The Simplicity and Sense of Restraint Makes The Kombucha Shop Stand Out

When the original plans for a design ultimately don’t work out, it can feel frustrating. But when faced with this issue while designing The Kombucha Shop, Studio MPLS took it as an opportunity to set it aside and create something new—something that ended up fitting the client even better. We spoke with Studio MPLS about the vision they set out to create for The Kombucha Shop, creating something accessible to all consumers, how restraint played a part in the design, and more.

Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.

Studio MPLS: We had several meetings and conversations with Kate Field, founder of The Kombucha Shop, to learn more about her vision for the project and specific goals with the packaging redesign. With kombucha's increasing popularity and multiple home-brew kits on the market, The Kombucha Shop wanted a design that would set them apart, and distinguish them as an approachable and premium option. We spent some time immersing ourselves in the the world of kombucha home brewing, and collecting images of local and national competitors—both brewing kits and kombucha brands in general.

With the competitive set in mind, we began collecting found imagery that we would sort into three image boards, representing general conceptual directions that the client would choose from. Collecting and categorizing found imagery to share with our clients allows us to learn about their visual preferences before we start designing. A general direction was selected by the client, and we revised the chosen mood board into a final document that served as a visual brief to guide us in the design phase.

Armed with useful information from our image board exercise, we set out to design three distinct options for the kombucha brewing kits. The first direction was simple and scientific, the second direction was typographic and illustrative, and the third direction was artful and painterly. The client ultimately selected the artful and painterly direction for refinement.

With a concept selected, we set to painting a variety of brush strokes that we would work with digitally as we refined the composition. We decided on a broad watercolor brush stroke spanning three sides of the box, in a color reminiscent of home-brewed kombucha. The watercolor stroke and color variegation was applied to four tea blend pouches as well.

This project took an interesting turn when we saw the reality of the printed prototype—it just wasn't working. When the watercolor paintings were translated to print, they looked muddled and underwhelming. Though a more premium printing process could have captured the necessary level of detail, we felt it was important that the finished product reflect the DIY nature of the kit, and not feel too extravagant or polished. Though it felt challenging at the time, this roadblock allowed us the opportunity to reevaluate our approach and consider how we could better distill the essence of this product and brand into a compelling design. We decided to consider more bold and graphic alternatives that would lend themselves better to printing directly on the corrugated substrate. We needed to find a way to work with the substrate rather than against it.

Through this process we began playing with the scale of the illustrative elements we created that were previously just used as small icons on the backside of the box. We liked the playful simplicity of using these illustrations in a greater way, and felt that the overall look resulted in something much more approachable and eye catching—viewers are introduced to the essential tools of home brewing before even opening the package. Our client agreed and we moved forward with this design, exploring the nuances of the the way the illustrations would overlap and refining the color palette. Each color we selected for the box is also used to represent one of the four tea blend varieties.

What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with The Kombucha Shop packaging and how did you accomplish it?

Studio MPLS: Our primary goal was to create something beautiful and compelling that would stand out in a very busy competitive set. Keeping it simple allowed that to happen. As the project evolved, a secondary goal emerged of making the kits feel approachable for someone who was new to homebrewing.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Studio MPLS: The most challenging part of this project was pressing the reset button after we realized the original concept wasn't working. Ultimately this challenge led to a solution that better fit our client's need.

If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?

Studio MPLS: The simplicity and sense of restraint. It stands out amongst the competition, but also stands for the product itself. With this kit, brewing kombucha is fun and easy and we believe that is conveyed through the design and illustration.

Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.

This project served as a valuable reminder to ensure that any conceptual direction you present to a client can be reasonably brought to life through the means available. And—if along the way you realize your idea is not feasible—don't be afraid to set it aside and try something new. This process may lead to something much better than originally planned.