Low Key Design believes good branding is 50 per cent idea, 50 per cent execution
The studio based in Shanghai pays particular attention to the materiality of its projects. Here, its founder Jieru Chen tells us about two recent projects.
- Ruby Boddington
- 5 August 2021
Rigorous logic sits at the heart of everything Shanghai-based graphic design studio Low Key Design creates. Founded by Jieru Chen, the independent studio prides itself on concept-led commercial work, where what a brand wants to express (ascertained through a questionnaire) dictates all the decisions of a visual identity or packaging design. Often incorporating illustration and typography into their work, Jieru pays close attention to detail no matter what the scale or style of the project is, from a playful can for a drinks company to a more demure box for a chocolate company.
One of the most important – and exciting – aspects of graphic design for Jieru is materiality and the high-quality results that can be achieved when one considers it closely. “We emphasise the final texture of the finished design,” they tell It’s Nice That. “Whether it is the use of paper or interesting design of structure or printing technology, we firmly believe that the birth of an outstanding work depends on 50 per cent design and 50 per cent execution.” It’s for this reason that they so often work within the realm of packing design as it affords them space to experiment with materials and techniques and hold a product in their hands at the end of it all. “I will feel extremely excited when I finally touch the finished products,” Jieru adds.
Aesthetically, Low Key Design’s projects vary, swaying between elegance and energy depending on the context. An unabashed use of colour seems to be a signature though, pared with contemporary typography and often character-led illustrations. The visual identity for the tea company For Chill is perhaps the best example of the latter. The brand aims to offer a “relaxed and comfortable” drinking experience and so Jieru used these adjectives as the basis for the identity: “Guided by the creative inspiration caused by a floating sense of ease, we created the illustrated image of ‘Floating Planet Fooki’. They have been living on a weightless floating planet, enjoying all related to urban life, including music, sports and meditation.” It’s a fun response to an open brief resulting in a youthful, bold brand identity that is sure to stand out.
Just as colourful but representing Jieru’s more refined aesthetic sensibilities is the branding they completed for Nibbo, a chocolate brand aiming to offer “a wealth of distinct tasting experiences to chocolate lovers who wander into the store.” Because of this, Jieru opted to present the product as a “fine collection of goods that customers will want to try out one by one,” hence the colour coded system and minimal look. Included within each bar are cards detailing the notes of that particular flavour, “designed to call to mind item descriptions seen in museums,” Jieru explains, a concept which is then continued through the shape of the packaging which resembles a folder. It stirs up connotations of archives and hints to the fact each bar is something to collect; a prized possession.
Despite having plenty of other projects brimming out of their portfolio, Jieru explains their ambitions aren’t slowing down. “For example, we want to design a newspaper called the Low Low Paper, with each issue having a theme,” Jieru says. One theme could be, they explain, cycling – inspired by the fact that many in the studio fell in love with the sport during the pandemic. “In view of this, we want to make a periodical with the theme of ‘city riding’, which can be placed in our friend’s coffee shop for customers to read for free.” With an understanding of the care and consideration that Low Key Design pays to materials in every project, you can be sure that Low Low Paper will be a thing of beauty – we look forward to seeing it!
Low Key Design: Nibbo (Copyright © Low Key Design, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.