The ‘skin’ of commerce


Visual cues like graphic warning labels and generic packaging are increasingly seen as important weapons against unhealthy forms of consumption – especially in the areas of tobacco control, and, increasingly, alcohol reduction and obesity prevention. However, public health interventions tend to ignore the physical qualities of packaging in favour of its visual attributes as a marketing tool, which may limit the effectiveness of such legislation based on misplaced assumptions about how people engage with it.

Kirsten Bell’s ‘The “skin” of commerce’ project, funded by a £30,000 grant from Wellcome Trust, will explore new analytic directions for conceptualising the material significance of packaging and containerization for the everyday activities of eating, drinking and smoking by drawing attention to its powerful material role in shaping the circulation of goods and the meanings they hold.