Back in November, I wrote up a post about the designer behind the Croonchy Stars, the Swedish Chef cereal from Jim Henson and The Muppets which got quite a bit of attention, including a retweet from the official Henson Company Twitter account. Recently, Stephen H. Longo, the designer featured in that original post, contacted me and asked me to share a bit more of his memories of the design process with you.

Stephen LongoDear Ms. DePiano,

A colleague of mine told me that you had written a blog article about my involvement with the Croonchy Stars package. Wow, is that a “blast from the past”. I read the article and would like to shed some more history as to how I contributed my small part to the design.

In 1987, I was working as a senior designer/ letterer at a small design studio in NYC. The studio received a Beta tape (the videos before VHS) from an outside ad agency hired by Jim Henson. At that time, ad agencies usually farmed out packaging to studios that specialized in logo design and packaging. The tape was hilarious and showed a Swedish Chef blowing up and machine gunning a kitchen. These commercials were out-takes and were to suggest to us how a visual could be used on the face panel of a cereal box.

The studio decided that we could not use the actual concept developed, due to the nature of the violent scenes in the commercial, so the staff illustrator proceeded to render several “tame” magic marker sketches of how the chef could possibly be presented.

Croonchy StarsNow comes my involvement. I was instructed at first to come up with various logotype sketches for the numerous names such as Stoopid Flakes, Croonchy Poofs, and Croonchy Stars. There were more names but those were the only ones that I can recall. Mind you, these were all hand done logotypes done in ink. Little did I know that the project would go through over 52 phases! These changes were coming from Jim Henson and concerned subtle changes with letterforms, the actual names and the imagery. I did my final inked pieces and the logotype variations were all sent to England and Jim Henson.

So, you can see that my part was small, considering the overall design and the many decisions being made as to what would eventually be printed. I can also remember we faxed to England on a daily basis all the adjustments being asked for by Jim Henson. We didn’t know which logotype concept he accepted until the package was introduced to the U.S. market the following year. His creative intensity astonished us all. Interestingly, the studio had to purchase the box at the time because clients very rarely sent studios the final. It was the only cereal box that I had worked on in my career that got printed and I have a lot of fond, fun, memories of that project, starting with the out-takes. I did work on a Nabisco product years ago called Team Flakes but that never was printed. What the consumer doesn’t realize is that before a package is on the shelf, it goes through many changes visually and structurally. And after the package finally hits the store, it may only have a shelf life of three years.

I’m amazed at the rarity of this box, but considering the short shelf life it had, it seems as if it must be quite a collectible item. And to think, I have one!

Stephen Longo

Stephen also mentioned he’s trying to dig up any of his notes or concept art from that project and promises to let me share it with you here so let’s hope he can find some! 🙂

Big thank you to Stephen for giving us this inside look into one of the most popular cereal boxes around.