Breaking Out of the Creative Ghetto

By Guy Mastrion (@gmastrion)

I had a chat with a fellow creative type over the holidays and he said something that really rubbed me the wrong way. Basically, he bemoaned the conservative design of most Pharma packaging and websites but resigned himself to the fact that this was inevitable since Pharma was a “Creative Ghetto”.

As a design professional who has worked in the Pharma space for many years, I couldn’t be more offended. In fact, I think that a statement like that illustrates a real ignorance of the principles behind great design. Design (and it’s partner – creativity) are ultimately about finding solutions to problems. Whether that problem is a functional one (e.g. child proof caps) or an intellectual one (e.g. reinforcing branding), no product is inevitably confined to an “Idea ghetto”. In fact, when you start with assets that lend themselves less easily to creative interpretation (say frozen peas vs. a big-budget movie), top designers should be more attracted to the challenge. Starting with such basic materials gives us freedom to really shoot for the moon and stretch the limits of our talent.

Do we have a lot examples that show how innovative Pharma creatives can be? We definitely don’t have as many as I would like. So I’m throwing out a challenge to my fellow Creative Directors. Let’s make this the year of great Pharma design.

After all, if packaged goods design can go from this …

poland spring

… to this …

ogo water… and this …

Evian mountain… and even this …


Then surely we can find some interesting ways to rethink this …

pill_bottleTarget has already proven that good design and Pharma products are not mutually exclusive …

Target Pill Bottle

What say you fellow creatives? Are you up for the challenge?




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7 Responses to Breaking Out of the Creative Ghetto

  1. MarianCutler says:

    Love the challenge! While not on the creative side of pharma, I make my home on the communications side, and I’ve often wondered why there isn’t more creativity infused in pharma packaging. It’s perplexing why so much effort and money is put into packaging that does nothing to drive brand loyalty for consumers. Instead the packaging is torn apart behind the pharmacy counter and consumers go home with a non-descript brown bottle with 30 pills.

    Yes, I’m fully aware of the argument around the number of SKUs and dosages but, sadly, it seems the most creative packaging in pharma–packaging aimed at the true end user–has been either birth control pills or the Z-pak.

    Can’t wait to see our bretheren pick up your challenge.

  2. Pingback: Creative Pharma Packaging Design: Where Is It Needed? | Pharma Marketer

  3. Dean Logan says:


    Great, great post. Especially for those of us in pharma marketing.

    As a relatively newbie to the Pharma space I, too, am puzzled by the lack of innovation of how meds get packaged. The recent Target work was a great example of how some fresh thinking can truly reap a tangible benefit to the consumer.

    I see John Mack’s point ( but think he’s missing the idea of using design as a tool to make even simple things in life easier.

    The Target work is so effective because it make is easier for a person to tell their prescriptions apart. It’s not simply Design For Design’s Sake.

    Great discussion starter.

  4. A great idea. Our industry provides us with a design challenge outside of those traditionally found in marketing; regulatory review. We design innovative solutions that are compelling and must appeal to people in a variety of emotional and physical states. We must also create ideas that are attractive to the FDA and pharmaceutical legal reviewers.