Photo by GeneralMills

The packaging design that I have chosen to work with is the General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios box. There are many visual elements on the front of the box. These items include the name in a darker shade of yellow, a honey bee, a heart, and a red bowl. Immediately, the different meanings of each item start to stand out, but I take a step back to look at what initially stands out to me. When looking at the box my eyes first are drawn to the giant word “Cheerios” and then quickly make their way down to the honeycomb wand that the bee is holding. When I looked at the box again a few hours later my eyes were drawn to the red bowl. When starting to evaluate each piece of the box, the first thing that comes to mind is the use of warm colors. Warm colors include yellows, oranges, and reds. Yellow is usually associated with youthfulness, optimism, and happiness. Usually, in their commercials, the people eating Cheerios are happy and excited and there is a lot of uses of yellow in the commercials that awakens the audience because of the bright contrast to other colors in a scene. The yellow on the box can be found in Buzz the Bee, the brand name, and on the lower half of the box. There is also almost a shimmering effect like when the sun is behind something and the rays surround the object in front. The yellowish rays are doing this exact thing with the red bowl. Buzz the bee has multiple meanings and symbols associated with him. The most impactful meaning would be that of imagining a colony of bees. The bees work tirelessly to continue the function of the hive. If one bee is down, then the whole system falls apart. Buzz symbolizes that nothing can stop you from doing everything that needs to be done. At the same time Buzz is also a playful bumblebee that children will see and want to box of cereal. The brand name is in a darker shade of yellow that contrasts against the dark orange on the top half of the box. This makes the name stand out more and is brightly colored, so children see it. Moving down the box, a gradient appears to take place because the dark orange becomes a bright yellow again. This is to continue on the idea of positivity and energy.

Orange is used sparingly and in some cases almost seems on the redder side. Orange can be seen as a background of the brand name and on Buzz’s shirt. Orange creates a sense of optimism, creativity, and adventurous. In advertising, it is used to draw attention to something. This would explain why the darker orange is behind the words and used on Buzz’s shirt to draw attention to the cute bee and the brand name. the final major color used was red. Red creates a sense of excitement, attention, and passion. In marketing, it acts as a way to create urgency or draw attention to something specific. There are only two red colored items on this box; the heart on the lower left that says “lower cholesterol” and the red bowl that has been mentioned a number of times already. Cheerios is known for being “heart healthy”, so it would be obvious to put that on the box. And the bowl sits partially under the heart making the viewer’s eyes drawn to the round shaped food. People are always looking for healthy snacks and this is a way for people to just look and know that this may be what they want. The heart alone speaks for itself and is one less word that needs to be used to keep it easy to read.

NASCAR driver Johnny Benson in 1998
Photo by Darryl Moran

Based on all of this information, it is clear the brand values focusing on good-tasting and healthy foods. The goal is to market an item to all people. Parents are not always going to buy a box of cereal that has a cute animal on it because their child wants it, nor do all people have children. The company was able to market something that can be a better choice for families and individuals. The box itself looks casual, not childish nor to bland. The most important information conveyed, whether true or not, is that it is heart-healthy and tastes sweet. The most frustrating part of the box is reading the information at the bottom of the box that talks about the ingredients. The words are a slightly lighter shade of yellow than the box, but its still not easy to read. This was probably done so that one’s eyes aren’t immediately draw to it and no one wants to take the time to read it because you have to then strain yours eyes.

With all this information, the design somewhat impacts my understanding of the brand, but only slightly. General Mills is known for sugary, unhealthy breakfast cereals, but at the same time offers more of a variety of options than other brands and in other food markets. General Mills practically owns the cereal market with healthy options and unhealthy options. They also sells yogurt, baking boxes, frozen vegetables, and much more. Personally, my relationship with this company has not changed. I’m not a huge breakfast person, cereal included. Other than that it has been interesting breaking down the pieces that go into the design.

Cheerios boxes
Photo by Mike Mozart