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packaging probe #3: food packaging & restaurant rebranding!

I spend a lot of my time on Instagram - although I try to regularly check the websites of different design agencies and inspiration collectives, Instagram allows me to follow the artists and designers I know, as well as pages that feature new people I've never heard of, all in one place - it only takes a few taps. This is a case where I would have otherwise had no idea of this project, or design agency, if it weren't for Visualgraphc's Instagram (@visualgraphc), as the project and client are international.


Emma Lucia from the design agency The Creative Method, in Australia, was responsible for this cohesive set of packaging and identity design for Soo Zee 23: a Chinese restaurant famous for its beef noodle soup made from 23 different herbs and spices. Although this isn't the focus of my post, I do really love the logo design created for the company. It combines the name of the company with the Chinese characters for 'eat' (which are central in the logo), while also highlighting the 23 herbs and spices in orange ( the 二三 ). I feel that the logo does an excellent job at representing the core values of the company in a simplistic and recognisable way, while still retaining a modern look for the company. I also really appreciate the logo's colour palette too; although understated, I feel it compliments the eastern feel of the food as well as the choice of textured, off white materials used throughout the packaging, menu and tableware designs.

I'm starting with the design that originally caught my eye on Instagram (the takeaway bags; they're my favourite of the set). I adore the concept of this design; the idea of mismatching different elements in the form of animals, food and clothing from traditional Chinese artworks is so visually intriguing. I feel that it is a great mechanic in terms of representing all of the characteristics of the company and their food at once. It also gives the restaurant a playful vibe, while giving a visual reminder of the traditional aspects of Chinese food and culture. I love the use of monochrome illustration and photography placed over the tones of natural card and material of the food bags; this creates a warm, handmade feel for the company, much more personal and approachable than a cold bright white. I also really appreciate the attention to detail in the design, specifically in how the orange overlay sits slightly over into the middle section; which I think is a great way to give the design a little more fluidity, as in a design like this it would be easy for the elements to appear disjointed - but this retains their harmony. I also really love how on the sides of the bags, the intricately illustrated textures are cut away in rectangles, revealing the bag's natural texture again, so that the type is legible. The rectangular shape is echoed by the bag's handle, which also fits well with the angular nature of the logo and other type.

The Creative Method also designed tableware for Soo Zee, which continues the theme of mixing animals and artworks. The plates, for example, have different illustrations and photography printed around their edges, allowing customers to mix and match them as they please. This is a lovely method of continuing the concept on the takeaway bags in a new way, also allowing the user to interact - while still keeping the designs cohesive. The customisation of the plates is a really interesting concept, as the elements given to you are decided by the size of your plates, meaning that the more dishes you have, the more fun you can have. The plates are white, though, which I didn't like so much as they feel a little cold compared to the food bags. Continuing the circular theme, the plastic cups use circles dotted over them, some with human / animal faces inside, with different mouths placed on top. Although I like this concept, it could have been interesting to mix and match using multiple cups similar to the plates, either by placing them side by side or maybe by stacking them. This would mean the elements of interactivity and customisation wouldn't be lost. Packets for chopsticks were also designed, and I do really like these. I love the simplicity of their design and how they reflect that of the food bags. One thing to note here was that the symbol for 23 is used rather than the full logo; this is a nice touch as it keeps the design from becoming cluttered, but still references the restaurant's identity and values.

I was quite impressed with the menu and website designs, too. Both continue the mismatched theme as well as the wonderful colour scheme, resulting in more compartmental concepts. I really appreciate how each strip of colour unfolds separately to reveal information stage by stage. Other menus use a single colour design in a centred rectangle, allowing for different heads and feet to sit above and below. I think the simplicity of the menu works really well too; the interest and appeal is in the layout and illustrations used, so photographs of dishes or exciting typography isn't really needed. I like this, as it means the type is there simply to communicate what the customers want to know rather than distracting from any information. This simplicity is emphasised even more in the online menu; each section a different colour and a different part of the mismatched bull. This is emulated in other pages of the website, like the location / contact form page. I feel that the website reflects the packaging and tableware designs really well and finishes off the set, making it a cohesive family.

In summary: I completely and totally love this brand identity and its matching packaging, tableware and menu designs. I feel like the idea itself is incredibly clever as it works well in showing the restaurant in a fun light while representing the work and tradition put into the food - as well as being extremely versatile in terms of working on countless different surfaces and contexts. The colour and typography also really inspires me as an example of making professional, stylish choices that work well and look good together, while retaining a really intriguing and fun idea at the forefront of the design. I will definitely look back to this project the next time I'm doing branding, packaging or just general graphic design, as I feel the visual style and communication are extremely strong. I really enjoyed writing about this - sorry it's been a while since I wrote about anything packaging related! (although this was only really 1/3 packaging - I was close, okay?) I'm trying to get a bit more of a balance in terms of what I'm focussing on - although animation currently really interests me, I'm trying to keep my net broad. With that said, my next post will probably be animation related, as I recently found some really interesting animated shorts from a specific animator I'd love to document. Thanks for reading!

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