It is often more of a challenge to write about visual identities in Asia as the most visible design at our fingertips leads us to design in the West. However, once you dig a little deeper, studios like Roots cannot escape our attentions. Based in Singapore, this branding and creative studio founded in 2011 by Jonathan Yuen has a highly sophisticated design output working for an Asian demographic which consequently has significant, culturally different points of references.
Roots became one of three designers from Asia to participate in Design Camp Nara in Japan, a design residency competition taking place over 3 days in Nara. The brief involved a homestay with the local poultry client Baaku, famed for their high-quality organic pork produce in Japan. Jonathan and local designer Kensuke, collaborate on a design proposal to rebrand the pork business and modernise the identity while maintaining the family-values spirit of the company.
The new identity needed to crucially embody the “connection between people, food and nature as their core business principle”. As a result, the designers repurpose the looping shape of a pig tail to symbolise the “cycle from people to food, food to nature, and from nature back to people, ad infinitum”. Not only is this symbol a sympathetic nod to rethink our disillusionment with supermarket food, but visually, the soft and circular curve that denotes the pig’s tail creates an openness to the consumer.
Speaking to It’s Nice That, Jonathan adds, “we also conceived of a flexible branding device in the shape of a pig” that can adapt around the varying visual components from the web identity to packaging. Resultantly, the identity can adapt alongside the developing business model of Baaku. The business intends to gradually move towards a more sustainable business model, committing to a slaughter process where all parts of the swine are ordered and bought together. In turn, the identity reflects the changing ethos of the brand with a dynamically flexible identity that can evolve with the company as well as represent the new narrative of a sharing model.
This sharing narrative of Baaku is communicated across a set of flyers in different sizes that come together in a jigsaw format to form one original piece of the identity. Each flyer explains an aspect of Baaku such as the farm’s history, the sharing programme’s philosophy, poultry quality and how to order. The printed flyers also translate into a web format through pop-up browser windows which further enhance the multi-faceted aspects of the visual identity. The sense of community is the core value within Jonathan’s identity, seen in the multiple fragments of flyers and browser windows that come together to make a whole picture. In extension of this community spirit, the designers also include individual stories from the locals and their recipes on the printed matter to enhance the ethos of sharing.
Ultimately, despite the fast turnaround of three days to produce this project, not to mention the challenges of the language barrier, the Baaku visual identity is a concise and refined embodiment of the pork brand. Jonathan and Kensuke worked together on the project while speaking through Google Translate on the spot, “delivering a great synergy and a tight bond throughout the four-day homestay at the Izusawa farm”. The project is a success story as it demonstrates how through “mutual respect and a common goal,” the designers “transcended the language barrier through design”. Evidently, common intentions became understood and met triumphantly as seen through the cultured visual identity. The proposed identity is currently being actively explored as a real rebrand for Baaku through a local government funding scheme and hopefully this identity will be realised as it is no mean feat to create such a stylish and contemporary visual identity for a supermarket product like pork.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.