We’ve all been in a shop and put down our snack of choice, reaching for a (likely more expensive) alternative because of a sleeker typeface, fun packet shape or pleasingly minimal label. But in the world of food and drink design, some studios go a whole lot further – producing mind-boggling packaging that occasionally pushes what a product is “supposed” to look like in exciting new directions. While not every packaging identity for a sandwich has to reinvent the wheel, designers who can transform the mundane into an aesthetic experience always manage to catch our eye. So today we’re celebrating the wonderful world of food packaging with a round-up of creatives who do just that.
From studios in Belfast and Shanghai to Mexico City, get acquainted with designers delivering work for the likes of plant-based chocolate brands, seafood restaurants and sweet cake companies, with always-appetising results.
Meat Studio is a perfect example of a studio bringing unlikely visual references to the packaging space. While its last pixelated project for Beijing convenience store Gogo cleverly repackaged food as video game power-ups for commuters, Meat has returned this month with a similar bang. Brought on board by Mid Day Squares (MDS) – a plant-based chocolate brand – the Toronto and Beijing-based studio supplied a packaging overhaul based on limited edition streetwear and athleisure.
If it sounds like a peculiar fusion, it is – and this is what makes Meat Studio one to watch in the space. The uniquely slick design of MDS, drawing from the likes of Nike and Off White, breathes fresh life into the “soft/friendly look of plant-based brands”, as put by Ronald Tau, founder of Meat Studio. Take a look at a sparse, punchy take on a familiar format above.
When we first discovered the work of Reesaw Studio via a packaging project for Sea Bar – a Shanghai-based restaurant specialising in stewed seafood – we were hooked. Not only do the Ningbo/Shanghai-based studio create work packed with charming illustrative details – in the case of Sea Bar, of crabs and sea shells – their approach to packaging shows you don’t have to forgo the lessons of design history to serve up something fresh.
In fact, while the studio’s mission is to “resonate with younger people” through design, Reesaw told us recently how it implements traditional Chinese culture to do it. In the case of Sea Bar, this “clever conflict” meant drawing on the peaceful atmosphere of 1980s fishing villages with soft pastels and whimsical type; not to be confused by their bold work for G.L.Z Supermarket, employing a cherry tomato red and dynamic forms.
We tend to expect to see larger-scale studios behind brands with seemingly endless creative packaging ideas. So it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that the branding for Holiland, a Beijing-based company known for stocking sweet bakery items, largely comes from the mind of one creative force: designer Gu Dongjie.
Creating boxes for stuffed mochi balls and tiger-themed treats, Gu Dongjie always manages to inject a sense of surprise, excelling in one area in particular: visualising flavour with colour. For example, for a snack celebrating the new year, Run Tiger Run, you’ll find flavours represented in three sunset colourways – united by a swishing, striped tail.
Baking powder might not seem like much of a meal, until you dig your teeth into the most recent work from Enrique Puerto. The Mexico City-based designer, whose food portfolio spans everything from lasagna projects to peanut butter packaging, proved just how mouth-watering you can make a mouth full of baking powder.
Delivering packaging and branding for baking-powder company Loosey-Goosey, Enrique leaned into his experimental origins, using 3D to emphasise the transformative power of the product – which incorporates flavours such as rose petals, saffron, chocolate and sweet potato to naturally flavour meals. A master of bringing emotion to the world of eating, Enrique created branding that bursts and balloons with bubbly textures for Loosey-Goosey’s baking powder tins.
Angel & Anchor
Who doesn’t love a good plot twist? That’s exactly what you get with a design project from Belfast-based branding studio Angel & Anchor. If you were to come across their coffee packaging for Process roastery without context, you’d swear it was an old copy of a VHS tape. And with the level of detail and realism the studio incorporates into their work, we wouldn’t blame you either.
While the trend of ‘packaging that looks like one thing but is actually something else’ in food design is well-established, it’s always a joy to see a studio pull it off so well it might genuinely stump a customer. What’s more, they’ve nailed the art of inviting product shots. Feast your eyes on their burnt-up ‘cassette tapes’, hiding bags of speciality coffee above.
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.