glance.



Översättning. Genomgång och kritik av den grafiska designen av Winsor & Newtons fyra senaste akvarelltuber - samt en jämförelse med konkurrenten Daniel Smith.

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