The guy behind nutrition facts and energy guides

A couple of weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration and First Lady Michelle Obama announced changes to the official Nutrition Facts label.

Burkey Belser is the graphic designer who did the original label. He says: "It's as if my dog died and I got a new puppy I liked, but not as much as old Spot."

Belser did the original label for free because Congress hadn't designated funds to pay him. He was paid for the Energy Guide label though -- that bright yellow sticker on your appliance that says how much it costs to run it.

Belser says the key in designing these types of labels is to design it for all Americans to read, which means removing anything that might slow down someone who has poor literacy skills, or for whom English might be a second language. That's why there's no punctuation on his original design.

"The goal is to be clear...while I always, and any designer hopes that they're going to have an artistic presentation, artistry plays second fiddle to getting the idea across."

The new nutrition facts label hasn't been formalized yet and Belser has his own ideas about how'd he update it.

Here are the current nutrition label (left), the FDA's suggested nutrition label (middle), and Belser's suggested nutrition label (right):


And just for kicks, here's the original label from the 1970s:

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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