Wrapped in art

20 May 2019

The packaging industry knows that design drives good packaging just as much as smart material development or clever closures. But what makes packaging well designed? Emma-Jane Batey gets some thoughts from brand design experts on why looking good goes way beyond aesthetics.

The trends of ecommerce and sustainability show no sign of slowing down –and why would they? Consumers want to spend more time on experiences and less time pacing the high street, and everyone is well aware of the impact their choices can have on the environment. It's a perfect storm that means how products cover themselves – from artisan brown paper to forward-thinking lightweighting – must speak to a consumers from both screen and shelf.


Brand design manages to bring together all off these crucial threads and turn them into packaging that ticks all the boxes – appealing, effective and appropriate. Richard Taylor, director of Cheshire-based Brandon Consultants branding agency, says, “We help businesses leverage their brand assets through strategy, innovation and design, by building on their iconic brand assets or creating new ones.”



Make packaging meaningful


Brandon Consultants, who work with family-favourite brands including McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake, Thorntons and Birds Eye, have devised a concept called 'packcepts' that supports brand development through packaging. Taylor explains, “We help brands by unearthing why they mean something to someone, or why they should mean something to someone. We then translate that into a brand identity system and apply it to brand packaging concepts, which we call packcepts. Packcepts are used to test 2–3 different ways in which we can interpret the meaning that we are trying to convey. Once we've been through a detailed insight and testing process, we develop the packcepts into the final brand packaging and a wider identity system for the brand to live on in other communications.”


Tapping into key differentiators is clearly imperative when it comes to understanding what makes a brand unique. 'Premium local' seems to be a deliciously dynamic mix that champions small brands with big ambitions. With the huge growth in artisan alcohol brands, Norwich-based Bullards Gin has managed to call upon its local heritage while heavily pushing its premium credentials to meet the local trend. Established in 1837 and 'reborn in 2015', Bullards is the first gin distillery in Norwich for over 150 years. With the hashtag #spiritofNorwich used by Bullards as part of a commitment to 'championing Norwich brands', the small-batch distillery is winning international acclaim for its hand-crafted gins.


John Bullard is the great-great-grandson of the original founder of Bullards, and he plays an active role in the continuing development of the brand.


“Great thought has gone into the design of the new bottle, building on the heritage of an iconic Norwich brand,” says Bullard. “We are keen for the new bottle and packaging to ensure ongoing links between the brand's longstanding provenance, and the gin known and loved today.”


Bullards worked with international alcohol brand design agency Stranger & Stranger to visually represent 'The Spirit of Norwich' and the brand's strong ties to the city, with the unique shape of its gin bottles inspired by the city's chimney stack that towered over Bullards' historic Anchor Brewery. Bullard adds, “The new packaging and bottles are a great way of paying homage to the brand's heritage, along with a contemporary twist that reflects our high-end products. It gives us a refreshed identity that's as unique as the flavours of our gin.”


Leading glass-packaging manufacturer Bruni Erben produces the bottles for Bullards Gin; the premium positioning is reflected in its 750g weight and embossed brand details on the main body, which emphasise the key elements of the brand identity.


Sales director for Bruni Erben Michal Szczygiel says, “The glass bottles were manufactured in Italy and decorated in Poland. The Bruni Erben team used their extensive product and manufacturing process expertise to turn Bullards' dream design into reality. Through active collaboration with our design studio, we were able to have this beautiful, heavyweight bottle produced with little compromise to the original design, and in a tight timeframe.”




For children big and small


A personal-care brand that has been cleverly designed for children but is equally loved by parents is the incredibly successful Childs Farm range, featuring idyllic childhood scenes that perfectly represent the quality and performance of the products, which are available in Boots and all major supermarkets.


Childs Farm founder Joanna Jensen is a passionate advocate of the efficacy and appeal of the Hampshire-based, proudly British brand, with her own children, nieces and nephews on the cartoon designs, as well as their pets and farm.


“The design of our packaging is really important to us as a brand for a number of reasons,” Jensen explains. “Each of our labels tells a story, which stimulates little ones' imaginations; the pony is their pony, the dog is their puppy – the labels become their own adventure. Each label is real and authentic and fun. Plus, a parent bathing their baby can open and close the lid with their chin.”


Jensen is equally as enthusiastic about what the packaging is made of, “The materials we use in our packaging is important too, ensuring it suits our quality and authenticity values. Our approach to using post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic in our lids and bottles resonates with our consumers, who are much more conscious of their plastic consumption, and we are always looking at ways to improve this; in 2019, we will move to 30% PCR for all our plastics. 100% of our card is already FSC. We take a holistic approach that we believe makes us stand out – our packaging, materials, labels and, above all, our lovely products. We try to source our packaging from UK suppliers. Berkshire Labels have worked for us for four years now and are just 30 minutes away from our office. This works for us on two fronts – our carbon footprint, but also the ability for us to colour-check a new print run with ease.”


Clever and effective design has played a key role in the launch of Childs Farm’s latest product, a two-in-one hair shampoo and conditioner that immediately went into 800 Tesco stores. Jensen says, “With an organic Rhubard and Custard fragrance, the imagery and packaging made the whole launch exciting – taking a lead from Bird's Custard packaging, we present the product with an 'all the fun of the fair' theme. As with all of our range, users – parents and kids alike – love the whole concept because, as much as anything, the label makes people smile.”


Jensen adds how the brand design of Childs Farm products has been a key part in the success of the company, saying, “If you go to the house of a fan of Childs Farm, the bathroom speaks volumes; lined up in a row, the bottles look like a work of art.”


When packaging becomes art – from colourful bottles of no-sting baby shampoo to artisan gin – brands know they have their own army of ambassadors that can promote their products better than advertising ever can.




Design inspired by nature


Brand design consultancy Lewis Moberly has created the brand identity and packaging design for Tidal Rum – a new rum launching in the UK this month. A pale-gold island rum infused with sugar kelp for a salty sweetness, Jersey-based Shortsboy Distillery has produced a product made possible by the extreme tides of the Channel Isles that allow these long seaweed tendrils to flourish.


The Tidal bottle is defined by gently curved shoulders and a solid wooden stopper. The graphics have an enigmatic simplicity framed by the brand story. It comes wrapped in branded tissue, which follows the contours of the coastal tides.


Mary Lewis, design director on the project at Lewis Moberly, says, “Rum is poised to be enjoyed in a more contemporary and inspirational context. Our design captures the growing need to discover unchartered territory. It is distinguished by the moon, which determines the Earth’s tides. Evocative text celebrates this natural phenomenon.”





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