Chasing the Dragon: A “Zhuzh” Dynasty Autopsy, and Chinese New Year Packaging Story.

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by Leigh Munro

January 23rd marks the beginning of Chinese New Year 2012, or "Chinese Year" 4710, 4709, or 4649, (exact dates vary depending on who you talk to) and rings in the Year of the Dragon - revered as a particularly auspicious in Southeast Asian culture.

Chinese New Year is—a fresh beginning. Clean the house, decorate, feast, reflect, provide offerings, give thanks to ancestors, trade little red envelopes full of money, dance, then top it off by blowing up firecrackers, warding off evil, and ushering in a fresh heap of good luck, and light.

It’s kind of like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, and New Years (with a peppering of Liberace-style glam) compressed into two weeks of contiguous reverence, abundance and celebration.

So—being a packaging geek—I’m compelled to see what’s being marketed for this illustrious holiday. What magical pillar of packaging design could be found? What form would it take?

With this notion stuck in craw, I head out—two friends in tow—to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to find what bevy of goodies Chinatown has to offer.

We meander with long gazes toward a jumble of sensory overload.People, traffic, horns, delivery trucks, fruit stands, fish markets, banners, lanterns, ornaments, and signage in eye-popping colors proliferate as we penetrate the neighborhood.

Amongst corridors where even the banal looks like art, we dart in and out of apothecaries, bodegas, supermarkets, gift shops, tea merchants, and specialty stores.

After hours of buzzing around like hummingbirds hard up for nectar, we’d seen tons of amazing packages, (Including the ever-hilarious “Best Penis,”) purchased bags upon bags of candy—but had no holy grail.

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1-Dieline-Best-Penis-LO.jpg

Photos by Chad Tolson

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2-Dieline-Group-Shot-CNY-Low-Res.jpg
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3-Dieline-Group-Shot-CNY-Low-Res-detail-1.jpg

Feeling somewhat defeated, our attention turned to a holiday placard—acquired from a street vendor along the way—somewhat epic from a manufacturing perspective, and a veritable abundance of eye-fodder.

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4-Dieline-Chinese-New-Years-Plackard-LO.jpg
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5-Dieline-Chinese-New-Years-Plackard-Detail-1.jpg
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6-Dieline-Group-Shot-CNY-Low-Res-detail-2.jpg
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7-Dieline-Chinese-New-Year-Flower-Grill.jpg
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8-Dieline-Depth-Detail-1-x-Leigh's-Project-7.jpg

Which of course, incited a feverish urge to rip it apart.

How is it made? How many processes and materials comprise the parts of its excessive sum?

To answer this, I enlisted the assistance of my colleagues, who have superior deductive skills when faced with such queries. After a few good-natured snickers, a quick study rendered the following:

“Zhuzh” as I affectionately call this placard, can picked apart into 9 primary pieces:

• A backing panel

• Two side columns

• A disc

• A logogram 

• A grill facade

• Three illustrated panels

Each has varying treatments per the breakdown below:

9-Dieline-Back-Panel-x-Leigh-1.19-27.jpg
9-Dieline-Back-Panel-x-Leigh-1.19-27.jpg

Backing Panel:

Carton Stock

Red Ink

Gold Ink

Adhesive

Flocking

Gold Foil Stamp

Adhesive

Gold Glitter

Die Cut

23 Double-Sided Adhesive Foam Pads

10-Dieline-Column-x-Leigh-1.19-28.jpg
10-Dieline-Column-x-Leigh-1.19-28.jpg

Side Columns:

Rainbow Hologram Carton Stock

Gold Ink

Adhesive

Flocking

Gold Foil Stamp

Emboss

Die Cut

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11-Dieline-Disc-x-Leigh-1.19-31.jpg

Disc:

Rainbow Hologram Carton Stock

Gold Ink

Adhesive

Flocking

Gold Foil

Stamp

Emboss

Die Cut

10 Double-Sided Adhesive Foam Pads

12-Dieline-Logogram-x-Leigh-1.19-33.jpg
12-Dieline-Logogram-x-Leigh-1.19-33.jpg

Logogram:

Carton Stock

Red Ink

Gold Ink

Black ink

Adhesive

Flocking

Adhesive

Glitter

Die Cut

6 Double-Sided Adhesive Foam Pads

13-Dieline-Grill-x-Leigh-1.19-34.jpg
13-Dieline-Grill-x-Leigh-1.19-34.jpg

Grill façade:

Rainbow Hologram Carton Stock

Gold Ink Emboss

Die Cut

Adhesive

6 Metallic Plastic Flowers

10 Rhinestones

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14-Dileine-Illustrated-Pieces-x-Leigh-1.19-35.jpg

Illustrated panels:

Rainbow Hologram Carton Stock

Gold Ink

White ink

Cyan ink

Magenta ink

Yellow ink

Black ink

Emboss

Diecut

4 Double-Sided Adhesive Foam Pads

All told there are:

2 Substrates

7 Inks

8 Die cuts

6 Embosses

2 Foil Stamps

3 Adhesives

Glitter

Flocking

6 Plastic Flowers

10 Rhinestones

44 Double-Sided Adhesive Foam Pads

Astounding!!!

The process of discovery unearths additional curiosities—conundrums abundant as Dragon, answers fleeting as Rabbit.

Opulent holiday festiveness for the low-low price of $5.50? How much did “Zhuzh” cost to produce? Who did the hand work? Are any of the materials sustainable? How much does it cost to import? Will we EVER get all the glitter out of the conference room?

Don’t hold your celestial breath waiting for me to quash these curious naggings. Rather, I leave you this laundry list of topics for further investigation, and a hearty well-wish for enormous good fortune this New Year.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

• Economic impact of international manufacturing/outsourcing/trade

• Print costs associated with special effects applications

• Sustainable options in special effects printing

• History of Chinese/SE Asian packaging

• Motif, calligraphy, custom and tradition of China/SE Asia

• Contemporary/Pop art in China

• Sinosphere

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15-DIELINE-CANDY-Pink-L-.jpg

Glossary

Flocking • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flocking_(texture)

Diecut • http://desktoppub.about.com/od/glossary/g/Diecuts.htm

Embossing • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embossing_(paper)

Hot Stamping (Foils) • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_stamping

Thanks to:

Chad Tolson, Krys Fox, and the Inwork team.

by Leigh Munro

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16-Headshot.jpg

Leigh Munro is Director of Client Services at Inwork, Inc. NYC. The foundation of her experience hewn in service bureaus, publishing houses, design firms, marketing communications and advertising agencies—she’s been there, done that, and even learned to toss a mean pizza along the way.