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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The one day design challenge: Marmite

John Lamb seeks a solution to the niggling design issue that’s forever plagued his love affair with a British icon

It’s a Marmite thing.
Personally, I’m a huge fan. I love the taste. I love the colour and consistency. And how I love the jar. It’s an iconic, friendly, jolly shape that happily sits on supermarket shelves, in cupboards and occasionally (when I have another marmite loving friend visiting) on the dining table at home. Regardless of where a Marmite jar might be positioned, it always proudly stands out against the other boring, uninspiring, straight-sided jars containing savoury products.

An irritating problem

There’s always one aspect of my Marmite journey that disappoints and that’s recovering the last remnants of sticky, dark brown paste from the jar with the end of a pointy knife. It takes ages. Even then, it’s always obvious there’s still lots more pooled at the bottom of the jar somewhere. I’m sometimes tempted to dip my finger inside but if only I could reach more by using the curved edge of the knife instead?

For the record, I tried the ‘squeezy’ upside down jar/bottle a few times when it was first launched. But, put simply, we just didn’t get along. I found it difficult to squeeze and dispense the right amount. The tapered side shape felt less premium in the hand. I was also confused about its sustainability credentials with the extra components and materials.

Over time, I’ve resorted to two usage solutions, with the regular jar, that help me overcome my predicament:

  1. Storing the jar on its side, something which it’s not really designed for, so that the product can pool on the inside of the side rather than the bottom. This allows me to get my knife into the side and scoop up more product in one go.
  2. Emptying the old product into the new by stacking the jar upside down and allowing it to migrate to the new jar.

A solution

How do you address this issue when the classic Marmite jar is so rightfully celebrated in its existing form? As a packaging designer I had an idea: How about a more knife friendly jar?

Occasionally, when I have these lightbulb moments, I set myself a one-day challenge to design a new product or pack. It has to be quick but with years of design consultancy experience in the FMCG world, I can usually pull something plausible together no problem. What you see here is the result of my day’s work (although the 3D printer took a few extra hours).

The jar (pictured) has an off-centre neck and a 45-degree flat on the side enabling it to be stored on its side at an angle when the volume is low. The off-centre neck allows the knife to effortlessly access the product when it’s low and settled in the side.

Crucially, the design retains the existing, iconic shape and characteristics. It has the same volume, same label, neck and cap dimensions as well as side touch point flats so that production and line speeds will hopefully be retained.


This modification to the design is based on usage and function. Hopefully consumers would see the benefit and the updated quirky design would create interest without destroying the iconic pack.

The one day design challenge moves on to new ideas…

All in a day’s work:

  1. Quick sketches to put down the idea on my iPad Pro (using Procreate) – around 30 min
  2.  Measure and log the existing jar as much as possible (digital vernier gauge) – around 30 mins
  3.  Sketch CAD to make sure the new design works and develop the form in virtual 3d (I used Onshape) It’s actually quite a difficult form because I wanted to retain most of the production ready issues. Vertically flat, horizontally curved label panel, same lid dimensions, same base dimensions, same height, side touch flats to allow for production line issues. No doubt the off-centre neck would cause scratching heads but I’m sure nothing too serious. – 3 hours
  4. Output .step files to import into a basic rendering package on iPad pro (Cadmio) and output some basic renders and 3d revolving movie – 2 hours
  5. Output .stl file to input into 3D printing data for my desktop printer – 30 mins
  6. 3D print full size hollow model – this took 4.5 hours on the basic resolution setting
  7. Test with real product! – one hour (with a gap of five hours in the middle to allow the product to settle)


John Lamb
John Lamb
John Lamb, Founder, Look360 Design. John is a 3D branding design expert with over 30 years’ experience primarily in structural packaging. Co-founded design agency Tin Horse in 1990. His 3D concepts are coveted by the world’s biggest brands.

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