It had been seven years since N.E.R.D. released their last album.
When the band reunited in 2017, they needed more than an average press junket to announce the second coming. They needed something cool.
To usher in a new era while celebrating their musical legacy, N.E.R.D. teamed up with creative agency Five Hundred to launch a Virtual Reality (VR) music video. And that VR experience needed a cool packaging design that was as bold and stylish as the band itself. That’s where we came in.
N.E.R.D. began as a side project of legendary hip hop producers The Neptunes. You know frontman Pharrell Williams, but if you’ve ever wondered what made him famous (besides the hat), it’s his tenure as one of the Neptunes and his subsequent stint with N.E.R.D that secured his success. The beats Pharrell and partner Chad Hugo created between 1999 and 2005 remain some of the most infectious and innovative sounds in popular music. And if those funky, sexy, bouncy beats were any indication, these guys have very particular tastes.
We make plenty of boxes with embossed, foil stamped, and even silkscreened decoration. We’re proud of the quality work that our team and our partners do to create visually stunning packaging through time-honored techniques. But sometimes, a printed wrap comes along that’s so good, it doesn’t need the usual decorative operations.
This is the ultimate example of such a box.
Cool Packaging Design
N.E.R.D. has a futuristic chip on their shoulders. Since their 2001 debut single “Rockstar”, they have pushed the genre forward, more interested in doing something new and different than fashionable and predictable (bet you didn’t expect to hear Rhianna drop a verse in “Lemon”). The deep-space motif of this Tray in Slipcase design embodies that style through cool packaging design.
The first thing you notice about this box is the cartoon-ish outer wrap. The graphic design from Five Hundred is exceptional, and feels entirely on-brand for N.E.R.D. Interstellar images appear unassumingly in the design; stars, planets, and various astral bodies. But surreal characters and objects also occupy the space adding a playful, offbeat element.
Black Rainbow paper from Ecological Fibers lines the inside of the tray. The internal tray is wrapped in the same print that dons the external slipcase, and wholly new characters appear on the tray amidst the familiar starry background. No two images on this cool packaging design are alike.
This box was designed to hold an assortment of Virtual Reality accessories for a one of a kind music video experience. VR goggles, headphones, and a commemorative card were included in the foam-lined tray. We’re a little bummed that we didn’t get a chance to visit the virtual world of N.E.R.D. ourselves, but putting together this quirky box was consolation enough.
Functionally, this Tray in Slipcase performs its job with ease. A thumb cut provides access to the tray which slides fluidly out of the slipcase; you can imagine why this design is also called a Drawer Style Box. Solid black chipboard from Newman & Company Inc. provides a sturdy structure, protecting the contents and providing crisp, rigid edges to the box.
We love a good foil stamp, and we can’t understate the elegant impact of a well done deboss. But an exemplary printed wrap like this can immerse an audience and compel them to explore the box. This packaging is a platform for the graphic talents of Five Hundred and demonstrates the potential for the box as a vehicle for art and design. The N.E.R.D. brand extends beyond the lettering in the center of the box, it manifests in the entire visual appearance of the project.