Typography on pharmaceutical packaging

Marius Ursache's picture

I would be interested in discussing aspects of typography and typeface usage on pharmaceutical packaging - both prescription-based and OTCs.

Helvetica is omnipresent, but I think we have a wider choice now.

What aspects are most important? Legibility? Contrast? To what extent is the typeface's personality important in the success of the final project? Consider both large and small type on package.

I would be grateful if someone knows resources and is willing to share.


Marius Ursache

dan's picture

Marius, my biggest complaint with pharmaceutical packaging isn't the type or the graphics, its the stupid names, that the general public don't get. I think the agencies who create the packaging would be better off spending more time and money researching names through focus groups. More generic names that have memory retention would require less advertising and brand recognition.

Jon Whipple's picture


There is an article in Baseline Magazine Number 34 2001 called Can packaging be honest? The introduction is by Jeremy Myerson and the main text is by Frank Philippin. The discussion is wide ranging and interesting, addressing such considerations as how we shop, vision problems and information. Philippin reports on two redesign tests he conducted with older consumers one of which is Paracetamol packaging.

Also the books: The Total Package, The Perfect Package and others. A search on Amazon should yield related titles. Search at you library (Academic or Public) for them and others too. Librarians can help lots when doing research like this.


geraintf's picture

damien hurst in his 'last supper series' (1999) makes great use of what one could call pharmaceutical typology



geraintf's picture

in relation to the discussion above, it's interesting that packaging for early (1960s) contraceptive pills frequently replaced grotesks with the sort of 50s brush script seen in the word 'omelette' (above), in combination with the use of pink

geraintf's picture

it's one area where the swiss/international style graphics have been widely accepted, and associated with objectivity, hygiene, authority, trust --all the values that people expect from medicine

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