Beauty on the outside – packaging icons

More and more research shows that our feelings about food – and our relationship with it – go a lot deeper than simply enjoying its taste. The way it’s presented is every bit as important.

“When it comes to packaging, the ultimate material is the holy grail,” says Scott Chapps, head of ­industrial design at New York brand ­agency Red Antler. “I look at it as a technology I can play with, adapt and maybe even create something new.”

Chapps has designed packaging for food delivery service Maple, vertically- farmed salad greens company Bowery and Nobu, the hip Japanese-Peruvian restaurant group. Function is – and will ­always be – his foremost consideration.

“If you sacrifice function for aesthetics, you’re doing a huge disservice to the brand,” he says. “And sometimes, being quiet is better than trying to be too loud.”

While always hungry for the next ­material, today’s innovative designers are not just looking to the future, according to Chapps, but they maintain a keen awareness of the past. As the landscape becomes more visually noisy, one of the most important things food packaging can do is create a dialog with consumers. 

Supermarkets such as Waitrose in the UK have been especially successful at this, using beautiful photography and coherent brand values. “They’re not simply saying, ‘here’s your food’, they’re saying, ‘here’s the world you are part of now,’” he says. “Every brand wants to be an ecosystem.”

The approach is also becoming more simplified. In response to shifts in global thinking about food production, some brands are going back to a handcrafted approach. “We all want to eat things that are made by a human rather than a fac­tory,” adds Chapps.

The designer often argues for a single material to be used throughout to create the layers needed to insulate or ventilate many food products, which can then be flat packed down and go straight to re­cycling. “We’re mindful of the end-to-end journey, of which the user experience is just one part.”

Packaging that seamlessly integrates to become a re-usable part of the product provides another rewarding design challenge. For Nobu, Chapps created a sake bottle whose cap became a perfectly sized drinking vessel, and for a yet-to-be-launched underwear brand, packaging designed to help organize the user’s drawer.

“If we can make an experience seamless, where product and packaging have a symbiotic relationship, we’ve really achieved something.” 

Text:  Sam Eichblatt

Last edited: June 12, 2017

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