history 103: evolution of soft drink cans

history 103: evolution of soft drink cans

Attention, class. Today we will be discussing the history and development of iconic soft drink packaging. Feel free to take notes.



7UP Can Evolution

The earliest 7UP cans were actually white. The 1961 design featured the 7UP logo on a red rectangle complemented by green striping. The 1964 and 1967 designs both featured a bold wordmark vertically on the can, with the ’67 version swapping the green and white. The 1972 design is certainly the funkiest of the group. The can changed again in 1977, utilizing a matte kelly green and a more script-like wordmark. The soft drink’s logo took the basic layout of its current form with the 1980 redesign, but was rotated when the packaging was updated in 1990. The 1992 design saw the bubbles become line art and the addition of “The Uncola”. Spot appeared on the can in 1994. By 1995, the can underwent another redesign that featured a splash behind the wordmark. 7UP entered the 2000s by updating the can again, with circular swirls constituting the background. The current design was unveiled in 2010 with a more three-dimensional wordmark and lemon and lime wedges.



Coca-Cola Can Evolution

The Coca-Cola can has gone through a myriad of revisions and special editions, and I will highlight some of the more significant edits, as pictured above. The original can, from 1955, featured the Coca-Cola wordmark in red against a white diamond. Line art of the bottle was added in 1963, but only lasted three years. The 1966 design featured a number of smaller diamonds containing the Coca-Cola script. The contour first appeared in 1970 with the Coke wordmark, although it was replaced by the script the next year. The Coke wordmark returned in 1976, but was once again replaced by the script in 1985 to differentiate the classic brand from New Coke. The ’85 and ’89 designs also feature a violator that says “Original Formula.” The violator was removed in 1993 after New Coke had already become Coke II, but the word Classic remained.

Like many brands, Coke used a rather colorful palette in the 90s, experimenting with teal and green in combination with red and black. The cans of the 90s also relied on large graphics bleeding off the edge of the can. 1997 saw the release of a special contoured can with an up close representation of the brand’s signature bottle in black, red and teal. The 2000 redesign placed the script over an image of a bottle cap popping off the bottle, while in 2002, the company went back to a modernized version of the contour design with yellow accents. In 2007, the soft drink manufacturer put the “classic” back in Coca-Cola Classic with a simple yet contemporary red and white design. Although this design has remained the basic can for the cola brand since, that hasn’t stopped Coke from experimenting further with the design of its cans. The company released special designs for the summers ’09 and ’10 as well as commemorative graphics for the Olympics and World Cup.


Dr. Pepper

Dr. Pepper Can Evolution

Dr. Pepper hasn’t gone through as many variations as Coca-Cola, but the design of its packaging has certainly evolved over the years. The early designs utilized white cans, with the initial 1956 design complementing the white of the can with green and a cool red. The green was dropped in 1960 when the soft drink brand moved to a red and yellow vertically striped design. The stripes were relegated to the bottom of the can by 1964, with a solid white background featured on the bulk of the can. Dr. Pepper would adopt its signature cardinal red color in 1967 with a design accented by portions of white ovals. A year later, cardinal red was paired with maroon on a simplified design in which the ingredients were listed below the logo. The basic layout of the 1968 design was retained for 17 years. The 1985 redesign brought a diagonal stripe that identified Dr. Pepper until 2006, although it was modernized in 1997. The current design, in place since 2006, features a modernized oval mark and a callout to the 23 flavors present in the soft drink’s recipe.


Orange Crush

Orange Crush Can Evolution

Although Orange Crush hasn’t seen the same level of success as the cola giants, it has its own distinct place in Americana, due in part to the design of its brand and packaging. The original design used a version of the Crush wordmark with a white inline and forest green outline set against a white burst on an orange can. In 1963, the can was white and featured an orange oval with the inlined wordmark. The can returned to orange by 1965, complete with a white oval, snowflakes and dark green accents. The 1967 design had a distinct white top. By 1972, however, the white top was gone, replaced by a solid orange can accented by flowers.

The beverage brand had a special marketing relationship with the Denver Broncos since the early 1970s. The Broncos’ defense during that era was referred to as “Orange Crush” because of their physical play and their pumpkin-hued jerseys. Crush first capitalized on this relationship in 1978 by releasing a 64 can set honoring Broncos players, coaches and staff. Crush would also incorporate the Denver franchise into can designs in ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87 and ’90. The logo redesign in 1981 brought the use of an orange slice and incorporated yellow into the design, both of which are still used today. Five years after the new logo was unveiled, diagonal silver lines were added to the can. Two years later, the silver lines were horizontal and the can was black. The black era was short lived, however, as the can returned to its rightful color three years later. The ’91 redesign lasted nine years until a juicier motif was in production at the turn of the century. 2000’s juicy style came complete with an arched wordmark and splatter droplets. The current branding keeps the idea of the 2000 juicy mark, but refined it with an updated orange wedge and a subtler splash. In addition, the wordmark was revised and a bevel effect was added.



Pepsi Can Evolution

In their never-ending competition with Coca-Cola, Pepsi has redesigned and tweaked its packaging frequently. The early cans had a distinctive cone top and bottle cap closure. The 1948 design featured the PepsiCola script on a tri-colored bottle cap, while the 1950 design utilized a triangular pattern at the top and bottom. By 1959, the cone top was gone and the can was silver with the bottle cap logo. This basic design would remain intact until 1967, when Pepsi introduced a diamond design with an ice cube texture in the background. 1971 marked Pepsi’s return to a white can and the can itself contained a blue field under the mark on one side, a red field on another side, and a white field on a third side. By 1978, however, all three fields were red. 1987 saw an alteration to the Pepsi wordmark, as it had become rounder. Pepsi decided to unveil limited edition COOL CANS in 1990, featuring designs such as a girl in Pepsi sunglasses, a neon version of the logo, and a festive blue and pink design. In 1991, the Pepsi wordmark was eliminated from the identifying mark and placed vertically along the side of the red field. This layout would remain essentially unchanged until a 1997 redesign that featured a blue background with an ice cube pattern. After going blue, Pepsi hasn’t looked back, with the three subsequent redesigns all utilizing blue cans. In 1998, a year after the start of the blue can era, the circular mark was enlarged in relation to the wordmark. 2003 saw the wordmark placed horizontally at the top of the can, presumably to provide more space to enlarge the circular logo. This design lasted until 2009, when the beverage company redesigned its circular mark. The “smile globe” is paired with a darker blue can and a lowercase sans serif Pepsi wordmark.



Squirt Can Evolution

Believe it or not, the initial Squirt can was green. It came complete with a comic book-like script and cartoon boy. It wasn’t until 1970 that the soft drink donned its signature yellow container, albeit split with white on the sunburst design. Within two years, the can was entirely yellow with a red wordmark accented by two green swooshes. From 1970 to 1978, the Squirt wordmark also contained a heart dotting the I. The 1978 redesign brought a revised wordmark that utilized a green squirting flourish bursting from the U. The 1988 version featured a new logo. The updated mark contained a small capital Q with a leaf, a smaller flourish moved above the I, a white circle behind the wordmark and diagonal silver lines on the can. But all those edits combined were not as much of a departure as the 1997 redesign. The 1997 can displayed an entirely new typeface with splashes behind the wordmark instead of the white circle. Under the wordmark, the can also contains an illustrated grapefruit and wedge. The 2002 can featured a distinct blend of old and new. The typestyle is more in tune with the cans of the 70s and the lime green more closely identifies with the 1988 design. New on the can are the halftone pattern, beveled type effect, and the use of a grapefruit as a holding shape for the wordmark. The current can, in use since 2010, opts for a more conservative design and evokes a connection to the 1978 version with the return of the green flourish. The grapefruit on the current model is more pink and less red than the 2002 version, and the new typeface has a distinctly late 70s/early 80s vibe.

Soft drink companies tend to update their look more often than many other industries. It’s a constant battle to entice new customers and keep the brand’s image fresh.

8 Comments On This Topic
  1. Ellipse Kirk
    on Jul 11th at 6:43 pm

    Until the ’70’s, most of the soda products I ever got were in returnable glass bottles. I was around for the early cans, but we never got them.

  2. Arron
    on Nov 18th at 7:21 pm

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues.
    It was truly informative. Your site is very useful. Many thanks for

  3. Carrie J.N
    on May 3rd at 3:49 am

    Where’s the Mountain Dew?! O_O

  4. Josh
    on Jun 8th at 2:56 am

    I consider the current Pepsi design to be a failure. The lower-case sans serif font looks uninspired. I know that in most things “design”, there is an obivious 20 year cycle (e.g. todays kids are wearing 90’s fashions that were largely inspired by the 70’s). I would hope that they could reach back in time for a funky retro update. 87′, neon 90′, and 91′ are my favorites.

    Thanks for the cool post.

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  7. Stephen
    on Aug 27th at 6:35 pm

    Here’s more info on that 1972 7 Up can, and the typeface it used.

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