Pennzoil Oil Toppers

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The Idea

The idea behind this case study originated from a challenge that I was faced with during a class. The challenge was simple: to improve upon an existing packaging to try and create new affordances or to try to tap into a new target audience.

My original idea was to create a “spill proof” container and an easier, more accessible graphic node. I wanted to break into an audience that maybe hasn’t completely broken into the “do-it-yourself” target persona but isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea. A more welcoming package might help push them to become proactive about it. I decided to use Pennzoil as the example throughout simply because I loved how the yellow stands out.

The Redesign

The longer spout helped create an easier pour, and the package was shaped in a way to prevent any oil being trapped in a corner. The graphic was simplified by removing unnecessary nodes and redundancies. Each piece on the label means something and is laid out in a sort of hierarchy in that you read the nodes from top to bottom, left to right. On the downside, the longer spout uses more shelf space and it doesn’t really innovate on anything. Because of that, when I created and pitched this original idea, I didn’t really like it. 

I thought more about the packaging and ended up thinking really deeply into the shelf space debacle. There’s plenty of large, gallon-sized containers and quarts but what if there was something even more specific? How about a package that could easily be brought anywhere, stored anywhere, and could easily fit on any shelf? I found myself digging deeper into smaller-sized packaging and what could benefit from such a sized oil container.

Small-engine, gasoline-powered lawn equipment is a gigantic industry. The lawn mower market size alone was valued at nearly $30 billion in 2016. This gave me an idea: how about an oil topper – a smaller amount of oil in a smaller package that would be used for topping off the oil reservoir for smaller gasoline-powered engines? Not only these, but this could also be used for cars that have higher oil consumption and are low on oil but are not due for an oil change just yet. It could be used to keep the oil levels up to par in just about any type of gasoline-powered engine. 

With that in mind, I decided to create part 2 of my package redesign: a much smaller, much different type of packaging.

Redesigning The Redesign

With this completely different approach, I had taken the idea of a squeezable plastic bottle commonly found in cosmetic care and brought it to the motor world. Standard with an internal suction cap to keep the oil in even with the external cap open, this form-fitting package can be taken anywhere and stored anywhere. The small form factor creates easy shelf space for companies looking to stock the product and leaves room for hundreds of bottles.

The concept works off the original packaging I had taken a picture of for vehicle motor oil. I wanted to keep the simplistic hierarchical design I had previously designed. There are no redundancies on the packaging; everything is important and means something. I made sure to use thick bold lettering so each piece could be easily seen from a distance. The font used for the bulk of the type is “Gomme Sans Bold Italic” with the liquid quantity at the top being “Helvetica Regular”.

The Mockup

I kept the original yellow color from the original container as the bottle color. It is the classic package color of Pennzoil, so I thought it should remain. The cap borrows the nice dark gray used in part of the label gradient to help tie the elements together. 


Pop the cap open and squeeze. That’s all that’s required to use this new packaging. A small, easy-to-store package design creates a product that not only can fit basically anywhere but can be stocked anywhere in abundance. The less industrialized packaging could be used to help attract new customers that might be scared away from the more complex, bulky packaging that current oil is regularly in. The main objective of this redesign became that of “How could I redefine a product without redesigning the wheel?” I think it did just that, and it became something genuinely unique.