Worker’s Soap is a batch produced, artisanal product, handcrafted locally in the Hudson Valley from regional ingredients and sold under the Hudson Made brand. The packaging, created by New York-based Hovard Design who have on ongoing design relationship with the brand, captures and compliments the brand’s philosophy of individual craftsmanship over machined quantity through a communicative combination of tactile material choice, print finish, hand-assembly, iconography, typography and language.
“A return to the roots of America, a time when craftsmanship and quality were valued above machinery and quantity. For us, quality means knowing a product's story, which means knowing the artisan or farmer who crafted it, knowing from where the product came and how far it traveled, and knowing what makes this product unique and how it can enhance your life.”
- Hudson Made
Hovard’s new work is a fantastic example of period authenticity being executed with a contemporary appreciation and originality. Built around an interesting and rich brand philosophy - which goes quite far to assure locality - the packaging, a retrospective appropriation and reinterpretation of classic and practical design cues, appropriately leverages the high value now placed on local-industry, hand and batch production techniques.
Rather than placing weight on implied heritage and brand narrative primarily through language, the design solution is very much about texture and finish. The quality, expense and traditional sensibilities of a letter-press print finish, the confidence and uniqueness of a black ink treatment across the surface of an uncoated, dark, industrial and sustainable grey material choice, is wonderfully tactile, communicative and unique. The substrate has been really well folded, appears tight across the edges of the soap and secured with what looks like a leather lace and cast-iron combination that perhaps draw on early industry such as shoe making and forging. Time has clearly been given to hand-assembly - much like the wrapping of unpackaged commodities of 19th century with hardwearing and practical materials - a clearly personal finish and a sense of batch-produced exclusivity.
A functional, bold and well-spaced sans serif logo-type sits really well alongside the Hudson Made identity both conveying heritage and authenticity through the referencing of wood-block type but also the contemporary resurgence and popularity of letter-press printing today. The weight of these letter-forms deliver contrast to the smaller point size and more recent aesthetic of a utilitarian typewriter slab-serif.
A simple HM monogram, the characters united by a shared stem and slab serif detail, borrows from the traditions of the craftsman, a mark of high quality that still - regardless of a continual misappropriation - very much retains its relevance today, while an unusually prominent mechanical stamped batch number in red resonates well with the idea of industry and individuality.
The Illustrated carpenter’s tools are well rendered and while perhaps a little superfluous and literal in their presentation of craft, labour and a hard days work they add, like the utilisation of emotive and masculine language, another communicative layer and visual variation on the philosophies of the brand.
It is a fantastic solution that captures and reinforces the product’s crafted nature and the brand’s traditional values through a simple but broad combination of visual and tactile devices given a contemporary originality and polish rather than as a straightforward historical appropriation. It does perhaps rely on an idealistic view of a difficult past - very long days, low wages, class divides etc - but one that perhaps resonates well with todays hard working man with a responsible and sustainable world view emerging from corporate distrust and low quality mass manufactured products.
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.