Creative Labeling

cheerioslabelCreativity and problem solving can be found in the most unexpected places. Have you ever looked at the nutrition labels on cereal or ketchup and thought about their design? I hadn’t, until I listed to an interview with Burkey Belser, the man who designed them. Because new nutrition labels are in the works, he is thinking about his design and what he’d recommend to replace it. Looking at the options, I was amazed at the difference small changes made. Take a look at the current label (left), the FDA’s suggested replacement (middle), and Belser’s suggested replacement (right). (You can see a larger version on the page with the interview linked above.)

nutrition labels side by side copy

And lest you think forget we’ve come some distance, take a look at the original labels from the 1970s. It would be interesting to have students analyze what makes current labels easier to read. Have they ever thought about the fact that someone has to design labels?

early nutrition label

Thinking about labels, and the options in current revisions, presents some great opportunities for creative thinking. What about some of these?

  • Students studying nutrition could suggest the types of nutrition information they think most vital, perhaps presenting their ideas as a persuasive speech.
  • In math, use nutrition labels to calculate the actual calories, fat, etc. consumed by an average student, as compared to the portion sizes listed on the label. How many “portions” are in bottles or bags that appear to be sized for individuals? What might a more helpful label present? Have students design it.
  • Ask students to design labels that would be appealing to different ages. What kinds of information might elementary students need, and what format would appeal to them? Older students? Adults? Is there a way to fit nutrition information for all ages in a reasonable amount of space?
  • Choose several different nutrition labels and survey students or parents to see which is easiest to read. You might choose the labels currently being suggested or original labels created by students. Or survey students about whether they use nutrition information in selecting snacks. Is nutrition information important to them?
  • What would happen if cafeteria lunches provided nutrition information? Does anyone in your school have the information needed to post such a thing? How might it be used?
  • Have students study some basic principles of graphic design, perhaps using Go: The Book. Critique the current and suggested nutrition labels using those principles. Then use them to create something better! I’d love to see the results.

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