Feminine By Nature: How Superunion Created the Elegant and Sustainable Figlia
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 06/29/2020 | 4 Minute Read
But they also snagged the prize that is arguably the most coveted recognition in Dieline Awards—Best of Show—which goes to the project that receives the highest cumulative score among all entries. And when you see the timeless and effortlessly beautiful Figlia with your own eyes, you know why Superunion walked away with the award.
Superunion is, well, just that—the result of a merger between multiple design agencies to create one massive, global agency. Figlia, however, was not a project from a widely-recognized, global brand. The limited-edition bottles come from Agricola D’Argenio, an olive farm and olive oil producer in Puglia, Italy, that has been passed down from generation to generation in the D’Argenio family. In 2019 it was handed over to the granddaughter in the family, Emanuella. Since this was the first time a woman was in charge, they wanted to celebrate with a proper release.
“Originally, they wanted to do metal flasks,” explained Andy Reynolds, a regional creative director based in their Singapore office. He recently relocated there from the Hong Kong office, which was responsible for this project. The idea behind using metal was right—create something that could get reused and was sustainable—but the material didn’t feel like the right fit. Having vacationed recently in the same region where they produce the olive oil, Andy remembered how many ceramic shops he’d seen there. “As we were looking at the project one day, we thought to link it closer to the region and make it a really crafted item that people would want to keep.”
They found a local ceramic artist to produce the 300 bottles. Because this was the first female running the Agricola D’Argenio, Superunion thought to have the designs celebrate femininity: "feminine by nature." This led to the bottles having unique, organic forms and a delicate color palette.
“With each one getting created by hand, it would be one-off, so the potter had all these different variables to work with,” Andy said. Even with slightly different forms for each bottle, they had to ensure the volume each held remained consistent. They relied on the expertise of the ceramic artist and allowed him to take some inspiration and create a few trial bottles.
“What we did was come up with some reference sketches of the shapes that we were thinking about, and he basically went away and made a few different samples of the shapes," Andy added. "In terms of the rough styling, he hit the nail on the head.”
The bottles themselves are both uncomplicated and unbranded, save for a stamp on the base. However, Figlia does have accompanying illustrations that appear on other parts of the packaging, like the bottle’s neck tag or outer packaging. Taking the idea of “feminine by nature,” there are graceful illustrations of things like olives and olive branches, which—if you look at them the right way—also resemble a face. The drawings celebrate the wholesome, local ingredients which go into the olive oil, but also have a hidden beauty to be found, too.
This year’s Dieline Awards marks the 7th year in a row that Best of Show has gone to a sustainable project, and having an eco-friendly solution was something both Emanuella and Superunion prioritized from the very beginning. “We always wanted people to reuse it,” Andy mentioned. “Maybe you won’t go and fill it up with olive oil again, but you’ll definitely keep it on your table and stick a flower in it. And it really makes you think about what other things could be made that way.”
The success of a project like this indicates the desire to have packaging that lasts. People want more than just a pretty bottle, but to purchase things they wouldn’t mind keeping in their homes after they’ve used it for its original purpose. Figlia incorporates sustainability, femininity, history, and nature—but the story doesn’t get buried underneath layers of graphic design or product design. Instead, it’s stripped down and timeless.
Andy said the team was incredibly proud and humbled to have a small project from their Hong Kong office find recognition on a global stage. All of Superunion’s wins this year—Best of Show, as well as some other coveted Dieline Awards—come at a time when it helps to be reminded of the power of design.
“Of course it’s always nice to be recognized by our peers,” Andy admitted, “but it’s especially important in times like these, with Coronavirus, where there’s not a lot of contact happening. It’s nice to know that design is still capable of stirring emotion.”