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SAS embraces cubism

As the SAS new Nordic food concept began to take shape, a key consideration was not just what would be presented, but also how. Packaging design and communication manner needed to convey the same new, clean and fresh message as the food itself. The Cube fit the bill.

In creative industries, sometimes a piece of work can go a lot further and live longer than perhaps was first intended or expected. When Dutch creative duo Sander Plug and Lernert Engelberts, better known as Lernert & Sander, were commissioned by a magazine to come up with a photo for a feature on food, little did they know that it would provide inspiration for SAS’ new take on inflight food communication.

For the picture in question, the pair cut 98 pieces of different food types into 2.5 by 2.5 by 2.5cm cubes and arranged them in a perfectly symmetrical pattern. The result tied in perfectly with SAS’ packaging ideas for the newly developed food concept. 

While working with the design of the new packaging, Kristine Mayer, Senior Manager, Product Design & Communication at SAS and her team also wanted to find an innovative way to communicate the new concept. “The initial photo was an inspiration and something to base our discussions upon, because it aligned so well with our thoughts and plans around the new food and packaging. We worked hard on various ideas and found a solution.”

“The Cube has a clean look and it’s easy to hold and eat from. We liked the picture because it signals quality and focus of details,” adds Mayer.

For the Amsterdam-based designers, the new SAS concept provided a commercial opportunity in line with the playful approach to art that is their trademark.

Dutch creative duo Sandert Plug and Lernert ­Engelberts. Photo: Soren Jepsen

The pair have come to prominence over the past decade for their innovative and playful take on conceptual art, which has attracted clients such as Hermes, Kenzo, Selfridges, Colette and the magazine Wallpaper.

“We had been approached many times about the cube project which had become somewhat of an internet sensation when we first came up with it, but for the most part we felt they didn’t fit with our ideas. But sometimes you think ‘let’s do this, it makes sense’,” says Lernert, who has been working with his partner now for 10 years.

The simple, yet visually striking remake, with 43 cubes reflecting ingredients in the New Nordic concept, such as brown cheese, dill, almond potatoes, radishes and crispbreads, worked superbly, providing a clarity that resonates with the fresh and locally-sourced contents of the box. The picture also includes a unique blue cube that is the signature from SAS.

“The original picture worked because it is beautiful to embrace and at the same time slightly puzzling with so many nuances. We liked the idea of cubifying a menu, but more than that it worked with the concept, about the benefits of being fresh, healthy and natural,” says Sander. “So much food today is processed, so we see it as a way of un-processing the processed, if you like. It works well on many levels, looking especially towards the future. We were really happy with the result.”

The New Nordic concept is of course all about the future, as it represents a new take on inflight dining. The 43 different cubes in the SAS campaign have helped raised the bar in terms of design and the product itself, while it also aligns with the SAS new experience, as the company pays close attention to those who matter the most, the passengers. 

“SAS is proud to have created a unique take on this iconic picture together with Lernert & Sander. It captures the same ambition, quality and innovation as the development of New Nordic by SAS,” says Mayer. 

Text: Geoff Mortimore

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