Celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year the Coca Cola bottle is a classic example of a timeless icon that has achieved lasting global recognition.
The birth of this icon began with a desire for brand protection in an increasingly competitive market. The initial Coca Cola bottles were simple and straight sided, easily imitated.
Coca Cola wanted a design that would signal to consumers that Coke was a premium product that couldn’t be confused with generic competitors, something that would be as distinct and recognizable as a logo or product.
The challenge put out to glass manufacturers across the United States was to develop a bottle “so distinct that you would recognize it by feel in the dark or lying broken on the ground”.
The winning design was created by Earl R Dean from the Root Glass Company. Originally he looked for inspiration from the two main ingredients of Coke; the Coca leaf and the Kola Nut. But the bulging middle, parallel grooves and tapered ends were inspired by the shape and ridges he saw in a photograph of a Cocoa Pod.
The design achieved originality and distinction in a homegenous market. The meteoric rise and domination of the Coca Cola brand is credited to the unique shape of the bottle and the strong bottling system employed by Coca Cola. Which is to this day one of the most famous and instantly identifiable brands in the world.
The Coke bottle was the first commercial product to appear on the cover of TIME magazine in 1950. In 1961 it achieved trademark status, highly unusual for a commercial package and at the time only the second instance in history.
It has been widely used as a symbol in pop-culture by artists such as Salvidore Dali and Andy Warhol. It has even come to describe a certain style of design (‘coke bottle styling’) used in the aviation and automotive industries, such as the 1978 Chevrolette Corvette.
While it has changed over the years it is still similar and comparable to its original design.
The Coke bottle was an ideal combination of form and function and an early example of highly successful brand differentiation through design and packaging. This is now widely understood as a simple and effective means for a company to create a strong, unique image for its brand, just look at the various shapes and sizes of liquor packaging.
Coca Cola has barely changed its branding for over 100 years, proving that great design rises above trends and can achieve a timeless quality.