Apr 11, 2013 • By

How we design our retro cereal boxes

Editor’s note: This month, our retro packaging is back on five cereals at Target stores across the U.S. It’s our sixth year of bringing back our retro cereals (we wrote about the 2011 boxes in this post). This time around, we’ve also partnered with Hasbro to celebrate its vintage games. We asked Derek Wallen, art director for agency Curb Crowser that designed the boxes, to write about the experience.

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of designing the General Mills custom retro cereal boxes that appear in Target stores.

As an art director at Curb Crowser, a design agency in downtown Minneapolis, I worked closely with the General Mills, Target and Hasbro marketing teams, as well as the project managers, copywriter and production staff from our own team.

This year, we put more of a “vintage” spin on the retro boxes, by teaming up with Hasbro and their vintage-edition board games. All five boxes feature a $5 coupon for any of the four games: Scrabble, Clue, Parcheesi and Risk.

Five Big G boxes received a retro makeover this year: Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Each box design was pulled from a different era, ranging from the early 1940s to the early 1970s.

The Cheerios box is the oldest of the group, dating to 1944. The front of the box features a cereal bowl with blue stars and stripes, giving it a war-era feel. As you may know, the original box was titled “Cheerioats” and was marketed as a ready-made alternative to oatmeal.

The first step in creating the retro boxes is to gather original artwork from the archives at General Mills. The original artwork and package files from those times were not in digital form and needed to be scanned in or completely recreated.

We then carefully matched fonts, redrew elements and reshot the cereal photography in order to make the packages as authentic and true to the originals as possible.

In the case of the Cheerios box, we were able to track down the original stars and stripes bowl from the General Mills archives!

In addition to reconstructing the original artwork, we created four unique activities for the back of the boxes. All of which were inspired by Hasbro’s vintage board games.

We incorporated the type of cereal with the Hasbro game. For example, the Lucky Charms box features a game called “Breakfast Bandit,” where you try to find the hidden charms in a kitchen scene reminiscent of the kitchen found on the Clue game board.

On the back of the Cheerios box you can play “Cereal Scramble,” a word scramble game with point tiles similar to those in Scrabble. Seventeen letters from the unscrambled words make up the name of the inventor of Scrabble!

Each box also includes fun trivia facts about the original Hasbro games, along with delicious “game night” recipes developed by General Mills.

The retro boxes are always a fun project to work on, since General Mills cereals have such a rich history and visual claim to our collective pop culture.

The boxes are always a big hit with collectors and people who vividly remember the time periods when the boxes appeared on-shelf.

As an art director/designer, I love working with the vintage charm and timeless feel that make these boxes so memorable.