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]
Opening tonight! February 10th, 2017! A visual tribute to The Magnetic Fields! Come see the contributions of 69 artists inspired by the album 69 Love Songs at Portland, Oregon’s Land Gallery from 6-9pm. Here is a preview of my piece in the show for the song “I Think I Need a New Heart”. You can only guess how many of these little boxes I made…
Here are some tests I have been working on for a group art show at Land Gallery happening February 10th titled 69 Love Songs. The show pays tribute to the Magnetic Fields album 69 Love songs with artists each interpreting a song. My song is “I Think I Need a New Heart”, and I’ve been working on tiny heart packaging (think cigarette package size) using painted wooden blocks and 2 colors of liquid paint Markal markers. It’s definitely a medium with limitations, which has been fun to work with.
Each year, Oregon descends into sports madness when the Ducks (University of Oregon) and Beavers (Oregon State) face off at the “Civil War” football game, the biggest sporting event in the state. The tradition dates back to 1894 with over 115 games on record. Every November sport pennants fly proudly from cars, allegiances are sworn and catcalls are common. For the most part, I stay completely out of the mêlée. Until this year.
Which brings me to the Ducks VS Beavers Civil War “Beer Design by Decade” project! For every decade that the Ducks and Beavers have been competing against each other I created a beer label for both teams. Design wise I focused on the simplest execution possible to represent the styles, tropes, themes and feeling from that decade.
While having participated in sports in high school with great fervor but mediocre talent, most of my 20’s and 30’s have been spent in front of a computer or a book. My sister, on the other hand, can most often be found cheering on her favorite sports team and alma mater: the Ducks. She probably inherited this from my dad who used to have a sport for every season which he watched dutifully and on the edge of his seat, can of peanuts and Pabst in hand. Realizing that my sister’s fandom would probably never subside, I decided to join in the only ways I knew how – eating guacamole during games and designing beer labels for the respective teams. Here are the labels zoomed in and side by side for each decade.
Oh yeah, this years Civil War is on Saturday November 26th at Reser Stadium.
Hayden Walker, a new Portland design transplant who helped with research and design as I balanced client work and a project effort that I underestimated greatly. See his work or Dribbble. Also to Tess Wojahn for helping with research (I’m sure a process post with inspiration images will follow at some point). See her work.
My playground friends from Madras, Oregon circa 1988 for spurring my alternative sports involvement when we wrote a rap about how great the Trail Blazers were (those were the days!).
My dad, who watched sports and drank beer and seemed to know infinitely more than both coaches and players based on the color commentary provided. He probably did know quite a bit as an ex-college and army ball player in both baseball & basketball. Those tense moments of accidentally running in front of the TV during an important play or daring to speak during a key game decision and being reprimanded with the Rankin glare will never be forgotten.
There you have it!
I’m excited to finally say TA-DA and share a special project from last year – packaging and branding for Home Cranked ice cream mix. This is an organic and premium quality ice cream base that you can use to make any flavor imaginable, brought to you by the folks at Naia Gelateria. Just use the plain base to add any ingredient to make crowd pleasing flavors or perhaps a palate-testing flavor for your more adventurous ice cream eating cohorts. Or if you’re in a pinch, chug the plain base straight from the carton to satisfy instant ice cream cravings. Any way you cut it, YOU WIN.
This project was in my wheelhouse for oh so many reasons. First, ice cream. I mean, ICE CREAM. Second, it was a print packaging project which had the fun limitations of being 4 colors and printed with flexography that has certain parameters in which it looks good. The design also needed to accommodate for potential new products. Lastly, I got to work with a crack team.
I was brought in by Owen Jones to help Naia create the Home Cranked brand from scratch. The Bureau created the logo, packaging, illustrations, branding and guidelines while Owen managed the project, implemented the site, marketing, social media strategy, and additional brand efforts. I even got to pull in food writer Jen Stevenson to make a delicious contribution of words that really made the packaging sing. Having worked with both Owen and Naia in the past, it was a trifecta of design positivity and collaboration. Or, as Jen would say: scoop savant, this is your destiny!
Currently Home Cranked is on a test run in Whole Foods Markets in California, but if things go well it could be coming to a store near you. Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on the logo, branding and icon set soon…in the meantime check out Home Cranked online.