Gander’s refresh for Wooden Spoon Herbs looks to type specimens and botanical research

The Brooklyn-based studio talks us through its recent project, which includes conceptual considerations and references to the final “eclectic system”.

12 October 2022

Gander, the studio behind brands like Spanish meat connoisseurs Mercado Famous and olive oil Graza, has released its latest branding project for Wooden Spoon Herbs. A near year-long process that spanned copywriting, typography, colour systems, illustration, packaging, art direction, social media and creating a robust e-commerce website, the revamp had to house a diverse range of products – 15 in total. But it also had to consider the aesthetic history of herbalism at large.

As a brand, Wooden Spoon Herbs’ output is centred around wellness, known for herbal remedies, tinctures, teas and tonics. Founder Lauren Haynes set up the brand in Tennessee after three years studying “everything herbalism, from cellular biology to energetic flower essences to folk healing to clinical studies, anatomy, physiology and phytochemistry”, the Wooden Spoon Herbs site explains.

While herbalism has experienced resurgences today and in the past – via the back-to-the-land movement in the 1960s and 1970s – the Western movement has frequently appropriated practices from underrepresented communities (as Emani Glee writes for Rooted, the back-to-the-land revival “historically left out the contributions of Black and brown peoples”). To create a brand for Wooden Spoon, Gander’s goal “was to build on the practice of herbalism without being overtly nostalgic or appropriative”, says the studio.

On what this looked like, Gander co-founder Mike McVicar explains it “took awareness and discernment”. He adds: “We can’t avoid the fact that there is an ancient history of herbalism across nearly every culture, but Wooden Spoon doesn’t try to claim ownership over any of that knowledge.” In terms of references, Mike continues: “We made sure to not appropriate any imagery or symbolism of other cultures or religions. Instead, we focused primarily on the plants themselves and our planet. The practice of plant medicine should be open-source knowledge but we have lost a lot of that in our modern society. However, anyone can go outside and eat a wild dandelion right off the sidewalk (even in Brooklyn … although we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that). But that’s herbalism!”

The Wooden Spoon Herbs brand does acknowledge the back-to-the-land period by looking widely at the art, design, and literature of the 60s and 70s. In particular, Gander lists counterculture title Whole Earth Catalog as a core reference, “which”, according to Mike, “was brimming with fantastically random illustrations and technical drawings”.


Gander: Wooden Spoon Herbs, photography by Joe Lingeman (Copyright © Gander, 2022)

On top of this, Gander fuses other sources. Public domain images, scientific journals, type specimen books and botanical drawings all come together, creating a unique mix of sourced and original material for borders and illustrations. According to Mike, this is partly to counter the horticultural homogeneity that can emerge with such a task. “Sometimes plants and flowers look very similar if they’re all drawn in the same style so we chose to vary the illustrations and make each product unique,” Mike says.

Then, of course, comes the challenge of making this variation cohesive, which Gander achieves through a mix of textures – and one trade secret of a Photoshop plugin setting. Across the site, lifestyle photography from Joe Lingeman appears.

The custom Wooden Spoon Herbs wordmark also embraces variation, appearing in multiple incarnations throughout. These include three horizontal versions and a circular iteration which, Mike says, “was a beast on its own – requiring custom kerning and fine-tuned letterforms that feel natural on a curve. Clearly, we don’t like to make our job easy but luckily we have an extremely talented team that was up for the task.”

GalleryGander: Wooden Spoon Herbs, photography by Joe Lingeman (Copyright © Gander, 2022)

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Gander: Wooden Spoon Herbs, photography by Joe Lingeman (Copyright © Gander, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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