Pack of the Month: Mercado Has the Meats (and Beautiful Design) You Actually Want
by Bill McCool on 08/02/2022 | 5 Minute Read
While I still can’t fake my way through accurately pronouncing “charcuterie,” I’ve always been a sucker for a good cheese board. Throw down a few varieties of cheese with varying degrees of soft and hard, an assortment of honey and mustards, good bread, and some expertly cured pork, and, well, you’ve got yourself a fancy-ass spread.
That’s why our collective editorial team's gaze was immediately piqued when we laid eyes on Mercado Famous. Sporting some expert type that takes inspiration from deli signs, Brooklyn-based design agency Gander created a custom wordmark that gives the visual identity all of the warmth and familiarity of a beloved neighborhood market. We spoke with Gander partner Mike McVicar about how they created the branding for this upstart meat merchant that celebrates the art of Spanish charcuterie.
Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.
Mike McVicar: Our design process starts with research, brand strategy, and positioning. With this project, in particular, we also needed to come up with a name for the brand.
So understanding what perspective this brand would have was pivotal to coming up with a distinct name that would give us plenty of room to play with the brand. Once we landed on Mercado Famous, the brand story and aesthetic exuded naturally. We were obsessed with creating a brand that felt respectfully nostalgic and full of personality. Similar to an old-school delicatessen or market, we wanted multiple versions of the logo, almost as if different artists had designed them through the years. We even pulled illustrations and references from type specimen books that we could use to bring to life a wide range of products in the future.
What was one of the biggest goals with Mercado's packaging, and how did you accomplish it?
MM: We set out to create instantly classic packaging that stood out from other brands in the charcuterie aisle while feeling perfectly at home within its surroundings. I think we achieved this by creating a simple hierarchy on the packaging with some subtle, ornate personality. We didn't want the packaging to feel overly serious or busy, but we did want it to feel like it was designed specifically for the form factor.
How did local deli signage inspire the look and typography for the project?
MM: With classic signage and lettering, consistency isn't so important. It's more critical that the design looks great in the context in which it lives. Similarly, we created a customized wordmark that arches over the window on the packaging sleeves. That logo is just one of the multiple logos we used throughout the brand system.
We also went wild and utilized six different display typefaces to create fun compositions, as you might see on a classic deli board. All these elements come together to construct the sense of history and charm of a neighborhood market.
Did you also design Mercado's merch? How can I get one of these Pork for the People t-shirts!?
MM: Yes, and yes. Viva la Jamón!
What was the most challenging part of this project?
MM: The most challenging aspect of this project was probably navigating the regulatory restrictions for the United States and Spain with labeling and wording. We had to navigate Spain's strict regulations of Jamón packaging labeling and the USDA's notoriously complex labeling rules around meat. Sometimes we felt like those labeling regulations were more confusing for consumers than helpful, but we appreciate that Spain has a watchful eye on one of its most prized exports.
Another challenging aspect of the project was the limitations of options for sustainable packaging options. Unfortunately, there aren't many options besides plastic to keep food fresh, which we hate. However, we believe that eating less meat and consuming higher-quality meat is important. Fortunately, our client has a unique vacuum-sealed sleeve technology that allows you to peel back the seal as you eat it, maintaining maximum freshness and reducing waste.
Additionally, we influenced the selection of the cardboard sleeve and found a more earth-friendly material. We were so happy that the client found a company in Spain called Cañapack that creates sugarcane-based paper that is 100% recyclable, 100% compostable, and 100% biodegradable. We'll take progress wherever we can get it!
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?
MM: Oh gosh. It's really hard to choose. I love the massive set of illustrations we created for this project, and the website is special, but if I had to choose one, I'd say I'm particularly proud of the name.
Naming is difficult, and it's hard to know whether you've chosen the right one. But it's validating to see the name come to life effectively across all touch points. We believe that a successful name can tell a little story, and that's the case here. Choosing Mercado Famous set a whimsical and inviting tone for the whole brand.
Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.
MM: We have learned this lesson over the years, but it's especially true here—don't be too precious about your design. Figure out the legal regulation and packaging restrictions early in the design process so that you are designing within those restrictions. More often than not, those restrictions will lead to delightfully unexpected outcomes.
Images courtesy of Gander.
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