Featured image for Design Today: Pearlfisher X Library Leaves

Design Today: Pearlfisher X Library Leaves

by Elizabeth Freeman on 04/23/2015 | 6 Minute Read

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Library Leaves was a new tea brand created by the Founder of London boutique gym, The Library. The range of teas aims to complement the active lifestyle of urban health-conscious professionals. Made of high-quality ingredients sourced from around the world and blended in the UK, Library Leaves help to promote relaxation, detoxing, boost energy and metabolism. 

The packaging structures, designed by Pearlfisher, are an eclectic mix of beautiful and sustainable hand-crafted jars and wooden lids. Each structure is one of a kind, creating shelf standout and making them sought-after collectible pieces. This unique packaging is sourced from People of the Sun, an African charity that helps artisans who make products by hand preserve their cultural heritage and lift themselves out of poverty through trade. 

In this interview, we sit down and talk to Karen Welman, Co-founder of Pearlfisher about The Library of Leaves Project and what role sustainability plays in their design process. 

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What is the role sustainability plays in your design process?

By understanding desire as a powerful ingredient in the design process for environmentally conscious brands, we have more potential to create impactful and inspiring brands with sticking power. Sustainability shouldn’t be intimidating or complex and neither does it have to look earnest, dry or worthy. It needs to be enriching, inspiring and desirable.


What are some of the challenges this adds?

I think it’s about remembering that design is so important in our lives because it is the artefacts that we have designed, and that we leave behind, that define society and the way it evolves. Design is not just one of the most impactful agents of change but it is essential to culture and problem-solving with sustainability now a totally integral part of this.


How did you arrive at the final design?

One of our latest projects, Library Leaves, is a new socially responsible premium tea brand from The Library – London’s hottest boutique gym. The key to this project was understanding how The Library brand, which is revered 

in London for offering intelligent and personalised fitness and wellness experiences could extend from a private members training club to a consumer brand that would resonate with a new generation of urban, active and health conscious professionals.The structural part of the brand was ethically sourced out of waste wine bottles cut and polished and then finished with a hand lathed wooden lid, again sourced locally from indigenous material. They are made by People of the Sun, an African charity that helps local artisans, who make products by hand, preserve their cultural heritage and lift themselves out of poverty through trade. 

The final design and tone of voice we developed for this new range of teas is modern and playful bringing to life the meaningful personality of the new Library Leaves brand. The product range names are clever and conversational with “tea tox” representing the blend’s cleansing properties and “tea’s trainer” representing the energy and metabolism boosting benefit of the blend. 


In brief, what is your philosophy when it comes to packaging?

We now expect our brands to be good and do good, to be transparent but not necessarily to preach to us. But we also want them to look good. Essentially, we want them to show us the way through the outward expression of the brand: the design. 


How does the nature of the project drive your design?

It is key. With a new brand there is nothing standing in your way but there is of course the complexity (sifting through available information, understanding consumers' needs and desires where no information exists etc.) of creating something where nothing stood before. Established brands pose a different issue. They have a legacy, both aesthetic and philosophical, a relationship with the client team and the consumer - ensuring the outcome is considered and relevant is fundamental to the future success of the brand.


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Where do you find your inspiration?

A good designer will always be looking for inspiration and fresh thinking, whenever and wherever, but I believe that we also need to foster this creativity and stimulation both in a work and in a wider sense. Often the best designers have cultural antennae’s sticking out of their heads. They pick up a multitude of signals wherever they rove and somehow make sense of the  white noise to make something truly clear and original out of it.


What do you consider a sustainable design?

Coca-Cola’s inspiring upcycling initiative – the ‘2nd Lives caps kit – focuses on packaging structure. The idea is to show that used plastic bottles can do better than being another piece of trash and that with a simple twist they can be turned into useful items – from paintbrushes to pepper mills and pencil sharpeners. It is clever, inspiring and a brilliant example of user-centered design. It showcases how design thinking has the potential to revolutionize future global innovation but also offers an understanding of how we now use and interact with our products on a daily lifestyle and cultural level. And, ultimately, giving us something to feel good about, and not restricted or forced into.


What kind of projects are you most excited to work on?

Without a doubt it’s those that create personal, social, economic and brand revolution through the creation of new innovations that show just how design can make a huge impact on bettering lives and the environment. 


If you can give one piece of advice to a prospective packaging designer what would it be?  

Social media is enabling us to campaign, showcase and disseminate sustainable messaging on a global scale but the starting point needs to be the product innovation and the brand and packaging design. 


What's next?

The future of sustainability lies with brands that use design to transform and realize a successful, desirable and environmentally responsible future for brands, consumers and ultimately, our collective global community. Optimistically, I feel we are at a watershed moment now and I would like to think that people in the next century will look back at the present time as the moment when, with our global connectedness and consciousness, we began to think about our long-term problems and started to design them out. Maybe 100 years from now we, as a species, will all exist in a state where we are able to produce exactly what we need with zero waste and positive environmental impact - perhaps even mining the landfills of today to repurpose our excessive waste of the last century. 


What is exciting you about the future of sustainability and design?

Today’s challenge is to express sustainability in a way that is truly desirable, enabling sustainable design to gain traction and change perceptions around sustainable aesthetics for both brands and consumers.

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