Sustainable Packaging Options

So many eco-friendly packages are reminiscent of brown paper sacks—boring, colorless, no personality. The materials, themselves, can be difficult to navigate from a design perspective to make them more palatable, and avoid the use of harmful glues, inks, and bindings. Here, four firms have successfully navigated the eco terrain to come up with tactile and beautiful design solutions that meet the strict recycling, reusable, or biodegradable packaging standards.

Client: Dutch Harvest Hemp Tea

Design: Tenzing

Illustrator: Walther Otto Müller

When the actual product is eco-friendly by nature (“tea with a mission”), it’s natural that the branding and packaging must walk the walk and follow suit. Designer Arjan van Woensel says, “Esther Molenwijk, the owner of Dutch Harvest, is someone who clearly sees the value of the entire hemp plant and took up this project to showcase the multiple uses of this amazing crop. The design needed to reflect the eco-cred of the product, but—and this was a big but—without becoming too weirdy-beardy.” And by “weirdy-beardy” he means the stereotypical earth-friendly (ie tree hugger) references. It also needed to stand out on the tea shelf in retail outlets, which is a challenge in itself with all the offerings available.

Since this company was started through a crowd-funding campaign, Molenwijk wanted to include customers in the design decision, so van Woensel mocked up four designs and asked supporters to vote on their favorite. “Esther loves collaboration and she wanted to include customers right from the start. Fortunately, they chose the design I would have chosen, although I liked them all,” he says. “We get so much positive feedback that we must have made the right decision.”

The design is colorful, yet retains an eco-friendly feel due to its materials, which was a challenge in and of itself. “It was very clear it needed to be 100% compostable, which was a bit hard because we wanted a window in the pouch. And all of the existing (eco) pouches available at the time had a petroleum-based lining,” he explains. So van Woensel and his client worked with two manufacturers (Bio4Pack and Paperwise) to create a unique, 100% biodegradable, lined pouch. “The lining and plastic window in the bag have been specially created for Dutch Harvest from cellulose-based plastic and the paper is made from agricultural waste,” he explains.

Pro Tip: Be prepared to go out of your way to find partners who can deliver exactly what you need when working with sustainable materials.

Client: Level Cannabis

Agency: Folklor

Designer: Claire Typaldos

Level hired designer Claire Typaldos to redesign its brand to convey the essence behind the science of cannabis without detracting casual customers. “What makes Level special is its high quality and the fact that it’s completely pesticide-free, additive-free, and has no solvents. We wanted to the branding to reflect this with a simple, organic design,” she says.

The packaging is made of recycled pulpboard, which is traditionally used for egg cartons. “We wanted to use it in a unique way—as high-end packaging that also doubles as a nice object the customer could keep. We liked the idea that the customer would think twice before throwing away the box,” Typaldos notes, although it was learning experience working with the factories molding the boxes. It took several prototyping phases to get the design just right.

The label cleverly incorporates the scientific elements for each product strain, using colors to distinguish them. She says, “They wanted to share as much information as possible so that the customer knows what’s going into their bodies. We used Akkurat for the modern and clean titles, and Courier for the more scientific, informational sections. There was a nice interplay between the two.” A deep, debossed logo takes center stage on the box, highlighting the natural quality of the pulpboard.

Pro Tip: Be sure to budget in time and money to test different printing and design techniques.

Client: Poopbags

Design: Tondo

Picking up after your pooch is a rite of passage for dog owners—albeit, one of the less enjoyable aspects—so why not use a product you feel good about? Poopbags is dedicated to using eco-friendly materials in their packaging and product and having a sense of humor about it. “With a name like Poopbags, you can’t take yourself too seriously,” says Tondo’s creative director and designer Max Ali. Tondo was hired to redesign the brand to give it consistent presence in the market and stand out in a category that is dull by nature.

“If you want the design to be both eco-friendly and appealing, you have to be smart,” he says. “Each small element should carry a meaning and convey a message, but also keep in mind that the package should be fun and eye catching on shelf.” The flower logo signifies sprouting life and the outdoors, and stamps were designed as an easily recognizable brand element that can be modified to carry different messages. “The box itself is made of recycled materials, and our main concern was to be able to separate the types of products with minimum design elements,” Ali says.

Colors clearly distinguish the different products by how they are produced—Green is recycled; Orange is for orange-scented; Purple is biodegradable; and Blue is plant based. All the packages are also made with recycled materials.

Pro Tip: Just because you’re branding an eco-friendly product, doesn’t mean the design needs to be dull. Maximize the use of colors to stand out on the shelf.

Client: Hippo&Crate

Design: Alphabet

Ordering personal hygiene products such as soaps, lotions, and shaving kits, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Hippo&Crate is the first subscription-based toothcare brand. The name itself is borrowed from Greek physician Hippocrates, who was considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of healthcare, and as a nod to the crate-like boxes that arrive at customers’ doors.

“In response to an industry that tends to overwhelm consumers with specs and jargon, we crafted a unique visual language to establish Hippo&Crate as a brand that stands for beautiful, honest, and affordable toothcare,” notes Alphabet partner and creative director Abbas Mushtaq. And, of course, the products are sustainable, as well as the packaging. The toothpaste and mouthwash are vegan, gluten-free, sustainably harvested, and toothpaste tube is made of 100 percent recyclable aluminum and printed using environmentally friendly ink.

The designers suggested the packaging be inline with the products since so many of them will be shipped around the world. “We didn’t want it to be harmful to the environment, and personally, we just love cardboard engineering!” He adds, “You have to be wary about the application of ink and how color looks on the packaging—especially stuff in the CMYK range. In the end we opted for simple hits of black and white to make sure it contrasts well. You also need to be careful with smaller type because of ink bleeding on recyclable material. It was a blessing in disguise as we ended up going for a simple, bold approach to help with that.

Pro Tip: Using two colors and simple imagery can actually elevate the design. Simplicity doesn’t have to be simple.

Developing Successful Identities for a Mr. & Mrs.

If you’re an identity designer, the most critical function in the beginning of the project is research—getting to know your client’s brand inside and out, as well as the competition, and some of that involves what Sharon Werner, principal of Werner Design Werks in Minneapolis, Minn., calls “feet on the ground.” This is especially true when working on a start-up brand, like Mr. Mak’s Ginbao, a new wellness drink that is based on a traditional Chinese recipe made from natural ingredients.

Werner and her team spent the day in New York’s Chinatown with the Mak family, even enjoying a traditional Chinese lunch prepared by Mrs. Mak. “We walked the streets of New York and looked at brands they liked and disliked in the same category,” Werner explains. “When it’s a startup we want the identity and the brand to feel true to who they are, and the only way to do that is through an intensive immersion and getting to know them. We want to understand who they are compared to their competitors; what they’ll offer that others don’t; what their personal beliefs are and how those will translate to their business and product.”

A challenge with developing brand identities for start ups is determining what will work past the first year, which is sometimes hard for clients to envision. “We’re building for a future, which means we’re asking the ‘what if’ questions—What if you add more flavors? What if you add 100 employees? What if you sell the company?” she says. “We want to build an identity that can grow with them and is fluid enough to adapt if the ‘what if’ becomes ‘What do we do now?’”

Combining traditional aesthetics with modern design elements, helped differentiate Mr. Mak’s Ginbao. The packaging utilized colors associated with the flavors, while the corporate identity was limited to neon red and porcelain blue. The letterpress printed business cards come in a glassine envelope which also houses a nice surprise for recipients—a recipe card and fortune. These small touches, tie the identity back to the brand story.

Taking a critical look at the competition and how your brand measures up, is key in the identity design. Werner and her team go to the store see the competition live on the shelf, in the environment. They look at how the retail lighting might affect packaging and how the height of the product will look sitting next to others. “We are avid and intuitive consumers— we trust our intuition. We look outside the categories to see where to go next, keeping in mind that it still has to communicate what the product is,” she notes. “With Mrs. Meyer’s, we asked how we could we make it look like a hard-working, effective cleaning product, but different than its competitors. We borrowed from the utilitarian, hard-working, hardware vernacular and then softened it with color and line drawings.”

Werner developed the Mrs. Meyer’s brand story 18 years ago, and it has stood the test of time. The brand story revolves around the founder’s mother, Thelma Meyer, a homemaker from Granger, Iowa. The no-nonsense design reflects her personality and informs consumers of the natural ingredients in the cleaner. “With Mrs. Meyer’s we were involved for many years, hands on,” Werner says. “We helped them hire their first internal designer, then we later briefed their new ad agency on the brand. When they were purchased by SC Johnson, we conducted a full retrospective briefing of the Mrs. Meyer’s brand language and elements. We outlined what was brand right and not brand right and the reasoning behind that. Always bouncing decisions against ‘What would Thelma do?’”

The ultimate goal when creating an identity design for a company, is to make sure all the brand assets will be managed by the client after the project is complete. This usually entails creating a style guide to ensure the identity is properly applied in every application including packaging, advertising, website, social media, and beyond. “Our goal is to create a brand and brand assets that basically eliminates the need for Werner Design Werks. We develop a brand language that can evolve and grow and still be ‘brand right,’” Werner explains.

This post originally ran on the PixArt blog here.

 

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Wink. Thyme. Scentsational.

Thyme, which has been in business for 30 years, creates botanically-infused fragrances, soaps, lotions, and cosmetics. The brand’s artisan qualities and craftsmanship are beautifully represented at every touchpoint—from the website to the catalogs, to the packaging of the individual products. The website and print materials have an organic aesthetic, featuring art quality photographs of the products, oftentimes alongside their natural ingredients. The credit for orchestrating this fluid brand story goes to the design firm of record, Wink, in Minneapolis.

This year marks a milestone for one of Thyme’s signature fragrances. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Classic Goldleaf collection—a fragrance of smooth jasmine, fragrant roses, hyacinth, and lily of the valley blossom infused with oakmoss and musk. The Goldleaf fragrance has been Thymes’ longest selling and most popular scent. Scott Thares, principal of Wink, notes, “Because of its historical track record and dedicated fan base, Thymes wanted to release new packaging and products to celebrate this anniversary occasion. Our goal was to design offerings that represent the luxurious and high-end feel that Goldleaf has always had.”

Thares updated the previous leaf design motif to a slightly more modern and fresh look that is also celebratory in nature. “We wanted to design offerings that represent the luxurious and high-end feel that Goldleaf has always had,” he says. In keeping with the upscale aesthetic, he chose a high-quality paper stock for the packaging that is tactile and durable. Neenah Stardream in Antique Gold serves as the main vessel for the product, while the box cover is Classic Crest, Natural White, with a gold stippled pattern that perfectly complements the box.

The elegant leaf pattern is carried throughout the design, creating a classy and modern feel to this classic product.

The resulting package is classy, classic, and exquisitely executed.