The evolution of pizza box design offers opportunities for your pizzeria branding
Pizzerias have been customizing their boxes as far back as the 1930s, utilizing the open real estate as mobile billboards. Early designs were simple, but improvements in printing technology have broadened the possibilities for independent pizzerias. Here are some design motifs pizzerias are using to define themselves on their boxes.
After decades of pizza boxes that look more like blown up phone book ads, pizzerias are finally hiring artists to create unique pieces for their box tops! Hiring a local artist gives you a truly unique image and endears you to the community as a supporter of the arts. The challenge here is educating the artist about the limitations of pizza box printing. There are restrictions regarding the number of colors, overlap of colors (trapping) and proximity of ink to folds and cuts in the box. If you’re hiring someone who hasn’t designed for this medium, it’s wise to connect them with the in-house designers at your pizza box supplier to help guide them through the process.
The rise of artisan pizza has brought with it a wave of lo-fi pizza box design. Just as the pizzas are rustic and handmade, so too is the art on the box. Picture a 12-inch kraft box (unbleached brown paper) baring a simple graphic hand-stamped off center. It’s usually just a name or logo. This is the opposite of corporate design since it avoids the direct sell of a flashy box covered with coupons and contact information. The DIY aesthetic has a punky edge that works really well for pizzerias that want to convey an artisan mentality. Pizzerias doing the lo-fi thing are often the ones using preferments, organic toppings and local produce.
Retro pizzerias are popping up everywhere, and with them come designs that harken back to the days of wood paneling on the walls and video game cabinets in the corner. These prints have simple nameplates in the center and vintage borders at the edge. Maybe there’s even a winking chef in the mix. This trend is all about simplicity with no social media handles, QR codes, or detailed designs. It’s all about branding, not advertising. While the throwback motif might seem like design regression, it’s actually quite distinctive among the myriad pizzerias trying to accentuate a dominant presence. These boxes, and the pizzerias that offer them, are proud of being mom-and-pops.
Some of the most striking visuals are the ones we don’t expect and in the world of pizza boxes that means an image that rolls over the box’s side. A yellow box with red text or a black box with white text is quite the departure from the usual. Although they’re incredibly striking, these full-bleed designs will cost you more for ink and require higher minimums. Short run orders are printed after the box has been cut and scored, so you can’t get close to the edge. If you absolutely need a box with full-bleed art, you’ll have to order a large run that gets printed before being scored and cut. Also be careful with large amounts of ink because there’s a risk of color rubbing off on your customers’ hands. As with each of these design concepts, always follow the guidance of your printer. They deal with enough pizza box art to have best practices based on their equipment.
Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.