Champions of Design – Cohiba
Such an eye-catching, confident little design – monochromatic milling atop a bright yellow ground, an austere logotype relieved only by the humanity of the native squaw. For luxury cigars costing £25 apiece it appears to say very little, yet what a story it can tell.
Created in 1966, a year etched on our national consciousness by sporting success, when off the Florida coast an altogether more ideological battle was being fought. Having initially monopolised this special cigar, once Castro had decreed Cohiba should henceforth be available to all, he allegedly designed the packaging himself. And by so doing betrayed the passion of an iconoclast.
By its spare, industrial nature the design is the antithesis of the over-decorated, quasi-religious regalia of its predecessors. No gold foil, no medals, no sepia images, no Biblical metaphors. Brightly and confidently it symbolised the values of the new era, the triumph of the socialist movement, the rejection of traditional authorities of Church and State. And by so doing, rendered capitalist Cuban cigar brands somehow alien.
If the political lesson to be drawn from Cohiba is that even humble packaging can be a catalyst for social change, perhaps the business lesson is that should you wish to foment a revolution, brave design is your first weapon.
By Andrew Knowles, Chairman, jkr