Hyperbolic Bronnerianism in Graphic Design

Hyperbolic Bronnerian label design

That is a fancy way of saying "crazy mushed up text with LOTS OF ALL CAPS! BOLD! I-T-A-L-I-C ! Nnnnnooooo negative space!" on product labels. I made up that bogus design category name, "Hyperbolic Bronnerian," to describe things like the plant stimulant product above. I found this at Home Depot on Sunday. Dr. Bronner's Soap is, of course, the greatest and most insane example of this aesthetic. I think Bragg Amino Acids are another good one. What are your favorite? "Unbalanced neighbor's signs" might be included, as might the rambly emails of mentally disturbed persons who fear black helicopters and alien butt probes. However, I am really looking for commercial products here. Viva Bronner!

Here are some amazing scans of the plant growth stimulant product labels. one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. One is shown below.

Hyperbolic Bronnerian label design


  1. I dunno about this stuff, but at least Dr. Bronner’s soap works, and works good :D it even makes me laugh while I shower.

  2. My favorite example of this is PB Blaster. After you strip off all the hyperbole, you’re left with a really good penetrating oil. People who use WD-40 have no idea what they’re missing.

  3. Not sure if it’s in the same vein, but in just about every issue of Popular Mechanics there’s a full 2 page ad for portable space heaters supposedly hand-built by Amish people. The pics are the best, as they show suspendered and bonneted Amish folk sanding cabinets and packing up heaters for shipment – all with the heaters apparently turned on, if the fake light-up fireplace log in the front is any indication. It’s a pip.

  4. I think Art Chantry (Seattle-based graphic designer; old skool) probably perfected this aesthetic with his “tool ad” screen prints in the 80’s. It’s all reminiscent of the 50’s and 60’s era newsprint and cheap pulp / comic book ads (remember X-RAY SPECS!) In other words, it’s derivative.

  5. Better (sorry, Xeni) images of the packaging here:


    It is a product that has been around a pretty long time. Some people seem to think it “snake oil” and some a useful product. I’ve used it before on advice from the book The Savage Garden


    but I have no real input on it’s effectiveness.

    (And that’s my “urine of content” hosed out for tonight.

  6. #6: Those damn ads are everywhere. The newspaper, the useless PARADE Sunday magazine . . . and Popular Mechanics!?!?!

    The ads are incredibly long-winded, and fail to clearly state what exactly you’re paying for or how much you’re paying for it.

    From what I’ve read, you actually do get a wooden cabinet built by the Amish when you order one of these heaters. But as anyone back east knows, this isn’t saying much. There are a lot of Amish cabinet makers. They do good work. But they generally work in factories. Just look for the buggies outside, no kidding.

    The scam is that you pay an awful lot for a flashy electrical heater in a nice cabinet.

    The same outfit has a similarly vague, over-long advert pitching . . . well, it’s really hard to tell, but if you really persistent you can figure out it’s a display frame containing four mint quality Presidential dollar coins, for which they charge you something like $50.00.

  7. As a graphic designer one of the basic principles I constantly try to communicate to clients is when you emphasize everything, you effectively emphasize nothing.

    Usually doesn’t stop them from asking for crazy shit like this though.

  8. Must have bought these products for use by their design team:


    The Whitespace Eliminator has been done to a tee. Amazing they didn’t sprinkle in a little Starburst Dust though. Someone fell down on the job, or maybe they ran out on their earlier ad copy.

  9. Don’t laugh – I work at a newspaper. This is what I do for a living. Advertisers DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR WHITE SPACE! It goes against everything I believe. The local furniture shop, f’rinsance, takes their proof & writes in stuff they want included in the blank spaces.
    At least I know what to call it now.
    The worst part is that outside of a Bronner’s label, no one wants to read all that shit.
    If anyone’s looking for an extremely frustrated designer in the NYC area, I’m relocating.

  10. oddly enough, superthrive, dr. bronner’s soap, and p.b. blaster all work great! i’m not gettin paid to pimp ’em, but i would recommend any of those products as ones i would use ( and have, and do!) for their intended purposes. is there a correlation between this type of over-stimulating graphics, and the kick-assedness of the product within? ALL ONE OR NONE! exceptions? ETERNAL NONE! ETERNAL FATHER ETERNAL FUN!

  11. Superthrive is known for its zany packaging, which has become its identity over the years (take that, my fellow designers).

    I’m also an avid gardener, and Superthrive is often recommended by leading breeders of orchids annd carnivorous plants (I am the proud owner of an outdoor bog garden, and give guided tours of the Pine Barrens, which is home to many native carnivorous plants and orchids). I don’t use it exclusively so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but Peter D’Amato of California Carnivores swears by the stuff.


  12. Bronnerian hyperbole aside, Superthrive really is a great product which my plants seem to like a lot. It’s so concentrated that:
    – you only put a drop into your quart to gallon-sized watering container;
    – you need a dropper to do this without getting smelly plant candy all over your hands;
    – it eats through the metal cap and makes cool crystal stalactites off to the sides of the bottle!
    I try to use it in every other watering. The only plant product I like better is Schultz 10-15-10 plant food. 7 drops per quart/liter in every watering FOR ALL TEH HAPPY PLANT WIN! Srsly, itis the best all-purpose plant product evar. –Grego

  13. #11 – Yeah, I had to read the whole thing carefully to figure out exactly what was so special about a space heater that it warranted such attention. I guess the ad worked!

    And no BS – buried somewhere in the novella-sized copy, it actually says something like “A new heating element technology by a genius inventor from the exotic coast of China”, or some such thing. Pretty great stuff.

  14. When it comes to selling– and particularly, selling-in-print– aesthetic appeal is often counterproductive.

    Gonzo, hyperbolic copy (or in this case, gonzo graphics) seems wretched and distasteful… but it often moves product very, very well.

    Just because someone is wrinkling his nose, doesn’t mean he can’t also be opening his wallet; conversely, just because someone finds an ad elegant or arch or amusing, doesn’t mean that he’s any more likely to buy the product being advertised.

  15. When I worked as a graphic artist I am ashamed to say I was responsible for a few marketing disasters that followed ‘Hyperbolic Bronnerianism’ – entirely because of the clients’ ongoing demands.

    Trying to explain negative space, or white space to some people is a waste of time.

    “But it’s blank – there is nothing there, you want to make people look at it!” was the common cry.

    And admittedly people are drawn to look at vomit on the sidewalk. They normally don’t stop to examine it, though. Never had the guts to use the analogy on the clients, just the boss.

  16. Why do people use the term “negative space”? Isn’t it just “space”?


  17. My point of view is that these kind of ads are just not effective because the viewer, in my opinion, distracted by too many messages in bold. And personally it’s looks like a product that is not serious at all.

  18. I posted an article about this same design trend on my blog – I didn’t come up with a cool name like hyperbolic bronnerianism though. Link goes to the post and more photos of Doc Bronner’s.


    It seems to be going in two directions – one is the mess-of-fonts, design-naive products Xeni posted. The other is trying to achieve a sort of old-timey, arty feeling a la McSweeney’s or John Hodgman’s website and book covers. Guess I’m not the only person noticing this.

  19. I posted on my blog a little while back about Doctor Bronner’s and the trend toward very text-heavy design. I didn’t come up with a cool name like Hyperbolic Bronnerianism though.


    I think there are 2 things going on here: mess-of-fonts, design-naive packaging like the examples Xeni posted; and more intentional, design-conscious examples (such as McSweeney’s or John Hodgman’s books and website) that seem to be reaching for a sort of artiness or old-timey feeling.

    As a designer, I have clients who push me toward the first category, trying to cram as much onto the page as possible. As of yet I haven’t designed anything that could fit in the second category, but I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

  20. I agree there are millions of really important science miracles in every drop, but I think that about every drop of water.

  21. “Hyperbolic Bronnerism” – what a great term! I was thinking just last night of a design that could only be described as “Bronnerism”, since I’m prone to that anyhow.

    In fact (you-all might find this amusing) I once put together a promo postcard for a performance I was doing, with about 20x too much text as usual — blurbs, etc. — sent it out, posted it etc., before realizing that I had left off one tiny detail – my name! Things like that make me think I need a manager!

    I like the anti-spam words I see below, by the way. They’re so damn hard to make out that they’ll really eliminate the riff-raff – like myself, probably. Let’s see what happens here…

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