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mid-90s US box layout designs

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by magishun, May 22, 2022.

  1. This is kind of an esoteric question but this is kind of an esoteric forum. I'm wondering if there's any background history out there on the changeover from the box art designs of the late 80s/early 90s (gray/black checkerboards or black/white grids, but constantly done differently) to the mid-90s unification with the fat, bold-colored stripes on the left side of the boxes.

    I understand why this was done - even though it was ahead of the era that every console brand's games would have a stripe across the top of their game boxes with the console branding - since Sega now had a LOT of consoles (namely the Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, and 32X), they could make it instantly obvious that you were looking at a game for a Sega console, and could identify the specific console by the color. This arguably would have been beneficial for parents, too: if you knew your kid's game collection had mostly red spines, you knew to buy the version of Mortal Kombat with a red spine, reducing Christmas gifts bought for the wrong consoles.

    I'm more interested in the specific design choices and timing behind the designs. Why such a wide stripe? Why the eschewing of traditional logotypes and simply creating new wordmarks in Copperplate Gothic Bold? Who chose the colors and what was the psychology behind them? When Saturn games first appeared, who approved using a new font which was, arguably, the logo (and why was "Sega Saturn" used instead of just "Saturn"? Was it just to fill that loooooong spine?)

    It's worth mentioning that the original Sega CD logo used the same typeface - but just for the "SEGA" lettering; having a stylized "CD". I'm not sure if they just chose to expand the use of it because they liked the way it looked or what. This is such a side note of Sega history that I have my doubts it was ever asked about or documented.
  2. LockOnTommy11


    It’s important to note that this change didn’t just affect the US. European box art changed around, if not at, the same time.

    We instead got blue side and spine graphics, and different logo for the console. I presume that the change was made to make SEGA / Mega Drive / Genesis games easier to make out on shelves, and also update from the - as you pointed out - clearly outdated box styles that were looking quite 80’s by 1993.
    Last edited: May 23, 2022
  3. Londinium


    People actually read these? Member
    Tell me about it, the old American Mega Drive box art style was essentially the same as the Master System box art style but with the colours inverted
  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    often the real thing™ Wiki Sysop
    Northumberland, UK
    It's wiki time. There's no need to be afraid.
    Unless it turns up in an issue of Harmony, it will be very difficult to find the "story" behind cover designs.

    But it might be possible to find who made the decisions. I don't know if Sega's marketing firms were involved in designing game covers, but I'd be surprised if the idea hadn't been outsourced to someone.
  5. Londinium


    People actually read these? Member
    I have a theory that Sega, just like with other things they did in the 90's, wanted their boxes to be 'in your face'. The new wordmarks stood out more compared to the subtle logo they slapped on the top previously. For colours, in the case for the Sega Genesis boxes, red is usually seen as an 'aggressive' colour, and probably fit with Sega's marketing scheme the best, further, I wouldn't be surprised if Sega specifically chose this colour to stand out on store shelves, especially in contrast to Super Nintendo boxes. For the blue colour scheme Europe used, it's probably a similar case with the whole Super Nintendo/store shelves thing I just told you.

    As for why it's 'Sega Saturn', it's probably for recognisability, especially helpful during the hottest point of the console wars. More people would probably buy it if it was a 'Sega Saturn' than just a 'Saturn'.
  6. cartridgeculture


    Wiki Contributor Member
    I swear I've read something along these lines before... Maybe something in Playing at the Next Level? I really need to give it a re-read, but I think this is right on the money.
  7. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

    Are you pondering what I'm pondering? Wiki Sysop
    GreatMegaLD, GreatSC3k, Great SG1k
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  8. President Zippy

    President Zippy

    Zombies rule Belgium! Member
    Pardon me if I come across as persnickety, but these are persnickety questions, and nobody here can possibly answer these questions without talking from their rear end. Even the underpaid marketing staff who designed it would have a hard time explaining a 30 year old project that took all of 1 week. It's like walking up to a random elderly socialite and asking, "Why did you put the gold bracelet on before the pearl bracelet?"

    I think that your earnest intent was to make editorial commentary critiquing the box art instead of asking questions about it, and I think this thread would be more fun if you just did what you wanted instead. You're allowed to have opinions and express them, and if anyone takes offense they can take a flying hike.
    Last edited: May 26, 2022
  9. I know in the us, they went through many different sub-revisions in between the years, so they're just isn't one particular style and change the typography and layout quite often. (Iicr, 89' had wider grid pattern, 92' had barcodes on the spine, etc.)
    Then you got the unlicensed third party games, which usually just throws the standards right out the window.
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  10. Fair enough, and yeah, I have some opinions, but as someone whose work involves graphic design (at least peripherally) and as someone who's fascinated with the thought process that goes into that kind of thing, I really would love to hear some background on the process - though yeah, it's probably quite boring.
  11. President Zippy

    President Zippy

    Zombies rule Belgium! Member
    I don't think you understand me, I did not say the details are boring. I said the details at your desired level of granularity are not as carefully thought-out as you believe. You're asking for explanations on design choices more minute than serif vs sans serif fonts. You're operating under the assumption that the person who made the 2nd version of the Genesis box art labels cared as much about his/her work as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, people commissioned to design art for massive landmarks and entire marketing campaigns. The person who did the second Genesis box label was not entrusted with a big role, or even given carte blanche to do it.

    The people who get paid to make the tabs on video game box art are not doing that as their passion project. It pays the bills so they can do things they actually care about.

    For emphasis, I did not say the knowledge you seek is boring. I said that it's unobtainable.
  12. saxman


    Oldbie Tech Member
    My guesses, which have proudly been retrieved from my rear-end:

    The checkered design was a little dated by 1992, as was the look of the Genesis. So they refreshed the Genesis, along with the marketing to try and improve their standing against the SNES. Nobody wants to buy something that looks old.

    The type face used on 1992 Sega CD boxes was later used across the board. This type face looked more modern for the time and was easy to read. Notice that the "CD" (which I have to say looked like a compact disc to me, but I failed to realize it also *literally* said "CD") was simplified in 1993, probably to make it easier to read.

    Moreover, I wonder how many parents who knew very little about their child's game system actually picked up a Sega CD game thinking it was a Genesis game. It says "SEGA", and it's black. Not being able to identify "CD" probably lead to a certain degree of confusion. So Sega was probably thinking they needed to change their packaging to make Sega CD games easier to distinguish from Genesis games.

    Thus, the bold colored boxes that clearly say the name of the console in large lettering so everyone can read it, and likewise the color cannot be confused for another color.

    So in summary, I think Sega wanted something that didn't look dated, and they wanted to prevent any future confusion between consoles which I suspect was sparked by the Sega CD specifically.

    I think that's maybe as detailed as anyone can hope to get on the topic. I doubt you'd get much more than that if you did happen to talk to the individual(s) responsible for these packaging decisions.