Crit* Carlsberg Xide
Xide is a range of alcoholic, mixed and ready to drink beverages that exist in what Nine - the Stockholm-based design agency behind Xide’s new packaging and identity - describe as a globally declining market. Nine were commissioned by owners Carlsberg to “break this downward trend and make the product exciting and relevant for a notoriously fickle target audience.”
“In the process of redesigning the visual ID for the product, the need to focus on one strong form factor that would live across the range yet provide great flexibility became apparent. Our solution was to bring the X to life through a series of creative and diverse illustrations. The different designs effectively become extensions of the experience, manifestations of unique personalities throughout the range. The idea that each consumer would find a favorite based not only on taste but also on the design became a strong influence on the visual concept.”
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Nine’s solution appears to borrow a little of Absolut’s Limited Edition approach. Surrounding and associating itself with the culture and on-trend styles of its consumers as a way to develop a more expressive, diverse and relatable brand personality, whilst also conveying a little of the flavour profile. Rather than calling on international artists and designers, Nine has developed from scratch its own series illustrations. These unite the urban decay and retro qualities of discarded neon tubes, sun set and palm signage, the delicate detail of lace, the illicit spontaneity of graffiti spray, paint splashes and dripping ink, and the quirky, celebratory qualities of Día de Muertos inspired skulls, all under an impactful x-based composition that makes good use of the height of the bottle.
The illustration’s loose hand drawn ideation, urban energy and mix of different artistic references, as well as their contrasting and complimentary colour palette, sit well over the predominantly pale tones of the drink and appropriately replace the incredibly dated, off-the-shelf floral flourishes of the original bottle with something significantly more propieatary. The challenge of creating such a broad set of images without repetition is tough but well handled, with perhaps only the Bright variety falling a little short in detail but made up for through the use of an interesting holographic print finish that mirrors the shattered shapes of the X. Although some are more original than others this solid variation across ten bottles, bound by a shared composition, provide the range with a smart 'catach-all' diverse cohesion rather than a typical and expected consistency.
The relationship between flavour profile and illustration is perhaps a little loose. The delicate nature of raspberry blossom and fine lace, the sharpness of rhubarb and shattered glass, or the tropical flavour of jungle fruit are perhaps the most successful but for the most part they struggle to really leverage and communicate quickly the interesting and dual nature of flavour, the product’s strongest and perhaps only real differentiating asset amongst others in its category. This is not helped by some very small type.
While the structural design appears conventional on first pass, the raised type across the surface of the shoulder adds a more exclusive quality to what might be perceived as a pretty standard form. It is far subtler than the waist tightening X of the previous design and as such provides a little more design sophistication, borrowing a little from antique bottle detailing, a device often seen used on contemporary higher price products, check out Design Bridge’s work for 1516 and Plymouth Gin.
The logo-type remains pretty lackluster but is a significant improvement. Its geometry, larger size and foil finish sits well over the hand drawn detail of the illustrative work while the choice of all lowercase characters and the absence of the tittle - a simple attempt to infuse distinction - feel a touch contrived compared to the creativity of the X’s but does achieve a necessary contrast.
Aesthetically the results are great, the time and money have been well spent on creating something clearly distinctive and unusually expansive within a saturated category. Conceptually, these appear communicatively one dimensional, acknowledging - through the prioritising of a fashion-based illustrative approach - the absence of other values such as heritage, high quality and purity of ingredients that encourage brand engagement, the short life cycle of the product and should play well to what is described as fickle nature of the market for the present.
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.