Great Moments In Design: Absolut Vodka

Derrick DayeDecember 23, 20076832 min

The Absolut Vodka bottle has become something of a modern icon. It’s origins are found in a breakthrough that came when a bottle was finally chosen. Like many breakthroughs it came purely by chance and in retrospect seems almost too obvious.

Advertising man Gunnar Broman was looking through an antique shop window in Stockholm’s “Old Town” when he saw an old Swedish medicine bottle, a cultural icon was unchanged for more than a hundred years. The bottle was elegant, different, simple and very Swedish. In the 16th and 17th centuries vodka had been sold in pharmacies as medicine to cure everything from colic to the plague.

The choice was a stroke of genius. Several Swedish designers were given the job of helping the Absolut Vodka team further develop the bottle.

It had been decided that there should be no label to hide the crystal clear contents. After much discussion and several prototypes the team came to the conclusion that some kind of colored lettering was required. Blue was decided upon as a the most visible and attractive color, the color that is still used today for the Absolut Vodka logo.

Absolut is also known for its simple, but sophisticated ads – a picture of the bottle accompanied by a witty caption – have not only broken advertising records year after year, but have captured the imagination of the general public. Absolut Vodka is news. The latest ads often get journalistic coverage in magazines and on TV. Everybody talks about our campaigns – be it the “Absolut Manhattan” ad showing an aerial view of New York’s Central Park in the shape of an Absolut Vodka bottle or 26 Russian painters making their own most personal impressions of the bottle.

Over the years Absolut has commissioned not only over 300 painters, but leading artists in all fields; sculptors, glass designers, musicians and fashion designers. Here’s to the power of great design.


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One comment

  • Eli Portnoy (The Brand Man Speaks!)

    December 27, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    There is more to this story than you report. Not well-known except inside Sweden is the fact that Swedish crystal maker Orrefors was a key player in the original Absolut Vodka bottle design. I was head of Orrefors US Marketing some years back and despite the evidence I had from the parent company to this effect, the US distributors of Absolut refused to acknowledge this information.

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