Studio Spotlight: Pavement

Today's spotlight focuses on, Pavement, an award-winning San Francisco/Bay Area creative studio, specializing in packaging and brand identities for the specialty food, wine and spirits industries. The studio’s processes are simple and uncomplicated – getting at the heart of client problems by listening, collaborating, and creating compelling work. 

Led by Michael Hester, Pavement prides itself on “thinking big picture with a focus on every detail.” Capabilities include packaging design, identity design, logo development, structure design, brand strategy, naming, marketing collateral, point-of-sale materials, and websites.

Behind each package or label is a strategy, oftentimes with stories that inform the shapes and contours, organic fonts, logos, and unique coloring structures that play significant roles in Pavement’s designs, which provide for a uniquely different take on traditional packaging.

The following projects represent Pavement’s work, primarily within the bottle labeling and liquids packaging sectors. 

Most food and beverage products existing within Williams-Sonoma are private labeled, so a focus on the product itself and its features are important. 

Simple, yet sophisticated, the labeling Pavement intended for this project was to help customers instantly connect Williams-Sonoma's famous culinary expertise combined with the quality and complexity of flavors found in their new gourmet blends of coffee. 

Having the brand high on the hierarchy of communication wasn’t a necessity, which allowed for the actual product (coffee) to become more centralized, leading to quick product differentiation.

Additionally, as shopping for coffee has become increasingly more crowded, using distinct yet correlating colors not only helped distinguish the products from the competition, but associated varieties internally; creating a more synergized and connected system of blends.

For Williams-Sonoma, and their customers, the arrival of the holidays means the return of their signature holiday confectionary goods. Typically packaged in highly desirable, vintage-inspired tins, Williams-Sonoma confections are often listed as top sellers at year-end. 

The collectible tins have been newly designed to fit into a nostalgic look and a connection with the holiday season. Pavement’s redesign of the exclusive Sticky Paws confection was inspired by the typography and colors from vintage mid-century candy tins. Therefore, retro type styles and hand-painted product illustrations were created to produce an association with confections of Williams-Sonoma’s mature customer’s childhood with a modern day vintage aesthetic.  

Although each product contained it’s own identity, it was important that they tied together as a system: the colors red, gold and brown used consistently across all the products. 

In order to tie into the modern mixology cocktail movement, Williams-Sonoma created a set of artisanal cocktail mixers designed to make the emerging market segment of craft cocktails accessible to and effortless for their customers. 

To do this, Pavement produced a strong vintage bottle look, based on old whiskey bottles. The heavy detail and ornamentation is designed to accentuate the thought and precision put into the product.

Inspired by small-batch whiskey packaging, the bottles use custom typography and layered graphic elements to give the product an authentic and nostalgic feel. The obsessive nature of the design helps communicate the craft put into the product itself.

As the cannabis vaporizer pen market explodes across the country at a rapid pace, a wide array of package designs appear, many of which reflect fast turn-around production and cluttered, confusing design. Bloom Farms desired to stand out in the marketplace with a sophisticated and instantly recognizable brand image that would become the high standard for the category. 

After performing an audit of the current marketplace, it was determined that the medical marijuana market was flooded with packaging and branding generally appealed to the “stoner” crowd. Brands were generally overly flashy, lacked production value and often went against everything the medical marijuana industry is trying to build: legitimacy.

With the unique opportunity to create a brand that stood out through sophistication and authenticity, Pavement had the unique opportunity to innovate – aiming to create a highly intricate custom packaging structure to signal trust to the customer, but one that was still catchy and fun. Ultimately, a boxed set, designed with elegant type in classic black foil with gently debossed lettering for subtle effect would not only allow consumers like moms or first-time buyers to feel comfortable, but would also serve to keep the core “stoner” customer content with the brand’s design as well. 

The cannabis leaf was used for the logo to instantly identity the product, but was stylized enough so that it didn’t feel intimidating to the new customer base Bloom Farms was trying to attract.

Increasingly, wineries are trying to target the much sought-after “Millennial” customer. Millennials are storming the wine market and want adventure, demand more transparency and seek authenticity from winemakers. Historically, wine has been marketed to older generations and has come with certain pompousness. As Millennials are changing the game, they don’t care as much about the pretentiousness of wine as a category and want something that speaks to them, individually.  

“Once Wine” obtains its name because each bottle is created in a single bottling process, with the grapes coming from a single vineyard and vintage. A limited edition of the bottles was made available – as such, Pavement decided to have each one individually numbered in the manner of fine art prints. This translates into a label design the ditches the design conventions, and replaces it with something that is catchy, appealing to the aesthetics of the younger demographic. 

The approach was to evoke the artistry and delicate, natural elements needed to celebrate this jewel of a product. 

The craft beer market has grown exponentially over the past few years.  The newer, savvier beer drinker is increasingly rejecting macro label beers that have flooded the marketplace for decades; in its place, desired are increased quality and authenticity from beer brands. 

Long before brands such as Anheuser-Busch, Coors and Miller ruled the landscape, beer was created on a local level by regional breweries creating honest, fresh, and straightforward products. These heritage brands (e.g. Olympia and Schlitz) have become synonymous with the hard work and honesty of the working class – authentic, making a no-frills but quality product that builds loyalty and trust.  

With Seven Arches, Pavement taps into the retro aesthetic associated with heritage brands in order to instantly validate a new, emerging brand with the savvy customer. Patriotic colors were used to create an association with Americana and bold graphics alluded to the quality and authenticity of the brand.   

The Seven Arches label marks the launch of a new brewery, being introduced to a new generation of beer drinkers. It deserves a design that echoes quality brews from the past, but with a more modern vibe. The delicate typography and detailed illustration of this label honors all great American lagers from regions across the country, and pays particular homage to this brewery located near the Genesee River in Rochester, New York. All the charm of classic, century-old beer labeling has been retained, with a few bold, modern strokes of design to set it apart from traditional beers.

Increasingly, wineries are trying to target the coveted “Millennial” customer.  Millennials are storming the wine market and they want adventure, demand more transparency and require authenticity from winemakers; this translates into a label design that doesn’t necessarily leave behind traditional design conventions, but adds to it with something catchy and appealing to the aesthetics of this younger demographic. 

With Coast Road, Pavement adopts a minimal, sophisticated look, but uses stylized illustration and custom type to appeal to the design aware Millennial. The Gold foil also lends a fresh appearance, yet still feels sophisticated enough to communicate the authenticity of the wine.  

Creating a label that evokes both the beloved image of the iconic Highway 1 sign, with an elegant touch of gold to create multi-level message that speaks to the romance and sophistication of this Chardonnay. Coast Road is a California Chardonnay that has a unique opportunity to appeal to an emerging crowd of wine enthusiast younger customers. Everything about this particular blend of grapes speaks to California’s rugged and spectacularly beautiful coastal vineyards that thrive on salt air and foggy mornings. 

Wine packaging has become increasingly formulaic with little strong brand/logo recognition. Most identities default to simply using the winery’s name typed out in a pre-existing font. 

How can design reinvigorate the appeal of an established winery, while introducing a new vintage? By creating a label that would reflect the winery’s Shakespearian inspiration, but with a bit of a twist – helped to differentiate it from previous vintages. 

Pavement had a unique opportunity to create a strong brand through the association of the name “Othello,” with Shakespeare’s literature. A prominent, highly flourished “O” was created that references antique manuscripts. This instantly allows the brand to stand out and be differentiated in a sophisticated way. The design of the Othello Bordeaux Wine label harkens back to the beautiful, classic calligraphy of centuries-old manuscripts, but uses a uniquely bold, embellished, drop “O” to both provide a clue to it’s origins and quality of wine, while sparking interest as a new product in the market.

In summary, understanding product value and acting on it by leading with a deeper story can be used as an emotional guide to inform design. When coupled with subtly focusing on the product's functional essence, design then morphs from a story-driven approach and materializes into labeling and packaging that trigger both functional and emotional customer needs, consciously or subconsciously.

By utilizing the simple and straightforward techniques of listening to both the company and the customer, and applying sophisticated tactics that exude the pride of each, Pavement was able to transform products otherwise thought of as everyday or ordinary into sensitive, intelligent, storytelling works of art. 

Michael Ellenbogen is a senior consultant, marketing, design and behavioral science strategist for Fortune 500 companies, interested in understanding how and why people interact with brands, products and services of all shapes and sizes. 

His focus is on bettering brands through unique positioning, experience differentiation and communicating value proposition – from packaging on a ready-to-drink consumer beverage to thought leadership of a large B2B manufacturer. 

Michael lives in NYC, loves taking his Australian Shepherd Lyla on long strolls and enjoys coaching hockey.