Household Products

Imagining the future of spray paint packaging

Posted: October 10, 2011 by
Deborah Donberg

What would a spray can look like if it were designed around a professional graffiti artist’s needs?

That question, reports Scott Power, founder and managing principal of Man One Design, Los Angeles, led to a creative collaboration between his company and Chicago-based package design firm Studio One Eleven, a division of Berlin Packaging.

It was renowned graffiti artist Man One who inspired the collaboration, but he says after a few initial meetings he was kept in the dark until two prototypes were unveiled at his Crewest Gallery in L.A. on September 8. The cans are designated “Paint the Future” and are part of the gallery’s annual Canceptual exhibit, which features used spray cans turned into art.

Scott Jost, vice president of innovation and design at Studio One Eleven, says one prototype has a rotating nozzle that offers the user fine motor skills and fingertip-level motor control traditionally employed by an airbrush artist holding an object like a pen. “This can and actuator allow artists to hold it with the center of gravity behind their hands, giving them a lot more control and possibilities to apply spray pattern directly to the surface,” Jost explains.

The nozzle can rotate 45 degrees, allowing the artist to hold the can in a traditional configuration in which the spray direction is parallel to the axis of the arm. Jost says this model has an actuator that operates on that same axis, so when you pull back, like the trigger of the gun, you’re actuating the nozzle. “It’s much more intuitive and a lot less fatiguing to use than a traditional spray can,” says Jost.

The exhibit also features what Jost calls “ideation sketches,” representing the “evolution of the thought process involved in creating the prototypes, two possible stopping points in the journey.”

Man One likes both versions. Graffiti artists, he says, have always adapted spray cans from the hardware store. “For example, we get oven cleaners with very wide tips and use their packaging,” he explains. “Aerosol pressure is often too high, so we hold the can upside down and remove almost all the aerosol to create lower pressure.”

If the prototype cans of Paint the Future—or others like them—eventually are manufactured, they’ll benefit spray paint users of all types, not just graffiti artists.