Ornamentation is the abstract decoration seen on many packaging designs today. Architect Adolf Loos firmly asserted that Ornament was a sin, in his 1908 essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ However, despite it being something that is too often applied to conceal faulty merchandise and flawed concepts, it can almost illuminate a dull product and can be used with purpose. Decoration can play an integral role in the total design scheme of many products, it is a combination of colour, line, pattern, lettering and picture. It does not convey a literal message,  but instead serves a purpose to stimulate senses. Paisley, and Herringbone patterns are decorative, and can be used as a way to decorate things such as packaging, to create a design that is more appealing to the eye.

Further research into ornamentation

Ornamentation is the embellishment of an object or building, particularly seen in architecture, use to enhance a buildings appearance. For example, this 18th century Rocco Balcony in Bavaria. This is an example of sculpted and painted ornamentation.


As this picture demonstrates, ornamentation is truly admired through its appearance, and its ability to brighten up what would have been a boring open space. Ornamentation provides a moment of appreciation to many things and their aesthetic values. However, ornamentation generally has a preconceived notion that it is ‘old fashioned’ or of the ‘Victorian era’ so I am aiming to explore how modern day ornamentation defies this, and get an understanding to what the main purpose of ornamentation is.

One of the main questions that came up whilst researching Ornamentation was ‘is ornamentation really a crime?’ The fact that this is one of the main things that came up on the internet about ornamentation suggests that there are a lot of mixed views about this particular subject. Many people believe that ornamentation is a waste of time, and in fact a pointless human labor. For example, illustration is something that many people consider came in around AD400 to AD600. However, the other side of this argument is that illustration began when the first man drew an image on a cave wall, which usually was of some kind of mythical creature, or in fact what the hunter had caught for dinner. So going back all these years one thing is clear, the cavemen did not sit around decorating or using ornamentation to enhance their drawings. Why not? Did they believe it was a waste of time too? We can gather from this that millions of years ago the cavemen simply did not take their time fussing around with ornamentation, as it was more of a simple graphic message they were after.

Jumping down the line to the 1990’s, illustrator Peter Wilson of Rote Design trained as an artist/illustrator, but remembers a common criticism of his work was that it was ‘too decorative.’ However, Wilson took well to this criticism as he argued back discussing the idea that just because his work was decorative, does not mean it takes away the main focus of the painting/illustration. He then goes on to justify his point, as he explained how the changing world has brought ornamentation into art work, fashion, interior design, and advertising and it is something which will be progressing as the years go on. Again, Peter Wilson backs up the idea that there is an on going controversy with ornamentation, and many artists that use it face criticism from others.

Both sides of the argument were very justifiable. Criticisms pointed out that as ornament wasn’t necessary, it was wasting valuable materials. One of the arguments focused particularly on the Seagram building, home to New York, where Mies van de Rohe built unnecessary vertical I-beams on the outside of the building.

However, modern day ornamentation is seen a lot more often than it was many years ago. Many people admire the old ornamentation patterns that have been engraved into the architecture of buildings, as it is considered a thing of beauty and talented craftsmanship. The popularity of ornament has risen vast amounts in the recent years, and used on packaging to encourage people to buy the product. It is also seen a thing of Royalty, and something those wealthier may be able to afford.

The image below shows how ornamentation has been adapted and used as a form of decoration. This type of ornamentation aims to encourage the purchase of such items, the ornament being the main encouragement. It shows a sense of delicacy and care, aiming to get a positive response. I feel the main market for products that are decorated with ornamentation is a female audience, as patterns such as flowers are used.


teaPackaging designed by: http://www.cba-design.it/en/what-we-do/expertise/packaging-design

This KUSMI TEA packaging design is made with the purpose of advertising the product. It adds decoration to what would otherwise just be a plain grey tin. It makes the tea appear fancy and gives the product and added reason to buy it, as it is pleasing to the eye.

The designer has used the concept of ornamentation in a way to make their product look better than it perhaps is. They have used orange, black and white as the colours for their main focus and have kept to this colour scheme for this particular tea. The black and orange is clearly used to represent the ‘chocolat et orange’ which is what the tea is flavored of. This allows the customer to look at the packaging to depict the flavor, rather than having to read too much into it. Ornamentation appears a very important part of this product, and it has been used very carefully to enhance the products appearance.

The message can be seen through the colour scheme, as this is based around the flavorings of the tea. I particularly like this idea as it means that the ornamentation is not completely irrelevant, and despite a lot of ornamentation packaging designs, this one has a meaning. Furthermore, the message the company are trying to convey is that their tea is the best. Therefore, using ornamentation on the packaging seems to be quite effective due to the fact that ornamentation is decorative, and has links to royalty, and colours such as purple and red.  This again makes the product seem far more outstanding than just tea, and urges people to buy it.

The ornamentation also brings a wider market, even perhaps to those who don’t like tea. For example, someone may see the pretty packaging design, and stop to have a look at it, based on the packaging. They may even buy it, for a friend or family member, but without the ornamentation, would most likely not have stopped to look at it.

In my opinion, this product is very successful, and it is mainly down to the ornamentation used in its design. I feel that the packaging is not deceiving as it is simply a pattern, which is not made up of anything which may give you false hope as to what is inside the container. It is also simple, and not over decorative, and the colours are bold, but themed. Because the colours work so well together, I feel that this is another success of the piece as it makes the product more appealing. However, the thing I like least about this design is the smaller typography at the bottom of the packaging, as I feel this should stand out a bit more, as like the logo, it is relevant information. It is not unnoticeable, though, and I feel it doesn’t majorly need to be changed, as overall I am very fond of this whole design.


This design was by Marian Bantjes, and its title is ‘National Poetry Month 2010’

I feel that this design has a nice colour scheme going on, as the colours appear quite royal, the blues and golds especially used, almost giving the poster status. Furthermore, the black gives the poster a bold and noticeable effect, assuring it would not be missed if it were put up in the streets. However, despite the colours and how they compliment each other well, I believe that the main aim of the poster is to advertise the fact it is ‘National Poetry Month’ However, I feel this is not portrayed that well within the design, and the poster uses too much ornamentation. Additionally, the poster features three main articles of text (the three biggest font sizes) which due to the amount of ornament used around them, makes them difficult to read. They are also all in different fonts, which I feel ruins the theme the poster had to it.

One of the main successes of this piece of work is in fact that ornamentation. Despite my personal opinion of there being too much of it, I feel it is also successful in a way of making the poster stand out, and become noticeable. I feel that if I were to see this poster in the streets I would have no clue as to what its about without reading the typography. It is intriguing and I feel the idea of having an ornamentation based poster links into the delicacy and creativity poets go through when writing. Like ornamentation, poetry is a creative subject and a lot of care is put into it. Furthermore, many people believe poetry is a pointless subject. You could argue that writing a story, or an account of something is easier than writing it in a poetic form- thinking about the amount of stanzas, rhyming couplets and which techniques should be used. Much like the argument for ornamentation, linking back into the I-beams that were added to a New York sky scraper, not out of necessity. However, the reason I feel that ornamentation is a success here, is because it enhances the appearance of the poster which despite the controversial views that come with poetry, gives it a sense of importance, and shows the beauty of poetry through the illustration.

As I personally don’t like this poster, I feel it has many negative points to it. The first negative I can pick out is the typography. As it is all in different fonts I feel it has more of a random look to it, and contrasts with the carefully selected colour scheme that has been used. Another problem with the typography is the colours of it, mainly the gold coloured text on a white background, as it is not of a high visibility. This could be down to a lack of importance of the particular line, which could then be seen as quite a clever technique, but as the typography for this line is quite large, I feel it most likely is an important part of the poster. Backed up on a black background, this gold colour text is a lot more effective and easier to read, it is just the rest of the text that I feel lets the poster down. Furthermore, the poster appears to be made up of three quarter circle shapes. These I feel are quite random, and I don’t have any kind of idea as to why they are there, again this sense of random features I feel lets the poster down as it doesn’t hold a lot of meaning.

If this were my poster to improve, I would most likely add some features which link into poetry to it, to represent more of what the event is about. I would also change the colours of most of the text, and most likely choose to have them dark on a light background, and in a bolder font to make them clear to read, and still visible from a distance. The concept of ornamentation its-self I feel doesn’t have a lot of purpose in advertising the fact it is National poetry week, other than the delicacy it has having a small link to the delicacy you may write a poem with. Therefore, although the concept of ornamentation is used throughout this design, I feel it doesn’t hold much of a purpose in advertising this event.


This is type of ornamentation in packaging and is designed by a company called Fanakalo. Fanakalo designed this wrap around packaging for the ale company Steenbok. This is a modern take on ornamentation and has more of a simple form compared to the other ornate designs I have previously looked at.

I am particularly fond of this design as I like the simplistic nature it has to it, and I feel the colours work very effectively. This is one of the successes of this packaging design; the colours. I feel that using black for all the main information works well as it stands out from the yellow, and is clear and easy to read. The yellow helps with this and compliments the black by showing it to stand out based on the bright yellow colour that is used behind it. Another success of this design is the small gaps in between the black lines and typography. The fact that the black colour used on the design has speckles of yellow showing through it makes the design seem more authentic, and backs up the deer that is seen on the packaging as it makes the design appear more natural, and perhaps homely. It has a professional appearance, yet feels more personal to the imagery used on the bottle sticker.

Ornamentation has been used on this design to enhance the packaging and give the bottle a more interesting appearance. The ornamentation in this design is seen through the small swirls and decoration that has been added to the lines. I feel that it adds a nice touch to the packaging and does not over complicate the design, but allows you to still focus on the most important parts of it, such as the information.

There is not a lot I feel that I dislike about this design. I feel it is very original and has a nice simplistic style to it.   To change the design, I would perhaps add in some green colours to go along with the natural idea represented by the deer. However, I don’t feel there is anything wrong with the colour scheme anyway, and so altering the colour scheme drastically would not be a necessity.

Source: Helen, S and Vienne, V (2012) 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, London, Laurence King Publishing Ltd


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