Olssøn Barbieri Explores The 'Feminine Mind' With Gullmunn Spritfabrikk
by Rudy Sanchez on 08/20/2020 | 4 Minute Read
In 1699, botany artist Maria Sibylla Merian, then 52, set sail to Dutch Suriname in South America with her 21-year-old daughter, Dorothea, to study insects. The two-month journey, through pirate-laden seas, would be an adventure for anyone, but especially daring, at the time, for two women.
Her detailed illustrations of wildlife derived through direct observation served as a foundation for entomology. Not only do her beautiful depictions of plants and bugs continue to influence naturalist illustrators (as well as her independent spirit and status in a field that continues to be denominated by men), but they also serve as one of the inspirations for the bottle and label design of distiller Marthe Bøhn’s latest spirit, the cask-aged aquavit Gullmunn Spritfabrikk.
For the brand identity and packaging, Bøhn enlisted the services of agency Olssøn Barbieri, and all the collaborators on the project are women. In addition to Merian, other feminine influences come from Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, as the distillery is named after the novel’s character Gullmunn, who represented femininity and a connection to nature. They embodied this idea with illustrations that are an homage to Merian’s work, all of which get silkscreened with seven colors onto the bottle. The oak branch is a nod to the casks, as is the oak cork, and the butterfly symbolizes metamorphosis, a metaphor for the aging of the aquavit.
“As a woman, Marthe is operating in a male-dominated business, and this gave us the possibility to create a different narrative in the spirits category," says Olssøn Barbieri’s creative director and co-founder Erika Barbieri. "The storytelling is about how female vision opposes the Anthropocentric vision that has dominated our society, with a belief that human beings are the most important species on the planet. We wanted to portray an image of nature where every being is equally important.”
Apothecary, once a secret career path for women who ordinarily wouldn’t be allowed to learn a trade, is tapped as an influence for the bottle, label typography, and design. The foot label gets hot-foiled, and the overall design of the bottle feels classically timeless; there's a strong bar presence that is sure to draw the unacquainted’s eye. The shape and silkscreened art on the bottle also invite the consumer to repurpose it, because you know its the kind of vessel for some freshly-picked wildflowers.
“Today, the representation of women in both the creative industry and distillation is still extremely low,” Barbieri says. “As the creative director and founder, I naturally feel engaged in this conversation. As storytellers, we know the importance of the stories and values we choose to empower, and this project lends itself to let a ‘female vision’ drive the process."
“We got inspired and empowered by discovering and working with talented women on this project," she adds. "However, that didn’t make the project different, better, or worse than others because of it. What we have learned from the response is the expectation of what a women-driven project is, the idea of a character with some kind of superpowers. We think we need to acknowledge that, as women, we don’t need to become something else or be more than we are in order to lead and have ambitions.”
Gullmunn Spritfabrikk’s design and branding is also a reminder of the dangers of an Anthropocentric attitude, perhaps more relevant today than ever, as humanity witnesses the collapse of our own home driven by our pettiness and shortsightedness.
“As humans, we’re going through the realization that we need to become more responsible and critical, voicing the concern of the planet and acknowledge the interconnectedness of all the species,” Barbieri says. “This gives us, as designers, the possibility and responsibility of rethinking behaviors and redefining the success criteria of the brands of the future.”
- Illustrator: Irene Laschi
- Photographer: Anne Valeur
- Agency: Olssøn Barbieri