Over the past two years I’ve worked on and off in “box format” – drawing on small wooden boxes. The first series was creating 69 “I think I need a New Heart” boxes for a Magnetic Fields tribute show. The second series were black and white lettering/illustration representations of magical or fantastical products (new heart, dream dust, and several more including my favorite “pocket rainbow”). In its newest iteration, I’m working on landscapes that use the box to emphasize the infinite space of these vistas. My first attempt is an “island in a box” – the box itself being the island – and I’m curious to see where this leads.
Here is a new lettering project for Tofurky, this time working on their packaging instead of general brand or advertising lettering. This project’s goal was to differentiate their artisan sausage in a way that felt true to the brand, but elevated the artisan product line into another visual space than the regular sausages.
Practicing some more on my iPadPro with different brushes, this time creating a new name and label for an oldie but goodie – Vaseline. The short development history of this product on Wikipedia is pretty interesting in it’s simplicity. Vaseline is one of many products which brand name has become genericized – instead of Vaseline being a specific brand of petroleum jelly, the name is used to describe all petroleum jelly products (more about all that here).
Long term client and collaborator, Gelateria Naia, has extended their gelato and sorbetto into a new format – the 14oz small tub. On this project, their signature orange was used as a background for the color-coding used on each flavor. Presented mostly in a top down freezer in grab-and-go areas, having a strong color presence on the lid was integral.
A major update / minor evolution to this brand was shifting their name on the packaging from Bar Gelato by Naia (also their namesake and inaugural product) to just Naia. Originally Bar Gelato made sense because it was their only product. However with the addition of sorbetto to the line-up, food regulations and approval got trickier with how the brand name only accurately described part of their product line. With this most recent packaging, Naia takes the lead as the brand name, and sorbetto and gelato can be used as the product identifier. Hierarchy on packages is critical for both the consumer, stocker, and fulfilling legal requirements. Pistachio is shown here because it’s my favorite flavor.
From a production standpoint, the cup was designed to be a standard issue brand orange with universal information, with a white scalloped template area into which a circular sticker could be placed to differentiate flavor. This type of design works well for product lines where it is hard to predict exact quantities of specific flavors, where flexibility in quantity/distribution of flavors is key, and when very small runs of speciality flavors are common. Naia often produces seasonal or specialty flavors, always experimenting with local producers to find nuanced and specific flavors. The rim of the cup was also a universally produced element, while the top of the lid was custom to each flavor.
A series of icons associated with each flavor has been used across many of Naia’s products, so they were employed again to provide a subtle indicator of the simple and pure ingredients. The custom lettered blocky font previously used in the logotype is now the headliner, providing some visual crossover recognition, as consumers were used to seeing BAR GELATO large and in charge on the previous packaging. And now, for a National Geographic-esque photo of a herd of gelato/sorbetto migrating across the icy plains of your nearest Whole Foods freezer case.
One of my favorite types of design projects is packaging – specifically food packaging. It is also one of the more fickle types of projects. Sometimes products miss their window of opportunity, sometimes start-ups aren’t able to get an investor to put the product on shelves, sometimes budgets fall through or a product line is re-oriented. Specialty products are sometimes explored up until launch, at which point they are deemed unviable. Once an entire project was derailed due to a macadamia nut shortage. You just can’t plan ahead for these kinds of things!
Because of this, I have worked on almost as many packaging projects that have been shelved than have actually reached shelves. Gelateria Naia is my one exceptional client that has taken every product I’ve worked on to market (see a few projects here and here, with more in the works!). Even the packaging projects that make it to market often take a YEAR OR TWO between packaging design and hitting shelves. This is like 1,948,465 years in “designer years” – it’s definitely not an exercise in instant gratification.
Last year I worked on chocolate wafer packaging for a company that packages US and European products for the Chinese market. Because of quality perception and some food scares, the design brief presented an interesting mix of designing in a way the Chinese market was used to (bold, zingy, pop!) while making the product look and feel European-based. Unfortunately the project was put on hold, but I wanted to share a direction from the initial design round (with a placeholder product name). A more traditional approach was selected as the final, where I got to practice drawing the Swiss Alps and milk splashes, but is not shown here because it hasn’t been released. So while not everything makes it to market, it doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet!
As a part-time Dane, I love a good advent calendar as part of my Christmas celebrations (read how Danes do xmas here). So when I got the opportunity to design and illustrate the annual advent of mini-preserves and jellies for Bonne Maman, I signed up faster than a sweet tooth gets a cavity. After a brainstorming round with several ideas presented, the concept of a wreath shape of 24 tiny Bonne Maman jars fit the bill by communicating “advent calendar” and being a simple holiday visual that was good for both distance viewing and close-up inspection.
This project was fun for a few reasons, only of them being drawing teeny tiny jam jars (actually preserves, but I like the sound of jam better). The project was contracted through R/West, a Portland-founded ad agency whose creative director happened to give me my first real design job. Back in the mid-2000’s I worked with Elizabeth Morrow McKenzie when she ran her own studio, and she gave me my first introduction to packaging, hand crafted lettering and so many other firsts that are invaluable when getting started in your career (and especially important if you didn’t go to art or design school like myself).
The project was a quicky, the kind of “blink twice and it’s over” gig. But when all is said and done time always flies for me when I’m lettering Frenchy numerals or drawing muffins. Built primarily for sale in Costco, the box opens up to reveal the 24 doors that house miniature jars for each day leading up to Christmas. The box is wrapped in a sleeve that is more minimal than the inner packaging and contains all the fine print and nutritional information. Presented in stacks of large cardboard trays, the primary visuals needed to be Christmasy from a distance.
I was going to put a bunch of FOR SALE links so everyone could buy this for their mom/cousin/sister/co-worker but the advent calendar was so popular it SOLD OUT. Sorry, nothing available at Amazon, Costco, World Market…anywhere. Instead, here are a few extra illustration excerpts from the project…and yes, I did hand-letter every single label individually in tiny Bonne Maman script.
Client: Bonne Maman
Creative Director: Elizabeth Morrow McKenzie
Brand Manager: Annatova Goodman
Designer & Illustrator: Mette Hornung Rankin/Bureau of Betterment
Designer: Anna Naef
This year I participated for the third time in the Portland Art Museum’s annual Monster Drawing Rally. A fundraiser for art programs at the museum, it’s a night of fun and exploration with a special area for kids to draw and display their work. Spectators and artists of all kinds join for an evening of fast-paced art making. One of my favorite parts of participating is talking with the kids who watch me draw, seeing how curious they are and how art can place a 6-year-old and 36-year-old on such equal footing if you give it a chance. You like to use markers? Me too. You draw zebras? Yeah, I try that sometimes. You like the color pink? I mostly use black and white but colors are nice too. Art can be whatever you want it to be, that’s the great part.
How exactly does the Monster Drawing Rally work? The format is simple, but it does help to know the basics when you arrive. Three rounds of artists each draw for an hour from 6-9:30pm, with 25 artists in each round. Each time an artists finishes a piece it is taken to the bidding wall, where whoever wants to buy it raises their hand. If multiple people “bid”, the winner is chosen by drawing from a deck of cards as artwork is all sold at a flat fee of $35. So it’s best to keep an eye on when an artist finishes their work and follow it straight to the wall so you can hopefully bid on it before anybody notices it’s there!
This year I decided to draw on some leftover white wooden boxes I had from another project (still documenting that one…). In the past two rally’s I had created some lettering similar to these typographic terrains, but they were much too complex to finish well in an hour at any kind of large scale. Having a very small format would let me create more pieces – I started the evening with a goal of four, and completed four! Doing a test box to make sure the timing was somewhat accurate helped a lot so I could just have fun and know I would be able to finish.
“Magic Boxes” was my personal theme, filling the imaginary packages with fantastic product that you can’t buy at your local supermarket. The first box was Pure Magic (with a warning to “use wisely”), but I forgot to take a photo of it. The rest of the boxes were Unicorn Tears (super rare!), a Pocket Rainbow (one all-terrain multi-color arc), and a White Hot Bolt of Lightning (fully charged, handle with care). One person suggested I put a puppy in a box but now that’s just silly!
Even though I had planned ahead, no art project dos 100% smoothly. The markers I had planned on using somehow didn’t transfer well when I was outside, so I had to revert to a thicker-tipped liquid based marker. This meant all the phrases I thought would fit on a 2×3″ box were suddenly 30% wider, so it was a challenge to do tiny fat letters. Other than a few lines trailing off into super condensed letters, it went alright. Enough that all my little boxes flew off the bidding wall and I hardly got to see them after I had finished. One buyer even sent me a photo of their Pocket Rainbow box at home on their bookshelf – so cute!
Tomorrow evening on Friday, July 14th the Portland Art Museum will host Portland’s third annual Monster Drawing Rally in its courtyard from 6-9:30pm. The event entails three 1-hour rounds of 25 artists creating art that is immediately put up for auction. All pieces are a flat $35 and proceeds fund free school programs at the museum. In addition to the live drawing auction, there is a kids drawing activity and food, drinks & music.
I’ve participated as a contributing artist the last two years and am excited to draw for a third year. This year I decided to veer away from the usual paper and pens – instead I’ll draw on tiny 3D boxes, creating packaging for contents you might not be able to pick up at your local SuperMart. Since I’ll have only an hour to work, a practice round was needed to time how long it took to complete a simple packaging design. Most of my ink drawings take at least several hours to make, which is not scalable to this event’s timeframe. “Dream Dust” was created in about 15 minutes, so I hope to knock out four boxes during my round. Box contents TBD…any ideas?
[update: see how the Monster Drawing Rally went]