Friday, October 29, 2010

This Water

Another great one from Pearlfisher, This Water is a spin-off brand from the very popular Innocence natural brand in the UK.

One of the things I like most about this brand is the outright call for distinction: by calling it This Water, you automatically put distance between it and other brands.  There's this water, and then there's that water.  And then they put the most distinctive feature right up front too:

Fruit from the trees; this water from a spring.
this water quenches thirsts for a living.
No trucks came from the alps to bring you this water.  (Oh BURN, Evian!)
this water is made from fruit and clouds.
Cranberries for health, this water for thirst.
this water is coloured by nature. (Take that, Vitamin Water!)

See?  It's subtle but it's there.  And it brings up a really crucial point: we have very strong associations with brands—so strong, in fact, that I immediately parsed what they were trying to say with the alps and "coloured by nature" bits without them having to say anything other than a brief allusion.  Evian is so vitally linked with the alps that This Water couldn't mean anything else by that quote about the alps.  I don't even like bottled water and I got it right off.

Our connection to brands is nearly pre-cognitive.  We are influenced and shaped by factors that we may not even recognize straight off.  I'm sure this is probably alarming to some, but I find it fascinating.  It brings up a question that I don't have an answer to yet:
Where does the line of responsibility fall: towards the consumer (to be conscious and wary of brand messaging) or to the brand (to be ethical and trustworthy when it comes to that messaging)? 

Friday, October 15, 2010


Quick Friday post for eye candy (almost literally).  Moonstruck Chocolate is a neat Portland-based chocolate company.  I've heard that their products are swell, and I liked the look of their site.  Their logo is pretty cool too—it's a hunky muscled dude playing a lute on a crescent moon, and who doesn't like a lute-playing hunk on a moon?  But what really blew me away was their chocolate bar packaging.

Gorgeous, right?  It's the perfect blend of reference to the origins of the chocolate with a current and relevant design.  Kate Forrester, an illustrator and typographer from the UK designed it.

Way to go Moonstruck!  Now, someone get me a peanut butter & jelly eyeball truffle won't you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

J Me

Jamie Oliver, well-known British chef, restaurateur and media personality, launched a new brand of housewares and food products in 2009.  The brand is J Me, and Pearlfisher was responsible for the creation of a strategy, logo, brand identity, corporate identity, structural design, secondary packaging, tone of voice, naming, pack and web copy.

Jamie's fans and customers share a few things in common:
- They have a relaxed, well-designed lifestyle
- They care about where their food and everyday items come from and want to have some kind of relationship with the creator
- They trend younger and a bit quirky, like Jamie

Jamie's lifestyle brand had to reflect Jamie's own aesthetic, which is clean, sustainable, and youthful.  Jamie places a lot of emphasis on healthy, local, no frills ingredients in his own cooking, hence the premise of his initial TV show: The Naked Chef.  This commitment to sustainable eating and clean flavors in his work translates into the design of his lifestyle and food products.

The packaging is incredible simple and very homegrown—casual and inviting, like Jamie himself. Part of Jamie's appeal is that he isn't fussy. He makes cooking seem simple and populist. 

This condiment packaging looks friendly, like your pal Jamie whipped up that lemon curd in your kitchen and scrawled out a label before popping it into your fridge.  There's something really powerful about that for an aspirational brand.  People will buy these products because they want to cook like Jamie and, moreover, because they are invested in having the kind of life Jamie Oliver has: simple, unfussy, but also clever, creative, and chic.

To further that objective, Jamie worked with well-known, current designers to create beautiful artisan products at several different price points within the line.  Even though there's quite a bit of variety, all of the products fit his brand: they're sustainable, unique, and clean in design.  You can watch Jamie talking about his line here. 

Pearlfisher created over 170 skus for this line and their work on the brand was a Gold Cannes Lions winner for 2009.  High praise.  You can see why I like them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Umi means "sea" in Japanese.  I love this packaging because it's sleek, modern, but still warm.  So much of contemporary design can feel like office furniture. 

Umi also has interesting ingredients: cardamom, lotus flower, and oat ceramide among them.  The packaging states clearly what they are, what they're for, and what they should do.  I love it.  Super pretty without being overblown or overly feminine.  I could easily see this carried in a spa or luxe hotel.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why You Should Care About Branding, Part 1

With several posts now under my belt, it's time to address the question: why another blog?  And for that matter, why this one?

In 2008, I was at a crossroads.  I'd been working in publishing since 2004, the year I'd arrived in New York to start a career in that field.  I loved books and words and the literary world, but the long arm of technology had begun to corrode the production of the written word, especially when it came to job prospects.  I felt stuck: I'd always gravitated toward design, but the job I was stuck in during that time offered very few opportunities in that area.  I wanted to feel that sting—the elusive prick of whatever is between inspiration and practicality.  I wanted a career that would be both sensible and creative.  It might be said that I've always wanted a perfect union between the imagination of form and utility of function.

What ended up happening is that I attended a conference on collecting marketing data.  The keynote speaker gave a talk on the importance of branding, and quite simply, I was hooked.  The only thing I really remember about it was an example he gave about Apple computers.  It seems that in the 1990s, Apple was failing (hard to believe given the current climate).  One of the major things that turned Apple around was their now iconic television commercial.

The message is: if you buy our computer, you are a visionary.  You are different and special and like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Bob Dylan, because you don't buy normal computers, you buy Apple: the computer for geniuses and eccentrics.

The most revolutionary thing about this ad is that they never show their product.  Not once during the ad is a computer shown, not even for a second.  The commercial is completely affiliation-driven.  If you buy our computer, you can group yourself in with the leaders of our modern age.  Powerful stuff.

The best part is that it worked.  Apple's stock recovered and it began its meteoric rise to tech domination.  Granted, a lot of other factors contributed to this beyond a commercial: the packaging design (sleek, uniform and very modern), the user-friendly element, the cutting edge technology, the mythology surrounding Steve Jobs (perhaps a bit of a visionary and eccentric himself).  However, what all those elements have in common is that they all fit under the banner of the mission statement illustrated in that commercial: Think Different.

Apple regrouped and made every action they took abide by their brand.  Apple is for people who are creative, inspiring, a bit revolutionary.  Apple is for people who think differently.  Apple is now a top tier brand, world-renowned, and has achieved cult status in the upper pantheon of tech.  Thinking differently leads to big dividends.

This classic example got me all fired up.  If branding could do that for Apple, what could that mean for other brands, products—people, even. What could it do for worthwhile causes?

My inner geek started to fire. Could it be that some of the world's problems might be solved by better communication about what we do and why it matters? Because that is what branding is: communication of identity and purpose.

Better branding means that we get what we need faster.  Better design means that we realize something will fill our need faster.  We make better choices when the purpose and function of a product or service is communicated effectively.  Better design, communication, and branding equals better form, and better form means better function.

And that's what this blog aims to explore—how form and function interplay to create branding that works or doesn't.