Sprite’s chances of getting pinched on St. Patrick’s Day are slim to none, considering the popular lemon-lime soft drink has been wearing green for more than 50 years.

Similar to the connections Coca-Cola and Fanta have to red and orange, respectively, Sprite has “owned” green since its 1961 debut. Green has served as Sprite’s primary color in its advertising, packaging, merchandising and more.

Tom Farrell, a senior global design director at Coca-Cola, believes that having an owned color is central to helping consumers select products. He says that within the “visual noise” of a store, “Sprite carves out a space through its powerful color blocking.”

As Raphael Abreu, a Coca-Cola global design director, puts it, “Just as green is an icon of St. Patrick’s day, if you see something green you connect it with Sprite.”

A Refreshing Color

Green is classic and modern, and naturally crisp and clean. Abreu explains, “Green’s a cold color on the color pallet, meaning it visually refreshes.” It’s never aggressive or boring, and always a cool and refreshing lemon-lime flavor… just like Sprite.

“Sprite is a cool, crisp, clear lemon-lime refreshment, and its unique, delicious taste quenches thirst,” said Bobby Oliver, director, Sprite and citrus brands, Coca-Cola North America. “The crisp, green color we use across packaging really brings those key product attributes to life and appeals to our fans.”

Though a cool color, green is also hot. The Pantone Color Institute selected green (Emerald 17-5641) as the color of the year for 2013. “The most abundant hue in nature, the human eye sees more green than any other color in the spectrum,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

By continuing to showcase green on everything from in-store merchandising, to vending machines, to packaging and advertising, Sprite continues to build what design gurus call brand equity and surprise and delight fans around the world.

These 1960s and '70s and design standards were used to “maintain uniformity within the design system created for Sprite", explains Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan:

The Design’s Refreshing Origins

Sprite’s status among the world’s most recognized brands can largely be attributed to its signature green bottle. The bottle’s defining shape and signature “dimples” make it one of the most unique and eye-catching packages in the market. Abreu says of the dimples, “They are a representation of its carbonation. You see the movement of the bubbles going upward on the bottle.” These graphic elements, in conjunction with the green, reinforce Sprite to be what Abreu calls “a hit of refreshment.”

Back in the ‘60s, designers and engineers at The Coca-Cola Company delved into volumes of research before landing on the design standards for Sprite. After taking into consideration Sprite’s package specs, brand image and target consumer, Coke’s art department created green-centric labels, carton designs and advertising for the brand. Dozens of designs were considered for the green Sprite bottle, which was carefully designed with the same quality specifications applied to the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle.  

In 1967, as Sprite continued to gain momentum in the market and was available to 85 percent of the U.S. population – as well as consumers in 38 other countries – the brand team hired a New York design firm to create new carton and label designs for a packaging re-launch. Their goal? To communicate the freshness of Sprite and help the brand stand out on the shelf with an attention-grabbing look.

The new packaging hit the market the following year. The Coca-Cola Bottler magazine described it as “a study in contrasting shades of green,” and predicted the designs would “lift Sprite right out of the crowd like never before.”

It is this longstanding history with the color green, Farrell believes, that imbues Sprite with a heritage that resonates with consumers. “The key is to maintain our heritage, and green is very much a part of that heritage. And from there,” Farrell says, “we embed innovation and new ideas all within that green umbrella.”