Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Subtlety of design

I always think it’s weird to look back at how drink containers have changed over a relatively short period of time.  Like, I think of 1993 as being pretty much the same as 2010 in many ways: no flying cars, no mind-melding machines, still had 50 states, Cubs still hadn’t won a World Series, etc.  But when I look at a picture that has a Coke bottle or a Pepsi logo, it seems like it has changed 100% from the current design.  Like this picture – it’s from the end of 2000, so it’s not ancient times, but that bottle looks entirely different from a current one: the background image, the angle of the lettering, the little details.  And it isn’t that often that I pick up a bottle and it’s 100% different, so it’s always these little tweaks that happen to font spacing or borders or something else that I never notice, until I look back ten years.

It’s even more strange in foreign countries.  I remember the first time I ever went to Canada, in 1988. I went to this Shakespeare festival in Strattford, Ontario with a bunch of people from my school.  (I don’t love Shakes like other drama nerds; it was a chance to miss a week of school and go to the country where Rush came from for something like $175 plus meals.  I half-expected to see Geddy Lee walking around a Tim Horton’s or Beer Store, but did not.)  I remember being in the lunch room of this weird nursing college where we stayed, putting a bunch of monopoly money coins (seriously, a dollar coin people use?) into a vending machine, and getting a can of Coke.  But it was all off, the size was like a millimeter or two the wrong way, the metal was a different thickness, or maybe it was steel instead of aluminum, and it wasn’t an honest-to-Jesus American twelve ounces; I think it was like 300 mL or 29 furlongs per parsec.  I could never wrap my head around that, and now every time I go to a foreign country, I take ten thousand pictures of every can and bottle I get my hands on.  If I went to Hiroshima in 1945 and the sky was still raining body parts and heavy water, I’d be snapping shots of a Japanese six-pack of Tab.

It’s weird now that I don’t drink regular Coke anymore.  My apartment and my desk at work used to be predominantly decorated with empty red cans of syrup-water, with the occasional desk or bed mixed in.  Now, I think the last time I drank a regular Coke must have been – I don’t even remember, maybe two years ago?  And now, a regular can of Coke looks almost alien to me.  We still have cases of the stuff at work, and I dig through them looking for a Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi (it’s all chemicals, I don’t really give a shit anymore) and the red looks weird compared to the silver non-calorie versions.

I have discovered I have hundreds of pictures of my injuries – every time I get a sunburn or a broken anything, I seem to take a dozen pictures of it.  Trying to think of some great montage to assemble.  If I was smart, I’d apply for an NEA grant with some huge bullshit artist statement about the healthcare crisis and how we are all art in a failing medical system, or whatever else.  Meanwhile, I find myself in the strange situation for the next month or so where I actually have double healthcare, two sets of insurance through the same provider even.  If I didn’t hate going to doctors so much, I would spend some serious time hopping from office to office, cashing in on this somehow.