A Closer Look at the Rising Star of the Design Industry: the Baltic Region
By: Edvardas Kavarskas
Design in the Baltic region is just getting started. From 2009-2017, the phenomenal thrive was driven by a hunger for design victories and global success. Let’s take a closer look at the Baltic packaging design industry, not only from the business perspective but also from the standpoint of the overall cultural influence.
Ups and downs of the Global Financial Crisis
Baltic countries experienced a significant blow during the global economy crisis: up until 2008, because of the fast growth of GDP, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were referred to as “the Baltic tigers” in Europe’s economic scene. These tigers had to shrink down to household kitties when the purchasing power of their citizens dramatically went down.
This pause made most people take a step back and evaluate their business in a wider context. People finally realized it’s not enough to just make good products and pack them well, especially if the aim is to sell them in oversaturated Western markets. You need to invest in creating exceptional brands and taking care of interesting communication. Various ambitions also grew after international fairs like Anuga, SIAL, Cosmoprof Worldwide or a technology exhibition CES.
Freelance packaging designers also gained momentum during that period, like Sigitas Gužauskas, Gediminas Medžiaušis, Janis Anderson, and Jan Tomson. I actually got into designing packaging when the crisis hit too, working as a freelancer for a long time until colleagues whom I previously knew invited me to become a partner at Étiquette in 2017.
A Creative Appetite Grows While Eating
From about 2009, designers began using Behance more actively, observing what happens on The Dieline, and later exploiting Pinterest and Instagram. In 2011, the first creations of Baltic packaging design started appearing on The Dieline and were noticed by curators of the galleries at Behance. Now they’re being included in various compilations and specialized publications, awarded at Baltic and international advertising or design contests. Visiting a whole spectrum of events that focus on creativity, innovation or advertising became a routine practice, whereas going to solid festivals like OFFF was seen as a sign of good taste.
Good for the Industry, Not Just Yourself
Designers found new meanings in thinking about business, about the cultural and social impact their works have on the society. National design competition Good Design was established in Lithuania in 2012, where packaging works take some of the prizes while the National Design Award of Latvia first took place in 2017. Local advertising festivals included a packaging design category into their programs.
NAPA, the national packaging design awards of Lithuania started in 2015 with the goal to introduce innovative, quality packaging design to the public. The event bring designers, manufacturers, marketing specialists, press representatives and people from the packaging recycling sector together.
Our philosophy at the Étiquette doesn’t focus solely on business affairs—we’ve created a work culture that encourages diverse thinking and brave explorations. We’re taking part in advertising and marketing conferences, giving talks on the role packaging design plays in business, culture and environmental matters. Helping small companies discover the power of packaging design as well as sparking curiosity for packaging by giving lectures to younger designers.
This year, the You & Oil packaging created by Étiquette was in The Dieline’s 13 Emerging Package Design + Consumer Shopping Trends of 2017, and Gintarė Ribikauskaitė—a member of our team—was the first one in the Baltics to give an interview for this respected platform.
At the moment, the sector of Baltic packaging design can be compared to an athlete who’s getting ready for a world championship: we’ve been training for a long time, honing the needed skills, and we’re now hungry for victories in getting international clients and medals.
I’d like to thank Hannes Paesso, Piia Põldmaa, Meelis Mikker, Algirdas Orantas, Valerija Žilėnienė and Tomas Bartninkas for their help in preparing this part.
Edvardas is the partner and design strategist of Étiquette, a strategic design agency focusing on packaging and branding. He’s also a speaker at various conferences and almost a PhD of neurodesign. Member of the Lithuanian Graphic Design Association (LGDA) and the Lithuanian Marketing Association (LiMA), Edvardas firmly believes that design is a lifestyle, an outlook rather than a job. It’s a way to understand the world and things that surround us. He sees packaging design and branding as commercial art—there’s no good or bad design. It’s either a successful or unsuccessful example of the implemented brief.