Resembling volcanic rock, this hand cream packaging looks even better after squeezing

Han Gao’s design for Démi Bai uses cold metallics, tiny type and a systematic grid, to embrace the product’s natural transformation through use.

12 July 2022

Most of the packaging lining our daily lives has a sell-by date. After a certain amount of squeezing, scraping, pouring, and emptying, even the most well-designed toothpaste tubes and pantry products start to look far from advertised. Designer Han Gao’s recent solution, is to embrace this degradation. Working with Shanghai-based independent fragrance studio Démi Bai, the creative director has recently delivered its rebrand, plus packaging for a new line of fragranced hand cream that embeds the process of using the product into its design story.

The hand cream colour palette has been chosen from a range of raw colours from natural, but “abrasive” materials, Han tells It’s Nice That, aligning with the “bitter” and “mysterious” aesthetics of Démi Bai. The use of cold greys and grainy metallics suggests a harshness. But the cleverness of this approach is best demonstrated when the packaging is in use – as the tube is scrunched up, its angular form resembles silver quarts or molten metal.

Démi Bai is built on a small, inventive team creating innovative fragrances; its hand cream line includes Blackberry and Coffee, Bergamot and Saffron, and Chamaecyparis and Obtusa. Looking for an “experimental” but “calm, sophisticated” new design direction, Han, with his peaceful, pared-back approach, seems an obvious choice. But he is also known for nuanced layouts – and a distinct typographic approach.

For the hand cream packaging, Han’s typographic touches are miniature and minimal, showing only key information about each product. Then: “By slightly shifting all text on the right a little, an error – a touch of handmade – was intentionally put into the design language,” the designer tells us. Meanwhile, the font sits between serif and mono-spaced type, to create a feeling of distance.

Working with such a small team at Démi Bai, Han describes the process as collaborative, looking at team members’ “personal stories” as well as creative processes. “Working on a packaging project for a fragrance brand is a very personal process for me because the scents are honest and I just follow the moments where the design formed itself.”

For readers looking to see how the Démi Bai release sits within Han’s wider design approach, check out our last chat with the designer in 2021, exploring minimal packaging for a traditional Chinese medicine brand.

GalleryHan Gao: Démi Bai (Copyright © Han Gao, 2022)

Hero Header

Han Gao: Démi Bai (Copyright © Han Gao, 2022)

Share Article

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.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.