Pack of the Month: Handmade Elements Bring Lilk's Plant-Based Milk To Life
by Bill McCool on 12/05/2022 | 5 Minute Read
For many years, the design cues around milk alternatives were fairly standard—show it poured, show it sloshing around. Essentially, make it as "milk-esque" as your possibly can.
But it needn't be the only way. Plenty of milk alternatives have come to grocery stores across the globe with inventive, playful designs that make these beverages anything but homogenous. Case in point, our November Pack of the Month from Finnish illustrator and graphic designer Leena Kisonen, the blended oat milk Lilk.
We spoke with Leena about chubby clouds, hand-drawn blocky type, and how she created the Lilk universe.
Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.
The Lilk design process was highly collaborative. I worked with the lovely Lilk team, including Elisa Eymery, Bastien Eymery, and Emily Hayes. They liked my work's playful, retro-ish feel and commissioned me to create the Lilk logo and the overall look. I drink plant-based milk myself and had fun designing a new brand I would buy for myself.
The Lilk m*lks are made by blending different types of plant milk, which makes them different from other plant-based alternatives. Lilk’s goal was to reach regular milk consumers open to plant-based alternatives. That set the baseline for the design—it needed to be something that would fit the plant-based milk category, while it would also need to feel attractive and safe to someone trying plant-based milk for the first time.
I was based in Helsinki, Finland, while I worked on the design. The Lilk team sent me many photos of the milk aisles in UK supermarkets and grocery shops. That was what I based my visual research on while I looked at various examples of milk alternatives already out there.
The process started with designing the logo as it was a central element of the packaging and the Lilk brand. The idea was to create one that would refer to the English saying, “having a cloud of milk in your tea.” I designed various versions of the theme through papercut and hand-lettering. The final logo emerged through that process quite quickly—definitely not something you can take for granted in a design process!
Once the logo was in place, we started working on the overall look of the packaging. At first, we had several design directions in mind but went with a rather simplistic idea built around a curvy, hand-drawn milk line that goes around the packaging.
The rest of the design is quite minimal, but we carefully considered each detail. The different sides of the packaging have small papercut illustrations and hand-drawn type. These little details add warmth to the design and make the packaging feel friendly and easy to approach. The Lilk color palette is restricted to a few colors, which makes the packaging stand out, especially in visually noisy shop environments.
Graphic designer Federica Aradelli gave the finishing touches to the final design. The final packaging ended up with a lovely balance of retro and modern blended with a dash of playful quirkiness—a visual corner that still wasn’t filled in the plant-based milk market.
What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with Lilk packaging, and how did you accomplish it?
My goal was to create something that would feel classic (maybe even nostalgic) but playful at the same time amongst other milk alternatives. That wasn’t easy to accomplish, but the Lilk team had a clear idea of what they were looking for and did an excellent job briefing me.
What was it about UK milk cartons that inspired the packaging?
We created a familiar reference to classic UK milk cartons, especially for those who hadn’t tried plant-based milk earlier. That connection came to life quite naturally through the color palette.
In the UK, the blue milk cartons are full-fat milk; the green ones are semi-skimmed milk. These traditional colors get repeated in the Lilk cartons—blue for the common blend and green for the lush blend. It’s almost like a little visual joke for those who get it!
What was the most challenging part of this project?
Creating something that feels fresh and unseen in a very saturated market.
Why are the asterisks for “I's” in milk?
According to an EU court ruling, only animal products can use the label "milk." Milk alternatives have to be called something else, hence why Lilk is called m*lk.
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?
I like to think the Lilk overall feel is actually very spot on, and I’m proud to say I’ve designed it almost entirely by hand. I enjoy combining handmade elements with digital in my work as it creates a quality that you can’t achieve with digital tools alone. In today’s very digital world, the handmade feels personal and unique—maybe even intimate.
Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.
I enjoyed the focused collaborative work with the Lilk team. As a freelancer, I often end up working alone on my own, sometimes almost in isolation. This project served as a much-needed reminder for me of how rewarding it can be to work in a team. I really wish to do more collaborative design projects in the future.