How do you design for Noma, the world’s best restaurant? With fermented branding and David Shrigley

Noma calls in Gretel to design the branding for its new series of home pantry items, starting with the umami-rich liquid seasoning, Garum.

Date
12 May 2022

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Most of us would do near enough anything for a peak, even a whiff, of the 20-course menu gracing plates at chef Rene Redzepi’s Noma. So, food-lovers will be delighted to hear that the lauded restaurant is not only launching its own line of home pantry items, but that a glimpse behind the doors of its many gastronomical wonders is finally possible, through the design of those very products. Delivering branding on the new Noma Projects series is New York-based design agency Gretel, who has somehow managed to tap into Noma’s miraculous fermentation process through packaging. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, it’s bought on board David Shrigley for brand illustrations.

Nods to Noma’s Fermentation Lab – the restaurant’s focus on foraging and fermentation – is crucial to Noma Projects, which appear throughout branding for the new products, right down to the bottles. For the first Noma Projects item, Garum, both the form and tinted glass deliberately evoke equipment used in Noma’s very own lab. “The labels are meant to nod in that direction as well,” Ryan Moore, Gretel ECD and partner, tells us. “The structured layout, un-fussy typography and prominent QR code links to recipes and cooking advice.” Meanwhile, the “hyper-functional labelling of ingredients” within the lab, adds Andy Keating, Gretel associate design director and designer on the project, are also represented through a highly minimal, modular framework.

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Gretel: Project 001 for Noma Projects, illustration by David Shrigley (Copyright © Noma Projects, 2022)

If this all sounds a bit clinical, Gretel thinks so too. When designing the products for the pantry, the agency had to balance the more clean, methodical practices of the Noma kitchen with something warmer – which is where David Shrigley enters the conversation. “From the outset, we knew we wanted to incorporate the human hand into the system in some way,” says Andy. After coming up with a selection of in-house illustrations to go alongside the branding, Gretel actually came to Shrigley through a suggestion of Redzepi’s, with the British artist happening to be a friend of the Noma chef. With each base ingredient illustrated in signature Shrigley style, Gretel opted for a Risograph-inspired palette to help warm things up further. The final approachable touch on the project comes from a logo in the form of a house, referencing both home pantries across the world, and the design of the Noma entryway.

While Gretel’s identity might give us great insight into the goings-on at Noma, we still need to know: what’s it like creating branding for possibly the world’s best restaurant? Andy states: “One of the main challenges we faced was establishing how much of the core Noma brand should be present in the identity. We felt the name was a strong enough link but that Noma Projects should have its own look and feel, to give it a bit of distance and freedom to experiment and iterate as it develops.” Having worked with René and the Noma team for a few years now, Andy explains that the early conversation around the project threw up questions including: “What do we call this? How closely connected to Noma should it feel? How do we get the word out?”

Throughout the identity, it seems Gretel and Noma have ironed out all these considerations, landing on an identity that reflects the key theme of fermentation: balance. Just as the fermentation process balances nature and science, flavour and function, the Gretel team embraces both flare and precision to bring the taste of Noma into a more homely setting for the first time.

GalleryGretel: Project 001 for Noma Projects, illustration by David Shrigley (Copyright © Noma Projects, 2022)

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Gretel: Project 001 for Noma Projects, illustration by David Shrigley (Copyright © Noma Projects, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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