In Lavernia & Cienfuegos’ portfolio there are many exciting packaging projects. Was that a particular intention of yours or did each project just lead on to the next one? And what is it that you like so much about this field of design?
We have always dedicated ourselves to graphic design and product design, so twenty years ago we saw that packaging offered us the possibility of carrying out integral projects where we found packaging solutions for both the 2D and 3D design (the bottle, the jar or the box). Little by little we started to work in this sector and one project led us on to another. For us, any project is an opportunity to do something really good. Sometimes we have to turn the brief around, that is, look for a different approach that allows us to make a more innovative and more ambitious design which is, therefore, better for the client. That’s why we do not select projects to work on, but whenever we can, we select the client. We are interested in collaborating with companies that we feel comfortable with, that understand and value what we do. A project can always be turned upside down, but a client cannot.
Let us turn to the extensive CD you did for Naranja de Valencia, a cooperative of orange growers and exporters. What was the particular challenge here?
Valencia has been an exporter of oranges since the mid-nineteenth century. It is the largest producer in Europe and oranges were one of the economic pillars of the region for much of the last century. The marketing of this fruit entailed undertaking extensive work on the design of brands, labels, bags, and general of pieces of merchandising that have accompanied the sale of oranges for more than a hundred years, mainly for export. There is a museum in Burriana (a city near Valencia) dedicated to the design of orange brands and wrappers because a very dynamic and powerful graphic industry developed in this sector. When a group of producers and exporters under the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) commissioned us, the challenge was to make a new design, up-to-date, modern, but taking all that graphic tradition into account. The typography used, sans serif, has been altered with the purpose of recalling the style of the traditional typefaces used in the middle of the twentieth century in the designs of orange labels. The brand identity involves another essential element that accompanies the logo. This is an illustration that works as a motif pattern to be used on almost all the other media, such as wrapping paper, signs, bags, fruit boxes, the website, etc.
Quite a different look of course was produced for Suavina lip-care products. Here you pulled off a blend of contemporary and traditional. What was the design process like in this commission?
This project has elements in common with the oranges commission. There was also a preceding tradition in this case. Laboratorios Calduch has been making this lip balm for 135 years and its packaging maintained the graphic codes used by pharmacies from the first half of the twentieth century. The presentation container of the lip salve is a redesign, an update that they have been using for many years. The curvature of the planes and the rounding of the edges gives it the smoothness that this type of product requires and modernises it. The brand appears on the lid, redesigned based on the original, and appears next to the word “dermo” and the date of origin of the product: 1880. The purpose of the ensemble is to transmit both tradition and modernity, through the contrast between a classical typographic composition, a sans serif font and the engraving of the letters in bas-relief.
The corporate design for the chocolate-maker Utopick, which also included packaging, is very interesting: Here you continued the design on the chocolate itself. How did Utopick react to this solution and how closely was the client involved in the process?
Utopick has been an ideal client. They were looking for innovation, a radical change, a break with what they had at the time. In the preliminary meetings they insisted that they wanted something very special, so when we presented them with our proposals they were enthusiastic. They have always been willing to go as far as we take them. It was a challenge for them to change the traditional bar and adapt another system of packaging chocolate, but they did everything they could to produce what we had designed. Fortunately, the new packaging has been a success. It has taken the company to new markets and has given them the reputation that comes from design prizes and diffusion in social networks.
In the language of forms you used in this project you continued the manufacturer´s symbol – a ship – but in an abstract way. Is story-telling a part of packaging design nowadays would you say?
There are many brands in the market and connecting emotionally with the public is a way to be different, to create a link that generates loyalty to the product and the brand. In this process of emotional communication with the client, telling a story is very important. It does not have to be a specific, realistic story that talks about the origin or tells real or credible anecdotes. It is possible to suggest, through graphic resources such as non-figurative drawings, colour or typography, the idea of a world of its own, of a story. In the case of Utopick, the brand, the packaging, the drawing on the bar, even the name, all contribute to create the atmosphere of a story.
Even industry is now placing great importance on packaging – what´s the best way to stand out from all the other well design packaging in this area?
Today there are too many products competing in the same space. The battle to stand out from the crowd and catch the eye of any customer makes shop shelves chaotic. I think we have to design for the target of each product. Today it makes less sense than ever to address everyone. You have to choose a target and aim very well. There’s no need to be garish or flamboyant. Each individual has a gaze and that gaze looks for what interests them, reacts to the things that speak to them in an intelligent way about what they want to hear. The key is knowing how to connect with the chosen audience. Speak to them in their language and tell them something that is new to them or tell it to them in a different and attractive way. Humour, which features ever more frequently in packaging, is one example.
And, last but not least: Do you wish clients had more courage to allow something new to evolve?
Of course! I would love it if all our clients were more daring, more courageous. I think marketing, as it is practised in most companies, is a constraint. It’s too afraid of failure, without actually avoiding failures, and with that attitude the only thing you achieve is to prevent a great success. I do not think there is any really innovative and successful product, a star product, that is the result of surveys, tests and statistical analyses. A friend of mine says that a synthesis is worth more than a hundred analyses. Creativity cannot be found in data or surveys. Its ideal environment is risk.
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