Orientalism in Package and Label Design: Pride of Arabia


Conventional understandings of racism are rooted in overt, violent manifestations, only recently extending to more implicit varieties (e.g., unconscious bias, microaggressions). However, present within the social fabric is an inconspicuous, almost invisible subgenre. A banal form marked by gross abundance, occupying both commercial and public spaces, subsequently finding its way into our homes, stocking our refrigerators, lining our shelves — watching us, consuming them. A ubiquitous kind that has desensitized us to racism. Taking a cue from Ruben Pater’s The Politics of Design, this paper unwraps the generation and reproduction of racism, specifically orientalism, in packaging and label design. Drawing on key marketing concepts, namely (unethical) market segmentation, autoethnography is coupled with purposive sampling for data collection of racialized consumer packages, in which the packages and labels graphic design is foci. The sample, the package for Pride of Arabia — a Toronto-based coffee brand introduced in 1930 — is subject to a comprehensive visual analysis informed by ethnic and racial studies. Developing an analytical and theoretical approach that can support the identification of racialization, racist typologies are situated in graphic design. Themes derived from the analysis include racism, orientalism, exoticism, and cultural appropriation, among others.


Neela Imani
Student, MA, York University, Ontario, Canada


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design in Society


Graphic Design, Racist Packaging and Label Design, Anti-Racism, Ethnography, Autoethnography

Digital Media


Orientalism In Package And Label Design (Embed)