Crit* Papafoxtrot Satellites
Established in 2011 by designers Martin Postler and Ian Ferguson of multidisciplinary design agency Postlerferguson and manufacturing expert Herman Cheung, Papafoxtrot is a small UK and Hong Kong-based toy maker that captures the ‘modern marvels of infrastructure’ through hand-made wooden models. The packaging for their latest range, a series of five real-world satellites, reflects the precision of the aerospace industry and the crafted quality of the toys with a mixture of bold geometric form, fine technical detail, plenty of space and contrasting print finishes.
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The simple geometric form, internal space, reflection and rotation of Papafoxtrot’s square and diamond visual identity sets a structural and mechanical sensibility that draws together the constructed nature of the toys, and functionality of satellites. It has been well leveraged - through its size and mirrored foil application across the front of the box - to establish a strong ‘space-age’ and scientific theme. The field of stars and their differing sizes introduce a subtle sense of depth and alongside the over-sized application of the logo-mark establish a smart contrast of bold form and fine feature that continues throughout the packaging design and perhaps references the detailing of an elemental material.
The technical drawings on the reverse are really well illustrated, their fine and consistent line weight, detail and isometric view blends computer wireframes with aeronautical and technical schematics which resonate well with the high quality and accuracy expected of adult toys. Combined with a square and light typographic layout the back delivers the qualities you might expect to find at a science museum.
Rather than an expected black the deep blue captures the low oxygen stratospheric orbit of a satellite and sets a premium sensibility in conjunction with the foil while complimenting and emphasising the earthy tones of a spun and polished light wood choice, bright white and vivid red acrylic treatments.
The structural design’s mix of external box, tray, practical plastic ties and plenty of internal space introduce a subtle lab-like sterility while constructed and stacked look like storage containers from classic sci-fi movies. Its print finish - a juxtaposition of matt varnish, uncoated inlay, sticker and high shine of the ration pack (capturing the iconic child-hood perceptions of space exploration) and mirrored foil - add layers of visual texture and reflect the crafted and tactile nature of the toys neatly bringing together packaging and product. The simplicty of the structural geometry work really well to draw out the natural grain of the wood, the fine surface texture of the paint and die-cut detail of the aluminum.
The result is a smart contrast of large elemental shapes, light lines and fine typesetting set alongside visual and tactile textures which neatly bind packaging and product, balance science and craft, reflect both the complexities, functionality and scale of satellites and the fine, crafted, organic qualities of traditional wood toys while drawing on space exploration without appearing cliched or childish.
Richard is a British freelance design consultant and writer who specialises in logos, branding and packaging. He has written for Brand New and Design Week, featured in Computer Arts magazine, Logology, Los Logos, Logolounge, The Big Book of Packaging and runs the blogs BP&O and Design Survival.