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Take 5... Design’s best matchboxes

One category. Every two weeks. Five of the world’s most charismatic designs.

Welcome to Take 5 where The Drum, along with jones knowles ritchie (JKR) Singapore strategy director Katie Ewer, take a bi-weekly look at some of the design industry’s best imagined packaging design where you, the reader, are in control.

Every other Friday we’ll pick a theme and ask you to submit the design you feel deserves a top spot. You’ll have one week to get your entries in, the votes will be counted and the best of lot will be published the following Friday. (Make sure you scroll down to find out the next topic winging its way).

But back to today's theme; matchboxes. The match category is basking in the glow of its twilight hours, looking increasingly gorgeous in the soft light. A quick trawl through matchbox designs is an exercise in nostalgia, with beautiful retro packs being traded by enthusiastic ‘philuminists’ all over the world (that’s a matchbox collector, by the way). We all have a box from a cool bar, restaurant or hotel that we never use, and a well-designed one can make us smile. Perhaps our fondness for this humdrum little product is keener because we know they won’t be around forever. Strike a light.


The only reaction you could possibly have as you open a box of Kokeshi is pure delight. Then gut-wrenching guilt as you scrape one of these cute little match’s smiling faces against sandpaper and watch it burst into flames… Weird and wonderful in a way that only Japanese brands can be.


Solstickan is the name of a children’s charity in Sweden. Some of their funds are raised through the sale of the Salstickan matchboxes, which features an artwork created in 1936 by a chap called Einar Nerman, who also drew for Tatler magazine. It’s one of the most well known popular culture images in Sweden, apparently. Hopefully the charity has alternative revenue sources, as this one could have a finite life span.

Red Heads

This iconic Australian BBQ accessory has the rare quality of tying together product, name and design in one neat little bundle. Redheads were the first red tipped matches in Australia and have featured a series of women since 1947. They are well known for their limited edition packs, which reimagine ‘Miss Redhead’ in different themes, the analogue precursor of today’s digitally printed limited editions.

Swan Vestas

Swan Vestas have been the staple of every British kitchen and fireplace for many decades. With such a distinctive brand icon, it’s a shame the matchboxes don’t have the authority of the simpler, more confident rolling paper range.


These Kiwi matches feature a beehive icon that is apparently inspired by the unusual shape of the New Zealand parliament building. They have an irresistible 1970s feel to them, which you can also immerse yourself in here.

Bonus Box! Anonymous Eastern European matchbox

Some of the more observant among you may have noticed this week features a bonus design because this little beauty deserves a design gold medal. This matchbox is a perfect example of how a simple piece of visual wit can transform a seemingly mundane, everyday item into something memorable and engaging.

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