Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by: M&S Archive

This resource is one of four M&S timelines intended to provide a broad picture of the development of different M&S products, using selected images from the M&S Company Archive collection. The overall aim of the M&S Packaging Timeline resource is to show changes in packaging design throughout the history of the Company, and how this might link to social history and world events.
The images included in this resource represent a snapshot of how packaging has been developed at M&S over the years - some of the highlights are listed on the previous page and you can download the full timeline (in either PPT or PDF) using the links below.

Curriculum Links

  • KS2/3 Art & Design: Old and new styles in commercial design
  • KS2/3 Design & Technology: Product and packaging design
  • KS2/3 Design & Technology: Cooking and Nutrition
  • KS2 PSHE: Responsibilities
  • KS2 Science: Uses of everyday materials

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of different examples of modern and vintage product packaging designs
  • Understanding of how packaging design can be influenced by popular culture
  • Skills of identifying different elements of product and packaging design, such as font and 'look and feel'

Discussion Ideas

  • How have M&S 'dressed' products since 1884?
  • What do you think makes a good package design?
  • How important is the design of something like a ready-meal in increasing sales of the product?
  • What recently changed in UK supermarkets regarding the carrier bags we use to put our purchases in? Why did this happen?
  • How many different ways can you think of that supermarkets could help people to live more healthy lifestyles? And how could they help improve the environmental impact of the products they sell? Do you think they are doing enough?
  • Can you tell by looking at a package which audience that product is aimed at, and if so - how?

PSHE Discussion Ideas

  • Should we have to pay for bags which give free advertising to large companies?
  • Does paying for our bags really have an impact on the environment?
  • Who should be responsible for environmental issues – the supplier or the consumer?
  • If plastic bags is a starting point in us taking responsibility for the environment, where else can we make a difference?
  • Waste – who is the biggest culprit? 

Activity Ideas

  • Who benefits?
    Cut out the images of packaging from the PPT or PDF then sort them into three sections:
    - changes which benefit M&S (profit, attract more customers)
    - changes which benefit the customer
    - changes which benefit the environment
    Produce a Venn diagram to show how some changes overlap.


  • Recycling:
    Use the resources as a starting point to look at how pupils, or the whole school, can encourage recycling (see also the related links at the bottom of the page for ideas) such as:
    - produce a persuasive TV/Radio advert to encourage recycling
    - work with local agencies to find out what needs doing in their area
    - design a recycling logo for school
    - make posters for the school dining room about how to reduce waste/packaging in sandwich boxes.

  • Font designs:
    Look at the packaging examples in the PowerPoint/PDF timeline and record all the different fonts that have been used by M&S over time. Find out what fonts other supermarkets use on their packages and if possible whether these have changed over time too. Then invent a new font for a brand new supermarket - see how different you can make it from all the others!


  • Bag design:
    Choose a decade between 1890 and 2010 and design a carrier bag that reflects the style of that time.


  • Materials:
    List as many different packaging materials as you can then divide the list into those materials that are more suitable for food products and those more suitable for clothing. Are there any that are suitable for both, if so - why?
  • Design for different audiences:
    Design a package for a food product, or an item of clothing, that is aimed at a particular age range. Think about what colours, shapes, fonts, and words might be more attractive to that group of people

  • Science:
    Pupils can look at what is the best packaging for specific foods and carry out an investigation into how to keep food fresh for the longest time, what causes bacteria, moulds to grow, how does the packaging prevent this, etc...