Crit * Before and After Concept Design Alex James Cheese

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Dzine Mafia  is a website dedicated to the conceptual exploration of alternative packaging solutions to current retail products. For the site’s second experiment, they tackled UK based artisan cheese brand (and Blur bassist) Alex James' new supermarket range created exclusively for Asda. Dzine Mafia’s concept boldly substitutes the reserve, format and geometry of consultancy Aesop’s design in favour of a loud conversational and non-format approach.

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“For far too many years the shelves of consumer stores have been filled with mediocre and uninspiring packaging design. Design that has been held back, restrained and killed by brand managers and account handlers with no creative bravery. That are frightened to let their products puff their chest out, stand up and be different and instead just want to follow the crowd to become a makeshift replica of the brand leader.”

- Dzine Mafia

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"I wanted to keep the design quite simplistic and let the pack shout its message from the shelf with a fun and playful feel. A hand finished font was a must along with blasts of bright colour. The blue from the existing packaging still worked as a good consistent colour across the packs and created a nice contrast with the cheeses seen through the larger pack window. As Alex talks a lot about cheese I made this more of a feature using a bold, blocky speech bubble. Then to finish off a simple, little illustration to emphasise the flavor. The design lets the packs stand out as something different to the usual cheeses. They allow some personality to show through and would appeal to an adult audience willing to try new flavours as well as kids who I’m sure would enjoy eating the ‘Real Cheese Rebel’ – Tomato Ketchup Cheddar." - Dzine Mafia

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Based around a neat combination of initials and an oversized cheese and knife illustration, Aesop’s design has a subtle duality that confidently mixes a slightly quirky personality with one of knowledge and quality. The geometric simplicity of the images along with cuts across the typography has an underlying abstract and early 20th century poster or book cover sensibility that today looks clean and contemporary. A deep blue colour palette introduces the theme of professionalism, a perception of heritage and tradition that compliments the natural colour and detail of the cheeses while the vivid highlights characterise the sharper flavour profiles infused into each variety. The bold san serif and script combination of the logo-type, one you might associate with a popular vodka brand, appropriately resolves the aforementioned themes but in a fairly conventional way. The slightly cheeky informality and conversational tone set by the written content keeps the design from appearing too fussy or pretentious to the supermarket shopper and fits the quirky combinations.

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In comparison Dzine Mafia’s experimental design throws out most of the artisan and premium qualities in favour of a ‘cheaper’ child-like and perhaps more accessible ‘character’ by placing more weight on the  conversational element through heavier quotation marks, the use of exclamation marks and a speech bubble device. This is furthered by a typographical route that manages to introduce a slightly crafted quality through a non-format approach. Unfortunately this has been executed as a simple cut-and-paste repetition of dull letter-forms that appears a little lazy and uninspired. The star contained within the o’s has a circus like aesthetic that feels quite appropriate for the oddity of some of the flavour combinations but alongside the loose execution of the illustrations and a primary colour palette makes the resolution seem fairly synthetic.

Dzine Mafia’s concept appears as a simple reinterpretation of product propositions choosing to execute craft with a child-like visual brashness that places more emphasis on tone of voice rather than quality and brand consistency. It does however, set within the context of Asda’s broad cheese offerings (which includes a marmite variety), delivers a stronger sense of individual personality and although it may not compliment the price point it has been competently structured and offers an interesting and alternative perspective.

Opinion by Richard Baird

@richbaird