Capturing the 1800s Apothecary Scene in Gypsy Tonic’s Intricate Packaging

Gypsy Tonic is certainly one-of-a-kind. After all, you won’t find any other chocolate almond flavored superfood health supplements out there! The intricate, ornate design transports consumers to a different time, so we spoke with Tom Lane, the designer behind the beverage. He told us more about the inspiration he used to create a true apothecary vibe, developing the custom lettering, designing with color versus black and white, and more.

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

Tom Lane: Brandon got in touch with a fairly defined idea of what he would like included in the label. He explained that he had a narrative to convey through particular imagery and that he wanted to do this whilst capturing a 1800s apothecary scene vibe. I had these constraints to work within and I was happy to do that as I believed it all fit well with the product—it seemed a solid strategy.

With those decisions on the table I was able to throw myself into exploring the layout of the label through pencil sketches. I tend to work small and loose to begin with, aiming to quickly see what clicks. I then move on to a larger layout and start working ideas into an initial presentation. I created a couple of variations and got approval to move to the next stage on one of them.

Then the hard graft really kicked in to turn a detailed sketch with all bespoke lettering, illustration, and decoration into vector artwork. However, through that process I’m able to tighten up and elevate the artwork.

Once we had the design in vector I could control its components more. With a couple of rounds of colour exploration we got to a final result.

What sort of examples or inspiration did you turn to when designing the label?

Tom Lane: We both did our research into the time period and visual material that captured the look and feel. I collect a lot of books and reference material day to day in this style as it’s something I’m interested in and has informed my work for many years.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Tom Lane: The colour system and balancing the artwork once we moved it away from black and white. It took a lot of experimentation to get to where we are now.

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?

Tom Lane: Two things: firstly, a very happy client. Brandon was great to work with and this was a real passion project for him. To help in getting it to market and to have something he feels proud of is extremely rewarding. The second is that I’m pleased I could push the custom lettering in the design and it's had a great response. The TDC awarded it a certificate of excellence this year and I’m proud and thankful that it got recognised in that way. 

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

Tom Lane: I used to design with pencil and paper and present to clients in black and white. Through past experience I had found colour to be such a polarising component of a design. Some clients wouldn’t see past a particular colour choice and what could have been a successful design got set back because of an initial colour in a presentation. Previously, I would explore colour once a design was locked in. I used to work a lot more as a commissioned lettering artist and illustrator, in that field we tend to share initial sketches and build in colour and finish on an agreed design. I worked with that same approach in package design. After this project though I changed that. I design with colour from the outset now and only present with a system that’s fully realised.