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People may attempt not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to the beauty world, looks are everything.

“A product’s design is consumers’ first interface with the brand,” said last year’s recipient of the Packaging Executive of the Year award, Kathy Kordowski, vice president of packaging and engineering and marketing services for Avon.

This story first appeared in the August 27, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Aside from just good looks, efficacious packaging requires sophisticated engineering and hours of testing to ensure quality.

For this year’s HBA Health & Beauty America’s International Package Design Awards, entries poured in from across the globe — from as far east as Israel and as far south as Peru.

To ensure each subtle detail of packaging design was painstakingly considered, HBA enlisted 100 judges and narrowed down the field of more than 245 nominees to 35 finalists in mass cosmetics, limited cosmetics, mass skin care, limited skin care, mass fragrance, limited fragrance and personal care.

HBA will announce the winners Sept. 28 at its fifth annual industry awards dinner at the New York Hilton. However, to alleviate some of the suspense, WWD asked packaging design expert John Lombardi, president of packaging design consultancy Strategic Retail Development, to select which products he thinks are likely to take top honors at the awards ceremony.

Lombardi, whose design experience includes 10 years at the helm of Revlon’s global creative team, spent the better part of two hours inspecting each of the 35 finalists. He tested hinges, snapped caps on and off, unscrewed lids, pumped sprays and weighed each product in his hands.

Lombardi gravitated toward product design that he said “makes the purchase decision easy” through the use of meaningful messages and aesthetics.

In the personal care category, Lombardi studied each of the five diverse nominees, ranging from toothpaste to deodorant. He quickly narrowed his focus to Shades of Darkness by Fiji Blend, a customizable self-tanning lotion, more for its engineering than its graphics. He marveled at the bottle’s dual chambers and spin-dial cap, which allows users to formulate up to 11 shades.

For limited fragrance, Una Notte, a handcrafted perfume bottle housed in an ornate blue box, immediately grabbed Lombardi’s attention. “This design has taken romance and put it right back into fragrance,” declared Lombardi, adding, “It fulfills the full-bodied fantasy of fragrance, and that is what packaging design is all about.”

The bold colors of several of the mass fragrances caught our expert’s eye, but Avon’s eau de toilette for men, R.P.M., won Lombardi’s final nod of approval. The bottle’s race-track shape and orange accent color give the fragrance a masculine feel without being overly macho, remarked Lombardi.

While considering finalists in the mass cosmetics category, he stopped to tinker with the Snapple Lip Balm by Lotta Luv, giving it great praise for remembering to include Snapple’s signature facts on the inside cap. However, in the end, Revlon’s cream blush with pop-up mirror won out for solving an age-old problem: grimy compact mirrors.

Lombardi was intrigued by several of the contenders in the limited cosmetics category, but the choice came down to Iredale’s Liquid Minerals and Estée Lauder’s Beautiful Bride Photo Perfect Powder Duo. He applauded Liquid Mineral’s flawless dispension of its liquid gel and beaded-mineral formula, which mixes into a mousse when pushed through the pump, but he ultimately chose Estée Lauder’s dual compact of matte and loose powder. “It’s classic, elegant and true to the Estée Lauder brand, and that is a vital element of packaging. And it’s something that Estée Lauder does very well. The brand is a hallmark of premium product design and engineering,” commented Lombardi.

For mass skin care, the clear winner in Lombardi’s view was Wal-Mart’s SkinSimple skin care line by Elizabeth Arden. “This line brings a lot of aesthetic value to the mass market,” Lombardi noted, calling attention to the clean logo and ergonomic shape of the products. “There are so many products in the mass channel that it’s difficult for retailers to promote all of them. That puts a big burden on a package.”

In limited skin care, Lombardi picked Cosme DeCorte Vital-Science as the best product package in its class. What’s more, the skin care line earned his vote for the grand prize winner in the packaging and design awards. In this line, commented Lombardi, engineering and design work in tandem. Commenting on the collection’s soft, sloping shoulders and pearlized collars, Lombardi said, “This is a serious design effort that is expertly done.”

Cast of Hopefuls: The 35 Finalists
Personal Care:
AquaFresh Floss N’ Cap by GlaxoSmithKline; Shades of Darkness by Fiji Blend; Right Guard Xtreme Cool Spray by Gillette; HandsFree Shaver Combo by HandsFree, and Crest Whitestrips Premium by Procter & Gamble

Mass Fragrance:
J-Sport by Jafra Cosmetics; Inégale by Jafra Cosmetics; Néonatura Eau de Parfum by Yves Rocher, and R.P.M. Eau de Toilette by Avon

Limited Fragrance:
Ocean Pacific by Parlux Fragrances; Kingdom by Alexander McQueen; John Varvatos by Zirh International; Una Notte by Lisette Cosmetics; Beyond Paradise by Estée Lauder, and Ebel Devos Magnetic by Cetco

Mass Cosmetics:
Snapple Lip Balms by Lotta Luv; Almay Nearly Naked Touch-Pad Liquid Blush by Revlon; Hook Ups by Avon/Mark; Revlon Blush with Pop-Up Mirror by Revlon, and Kiss Me Lip Gloss by American Eagle Outfitters

Limited Cosmetics:
Liquid Minerals by Iredale Mineral Cosmetics; Beautiful Bride Photo Perfect Powder Duo by Estée Lauder; Hot Box by Urban Decay; Ebel Makeup Line by Cetco, and Terracotta Secret Gold by Guerlain

Mass Skin Care:
ADN Vegetal Cellular Renaissance by Yves Rocher; SkinSimple by Elizabeth Arden for Wal-Mart; Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces by Hawaiian Tropic, and ADN Vegetal Cellular Cure by Yves Rocher

Limited Skin Care:
The Silk by Kanebo International; Somme Institute pos sample by Somme Institute; Cosme DeCorte Vital-Science by Kose Corp.; New Radiance Optimum Synergy by Thibiant Beverly Hills; Dead Sea Premier Anti-Wrinkle Cream by Dead Sea Premier, and Private Reserve Collection by California Tan

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