Dollar Store Design

moveablestickNo, this site hasn’t morphed into an Engrish rip-off.  I’ve just been spending a lot of time in dollar stores lately.

Haunting the aisles of the cheap and easily broken, one begins to pick up on certain design tropes prevalent in goods sold at or near the amount of a dollar.  With the caveat that I am still a young grasshopper when it comes to big-city bargain hunting in the modern five and dime, I will attempt to sketch out some observations on national trends in decoration for products cheaply manufactured.

Now nothing says cheap like retro styling. In the above label for a ‘Movable Stick’, note the overall 70s vibe.  Warm colors.  Soft focus clip art.  Wavy rainbow lines.  And dig the simplistic logo for Min Long Craft that nearly screams “Owner/Operator/Creative Director”

I find the sum effect pretty reassuring of a half-assed product at a price low enough that I won’t think twice about splurging on a rolling pin when I don’t even have curtains on my windows yet.  (Dear neighbors: The human body is a beautiful, natural thing.  Especially mine.)

Even better:


The subtle clash of elements here is fantastic.  An American flag design with a discreet but readable ‘MADE IN CHINA” and the bold fiery letters of XIAN JIAN on the blue starry field delivers a one-two punch of easy irony.  Drop-shadows, serifs and a lovely gradient matte behind the cryptic product title let you know that when this designer works a pirated copy of Illustrator 4.0, its hard to see the mouse from all the steam coming off the man’s hands.

A nice tight row of bolts keep things nearly topical (this label comes from a variety pack of nails) and finishing it off with the polite and reassuring ESL slogan gives the whole proceedings that Asian flavor that keeps one coming back to the dollar store.

A subject for further study is whether there is a national style to cheap product package design.  I’d venture yes, having fed on bottom of the barrel Israeli sesame cookies, cheap Turkish milk crackers and allegedly Durian flavored sandwich cookies from Thailand through various jobs situated next to 99 cent, dollar and 100 yen stores.  More musings on this subject to come.

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