Pack of the Month: Designsake Delivers Eggs-cellent Packaging For Helpful Hens

by Bill McCool on 09/30/2021 | 6 Minute Read

Probably one of the least exciting pieces of packaging you'll come across in the grocery store is your standard carton of eggs. Likely, you don't even care what's on the outside of the carton as you just want to flip it open and make sure nothing there aren't any cracked shells while crossing your fingers that you don't have to go too deep into the grocery store cooler. 

That's why it's always refreshing to see a piece of packaging design that strays from the norm, and we got it in spades this past month with Designsake Studio's branding and visual identity for Helpful Hens. Our September Pack of the Month not only serves boldly playful vibes but it preaches the power of regenerative farming.

We spoke with Danielle McWaters about lending a helping hand to Helpful Hens' branding and how they struck a balance between optimism and fear when it comes to climate change.

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

The Blue Sky Family Farms team hired us to develop a new brand for their latest offering, delicious eggs from regenerative farms. The project scope included everything from naming, brand strategy and positioning, packaging, and digital and web creative, so we got a chance to get our hands dirty on all things eggs.

We began with researching the market, educating ourselves on regenerative farming practices (great resources here), and interviewing Blue Sky Family Farm team members to understand the legacy of the company (they have roots back to 1913!) and how that would shape the foundational elements of this new brand. 

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We discovered most egg brands center their narrative on the farmers behind their operation to deliver that local, farm-fresh experience, and understandably so. Also, we learned pasture-raised and free-range eggs are the fastest-growing segments in the market which tells you consumers are purchasing eggs from farms committed to animal welfare. What stood out to us was Blue Sky’s longstanding commitment to humane practices, and with regenerative farming asking hens to play their vital role, we saw an opportunity to focus on the hen that felt fresh and fun. As expert grazers, natural fertilizers, and steadfast soil scratchers, hens play an important role in supporting the farm’s natural ecosystem, and that’s how we landed on the brand name, Helpful Hens. 

We also loved that the Helpful Hens story goes beyond eggs and beyond the farm, specifically to the topic of restoring American topsoil—the rich, plant-nourishing, carbon-balancing material that a healthy planet and food system are built on. We learned in our research that it’s eroding quickly across the country, and regenerative agriculture practices help preserve and restore soil health. We loved that by encouraging and harnessing natural hen behaviors, farmers win across the board: hens lay nutritious and great tasting eggs, the soil gets richer and more capable of capturing excess carbon, the food system is more sustainable, and farms become more resilient. Regenerative agriculture benefits every part of the farm and the land. So, overall, this was a very juicy brand with lots to unpack and work with. 

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What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with the Helpful Hens packaging, and how did you accomplish it? 

We knew pasture-raised and free-range eggs were the fastest-growing SKUs and that regenerative farming was becoming more well known, and that these are things people connect to on an emotional level and are willing to pay a premium. 

But the packaging landscape left a lot on the table in terms of telling those stories in ways that felt emotional and fresh. With Helpful Hens being such an optimistic brand, we were inspired to bring more joy and vibrance to the packaging experience that would tell the story of the vital role hens play on regenerative farms and the benefits of supporting regenerative brands. And we wanted that to come through on the front of the pack to attract people to the brand. But we also paid specific attention to the inside carton—the area people see most as they go through their eggs—where we extended our illustration set into an educational moment and opportunity for further brand connection. 

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Regenerative farming is an integral part of the brandhow did you work those ideas into your design?

The illustrative details embedded in the logo’s letterforms allowed us to marry the name and mission into one scene. We needed to explain the benefits of restoring soil and how healthy soil leads to healthy plants (which supports a healthier carbon balance and planet). Green cover crops (a key element of regenerative farming) ground each letter with new plants sprouting up from the roots. Buzzing bees pollinate nearby sunflowers, nodding to the biodiversity and native species principles of regenerative agriculture, while hens are shown exhibiting their natural behaviors like grazing and scratching that help nurtures the soil. Taken together, you get a beautiful illustration celebrating the complexity of a vibrant farm ecosystem. And that’s what this brand is all about.

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Tell me about the illustrator that you used on the project. Also, how did you land on the typography used?

We partnered with the incredibly talented illustrator Amrita Marino. We felt her style, balanced compositions, and use of bold color aligned with our art direction. We discovered her while working on the Continuum, a monthly resource calendar that our studio publishes, and fell in love with her work immediately. When I presented the project to her, she was so excited to work on packaging and draw chickens. I knew she was a great match. The partnership was very collaborative, and we went through a few rounds of sketches before we landed on the type-centric direction. 

Our studio explored type and found Frito Vandito and knew it had the warmth, approachability, and retro feel to perfectly compliment Amrita’s illustrations. We then paired Frito with the funky display serif Beale. We scaled up the letters and played with putting the illustrations in the letterforms, and it just clicked. We loved how it all came together—complex, vibrant, and joyous.

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What was the most challenging part of this project?

Our biggest challenge was striking the right balance between the cheery optimism inherent to the brand and the anxiety many people feel when confronting carbon balance and climate change. We know the topic is very divisive, sadly, but in my opinion, there is a levity when engaging on the matter over a carton of eggs. I hope people purchase these delicious eggs and take to heart that the choices they make at the grocery store—and anywhere!—can make a difference. 

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If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel proud of, what would it be and why?

I love how the brand story is intertwined within the logo’s letterforms. The visual harmony created with the movement of the illustrations, the playfulness of the type, and the bold colors feel so right and unlike anything I’ve experienced in eggs. 

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

When you partner with brands that align with your values, the design solutions come more easily. There is focus, direction, and a real purpose behind design decisions. We’d love to roll up our sleeves on another brand like this, so any brands out there that are using food as a means to combat climate change, give us a shout! 

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