Designers on Their Favorite Packaging From 2023
by Bill McCool on 12/20/2023 | 26 Minute Read
Last year, we posed a simple question to some of our designer and industry pals—what was the best piece of packaging you saw over the past 365 days?
Well, for starters, it’s easy copy and paste year-end content! Of course we’re going to do that!
But it’s also a chance for creatives to celebrate their peers. We don’t knock the self-promotion hustle hamster wheel we’re all stuck in over at LinkedIn. But it’s also nice to acknowledge your fellow designers and studios pumping out great work that might not otherwise get the attention it deserves. Besides, don’t you want to know who some of your favorite agencies look to for inspiration?
So, without further preamble, here are some of our favorite designers on their packaging highlights from 2023. Dig in.
Ade Chong, Founder and Creative Director, Studio Chong
There's so much to love about Onmi Design's packaging for Purlom. The first thing that catches the eye is their beautiful use of bright colors mixed with a somewhat nostalgic font. There's a sense of old meets new. In many ways, the design has subverted what supermarket charcuterie brands look like—these would sit comfortably in your fun snack aisle. But the traditional aspect of the brand isn't lost either. The plate that holds the window beautifully frames the raw product, but it also instantly transports you to a traditional family table–"A La Mesa" directly translates to "to the table," and the packaging brilliantly conveys that. I love everything about it.
Gustavo Garcia, Partner and Creative Director, Papanapa
One of my favorite packaging designs this year came from Marx Design for Departed Spirits. I love their unique choice of using a metal tin bottle (made from recycled aluminum) for high-quality spirits. I don't recall seeing anything like this before. The bold color palette combined with a straightforward typeface, robust grid system, and mysterious symbol at the center gives the brand a distinguishable personality within the industry. The overall minimalist look is spot on, and I would love to have one (or all of them) at home!
Fe Amarante, Founder and Principal Creative Consultant, Experimenta
My favorite packaging designs of 2023 are very personal choices: Martini Rossi's Floreale / Vibrante and Monday's Mezcal—both lovely examples of non-alcoholic brands featuring a very grown-up attitude and an unapologetic use of refined design cues that we in the design industry used to ooh-and-ah over when it came to the most beautiful spirits/wine/liquor designs. Given December marks my second year alcohol-free by choice, I feel extra excited about these.
Why I love Martini Rossi's design: it's bartender-worthy. It feels adult, rich, and complex and doesn't compromise on flavor when someone wants to enjoy an NA cocktail. The surrounding sans type gives it a clear distinction from its alcoholic portfolio, in no way downgrading it from its alcoholic core line. It's beautiful, and it's not sugary soda.
Why I love Monday's: its gorgeous Art Deco inspired-typography is coming back to show an NA way to create Mezcal with a beautiful declaration of quality and uncompromising details. The colors are elevated and sophisticated, the design pallet is moody, and it can sit next to its alcoholic peers without looking like an underdog.
Alex Center, Founder, CENTER
When determining my “favorite” packaging of the year, I like to use the tried and tested “How much do I wish I had done that” model. It’s a combination of jealousy and admiration that helps me calculate what I think is tops on my list. Last year, my choice was Graza by Gander, which is now very deservingly sitting in every pantry in America. And yes, I'm still very much jealous.
This year, I’m going a bit more niche. The first time I saw LIMO Sparkling Lemonade at my local curated Greenpoint grocer, Big Night, it stopped me in my tracks and I was immediately overcome with a rush of jealousy. A brushed chrome can with mixed typography and neon polka dots? What genius/crazy person thought of this? As it turns out, it was their founder Kevin Hogger, a mega-talented designer from Zurich, Switzerland. What a beautiful, funky, modern, and bizarre piece of beverage packaging. I don’t even like Lemonade, and I made a purchase. Also, it's completely delicious. The liquid is just like packaging—bold, flavorful, and tasty. Ten out of ten from me. No notes.
Jens Nilsson, Art Director
I love the debut scents from Clue Perfumery. To me, this 70s psychedelic cowboy groove has been taken to perfection in this case and executed in the absolute best of ways. I am especially fond of the "With the Candlestick" scent with the lovely candle illustration by Sophy Hollington.
Shar Biggers, Founder, Saleah
I stumbled upon the McLaren 2023 Moon Festival Packaging, a creation of Taiwan's Transform Design, and was instantly captivated by the concept.
It embodies the brand's creative vision of being "fearlessly forward," seamlessly merging McLaren's heritage, its spirit of innovation, the sheer performance of its racing supercars, and the iconic Papaya Orange McLaren that's become a symbol of automotive beauty. I found the orange to be electrifying, striking, and unmistakably McLaren. I also love it when a design lands quickly in my mind and uses cleverness, as McLaren is renowned for its high-speed and high-tech cars.
The design team did a great job capturing the idea of the "speed of light" throughout the gift set and played with the concept of space and time. The intertwining of the text and speed lines creates a visual symphony that helps evoke the thrilling experience of their products against a serene lunar backdrop. The orange paper and foil stamping was also a nice touch. I appreciated that this design pushed past the aesthetics and encapsulated all the brand represents while blending culture. This packaging gift set is a visually mesmerizing tribute, and who doesn't love a good optical illusion?
Katie Klencheski, Founder and CEO, SMAKK
I love Nice People's packaging for the new adaptogenic stress care brand, Deon Libra. They describe it as an “inside-and-out approach to stress management that doesn’t diminish but emphasizes the beauty that is Blackness.”
Their visual identity and messaging deliver on their promise not to be your typical skincare or wellness brand. From language choices that speak to the authenticity to bold combinations of typefaces—their brand book must have at least seven typefaces listed as brand fonts—it's a sophisticated identity clearly informed by their strategy to disrupt the category.
New brands flood the skincare and wellness categories (and enduring incumbents), so I typically advise our brands to come to market with the biggest, boldest ideas they can.
That's why Deon Libra has been such an exciting launch to watch. Their bright red primary forms are incredibly distinctive—with curvy geometry and whimsical bulbous caps—and eschew the clinical minimalism that has defined the category. And I love their red color, with a moody yet luxe feeling and a spot gloss supertype moment that signals that this Black-owned brand isn’t playing by the same rules.
Jessica Dimcevski, Founder and Creative Director, Blurr Bureau
My standout packaging choice for 2023 hails from HHHI,—a standout New Zealand-based business card printing company. Founded by the amazing Lucy Guernier and Kristin O’Brien, HHHI has introduced a revolutionary concept in business card packaging—one rooted in a human-first design philosophy. As someone who appreciates clever packaging solutions that address real-life challenges, I find HHHI’s approach truly innovative in the design realm for a category that's been around for decades and is rarely disrupted. The packaging for their business cards is nothing short of sleek and sexy. It arrives in an elegantly crafted, durable desk drawer box that is fun to have on display—so you don't forget to use your cards! Within this box, smaller packages contain bundles of business cards that are ingeniously designed for convenient on-the-go use, whether in your car, bag, or elsewhere, ensuring that your cards remain preserved, protecting beautiful design work at all costs. It’s clever design such as this that truly makes me love my industry.
This year, I’ve been fascinated to see all the different innovations around mixing textures and flavors in the snack mix market, especially in places like the USA and Mexico. One theme I’ve noticed is the idea of extreme sensory contrasts—like "dorilocos" (the mix-up of chips, melted cheese, jalapenos, and gummy worms, and eating it as one complete snack) or the "frozen pickles" and "chewy parmesan crisps" from Trader Joe’s that play into the "slightly odd but appealing" trend.
Packaging for these products tends to be loud, acid-bright, and takes cues from psychedelics. One particular brand that stands out is the Copenhagen crisp brand, Generation Snack. I really like how striking the packaging is—each element is punchy and detailed, and the whole brand adopts a varied yet cohesive color palette. Sensory products tend to dial up the trippy, holographic elements to reflect states of change, and Generation Snack does this without being garish. For each flavor, the pack design is custom; they prioritize collaboration with independent artists for each product release (the design pictured below is by Bulgarian visual artist Boris Pramatarov).
Of the seriously great designs produced this year, my favorite non-Denomination design would have to be Sonos’ Home Theater packaging.
For me, there are two key standouts: firstly, it has been designed with as much care as the product inside. It’s simple, elegant, contemporary, and tactile. The simple monochromatic color palette is uber-premium, and it's supported by the restrained use of debossing.
Secondly, the packaging design puts Sonos’ brand values front and center. The company released its 2023 Listen Better report detailing its sustainability actions, and a key component was to create responsibly designed products. Building sustainability into product hardware and software is central to Sonos’ efforts to respond to climate change. So, to mirror this, the products are wrapped in packaging with sustainability at its heart. And, in line with its corporate value of Innovation, the packaging utilizes FSC-certified paper, recyclable plant-based fibers, and new recycled clip mechanisms. The elimination of foam and the innovative approach to pushing paper pulp to its limit is setting a standard that others will follow.
Mike Reed, Founder, Reed Words
I wanted to choose a product I’ve actually noticed as a consumer rather than seen in a design annual or blog. And that product is MOTH cocktails. It stands for Mix Of Total Happiness, the one bit of the branding I could do without, really. “Moth” has a lovely night-time mystique about it. Unpacking the acronym—somewhat awkwardly—kills that magic for me.
Pentagram’s cool little cans sang out from the shelf—not just for the sharp, elegant design, but also thanks to the rather arch MOTH voice. For me, that voice is right on the edge of irritating. But I found myself charmed by the conversational snippets, which read a bit like lines remembered the morning after a good night out, what Pentagram calls the “social alchemy” cocktails create. There’s that nice touch of adding an “experience extra” to the ingredients list, too (not a new idea, but neatly done).
One thing photos can’t show, however, is the feel of the cans: they’re lightly textured, as if they’ve been rolled in sand. It’s not something I’ve encountered before, and it definitely adds to your engagement with the pack. What’s inside is nice, too. They need bigger measures.
Alex Ostroff, Founder and Creative Director, Saint Urbain
As usual, there was no shortage of beautiful, unique, and super-fun packaging projects in 2023. That said, the project I appreciated the most this year was Center’s Magic Spoon Snacks.
As everyone who reads Dieline knows, Magic Spoon Cereal is one of Gander’s (many) signature projects, ever-present on mood boards and podcast ads worldwide. So, the challenge of developing a completely new product within this extremely popular and layered brand identity was something that needed to end up in the right hands. Center rose to the challenge to do what they do best—identity and packaging.
They took the bones of Magic Spoon’s visual system (logo, font, some color), leaving signature illustrations and treatments aside (bold), and created something new with its own equally weird and tasty personality. The new colors are bright and make sense for the flavors, and they found a really interesting and fun way to incorporate photography and mascot faces into the same solution, both on the boxes and the bars. My favorite packaging detail is the sneaky face cameos peeking out from the bar wrappers.
I also like that they credited Gander’s OG branding on IG. Classy!
Honorable mention: Miett Chips by Deux Huit Huit.
William Richardson, Co-founder and Creative Director, Studio DRAMA
One of the standout projects for us this year has undoubtedly been Earthling Studio’s design for BrewDog’s WINGMAN Session IPA.
This sub-brand aligns seamlessly with BrewDog’s disruptive, fun, and tongue-in-cheek personality. From the memorable name to the character design, there was a clear series of bold creative decisions made through this project—to its benefit!
It successfully sets itself apart from the rest of the BrewDog product line while maintaining a harmonious integration. It also commands impressive shelf standout.
The mascot steals the show, impressing not only in character development but also in illustration style. It’s an absolute triumph, with a nostalgic touch so masterfully executed that it feels like I’ve known it all my life. And let’s not even get started on that merch! The badges on the pilot bomber jacket? Chef’s kiss.
Big congratulations to both the agency and the client on such a fantastic project.
Haylee Jordan, Co-Founder, Supercult
The Ruby x Public Records collaboration was here for a good time, not a long time. A limited release had me ogling this can ever since the summer of 2023! The way well-branded non-alcoholic beverages have flooded the market in recent years has given new excitement to those cutting back, choosing to be booze-free, or just alternating between wine and a Grapes of Knowledge. We lose no excitement opting for this NA beverage.
The design is reminiscent of sketches made in Microsoft Paint back in the day. Designed by Shane Davis, Grapes of Knowledge has a strong, edgy aesthetic. While in striking contrast to other cans in this non-alcoholic category, the Ruby x Public Records collab stood out among other Ruby SKUs, which sport bright, bold pinks and purples.
Its punky, imperfectly placed graphic design has me wanting MORE. I'm a huge proponent of brand storytelling, and the quote by Eden Phillpotts on the can is a cherry (or grape) on top.
Chi An De Leo, Co-founder and Partner, Rice
Totally awesome psychedelic packaging from Vietnam nominated for a Grammy, anyone? We’re obviously Team Vietnam all the way. But we're not nominating Ngot’s Gieo album just because we can, as it's a seriously labored and loved piece of work from Duy Dao, a passionate and committed art director who is catching some eyes. We love this work and how over the top and beyond the brief it is.
Emma Bailey, Head of Content, PlasticFree
You wouldn't know from looking at it, but the Aromabox from Earthmade is made from bamboo, or rather Bamboo-O, a composite material made from plant starch and bamboo fiber that returns naturally to the Earth at the end of its life. It looks and feels just like plastic, but it isn't plastic—one of the many reasons it's become a standout for me in 2023. Designed to house coffee, the Aromabox is cleverly designed to keep coffee as fresh as possible for as long as possible, thanks to a tiny valve on its base that lets carbon dioxide out but stops air from getting in. The company even claims the box can be used as a source of nutrients for plants and seeds to grow in once empty. The material takes approximately six months to break down in home compost but lasts for over five years when kept in dry conditions, even withstanding short cycles in the dishwasher. The color palette also aligns perfectly with my beige period. What's not to love?
Andy Kurtts, Creative Director, Buttermilk Creative
In 2023, Geem's Sweet Flavor packaging emerged as a personal favorite of mine, with its vivid design capturing my attention at first glance. This new seaweed snack brand, founded by Candice Choi, showcases a series of three delectable flavors. The design boasts an electric green backdrop complemented by a neon pink logo with black accents on a simmering pouch that really stands out.
Evoking nostalgia, the design artfully melds vintage influences with a modern twist. The Geem logo, reminiscent of the 70s, with its flared and custom letterforms, adds a groovy touch. Meanwhile, the additional typefaces could easily be found in your neighborhood tiki bar.
The illustrations are what truly make the design stand out for me. The clever use of wavy lines represents the ocean's rhythm and the seaweed snack itself. My favorite feature? The stylized, geometric crab at the pouch's base seemingly supports the entire design on its claws—an understated yet powerful touch that ties the whole concept together.
Ritesh Gupta, Designer and Founder of Useful School
The fun colors, shapes, and textures are so joyful! I love that a POC-led company serving a POC population is working with a POC-led studio.
Bill McCool, Editor-in-Chief, Dieline
As you're watching Amazon boxes pile up on your front door step this holiday season, try to remember that somewhere deep in the recesses of that smiling truck, there’s an Evian bottle full of piss rattling around in there.
By now, it’s pretty well documented that Amazon drivers don’t have time for bathroom breaks and that any deviation from their delivery schedule could potentially count against them and get them fired (oh, and let's not forget they're union busters). To bring attention to this dehumanizing practice from one of the biggest brands in the world, UK prankster Oobah Butler bottled up that same driver piss (collected outside of Amazon warehouses) and sold it as an energy drink on, yup, Amazon. I wrote about it here, but it’s worth checking out Butler’s Channel 4 documentary, The Great Amazon Heist, to watch how he and designer Tristan Cross created the Prime-aping “drink” brand from scratch. Also, who doesn’t love a bottle with plenty of big dick energy?
Anywho, how much fucking money do Jeff Bezos and Amazon really need that they can’t let drivers go to the bathroom? Fuck him and his ridiculous $42 million watch.
Alex Stewart, Creative Founder, Derek&Eric
Otherway's THIX is our “I wish we’d done that” piece of packaging of 2023. It’s caffeine shampoo to help thicken thinning hair. It’s a simple and clean idea with a touch of wit; stronger hair, so a stronger brand mark. The design is distinctive and effective in communicating the power of the product in an unforgettable way.
The typeface choice is clean and beautiful, with an extra layer of craft. The color choice is fresh and invigorating, just as the product promises. For us, simple doesn’t have to mean basic, and there are levels of detail throughout the pack and brand that add dimension. It has quality and depth without looking overengineered. The perfect balance!
James Kruger, Co-founder and Creative Director, FCKLCK.STUDIO
Within FCKLCK.STUDIO, Design Director, Jeroen Van Den Bogaert, and I function as a creative team. When seeking inspiration or innovative creations that ignite our imagination, we often venture off the beaten path and delight in discovering exquisite works.
One packaging creation from 2023 that captured our hearts is the L’eau Rouge Heirloom & Nature packaging for Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov. What we adore about this product is its unexpected and unique approach, choosing to draw inspiration not from the typical scents of spices and flowers but from the humble tomato. Yes, tomato perfume! The packaging exudes playfulness without sacrificing elegance, which aligns perfectly with our studio's approach. A custom tomato cap, reminiscent of handmade and hand-painted ceramics, and the perfume getting stored in a soup can adds a delightful quirkiness that we always admire.
Amber Asay, CEO and Creative Director, Nice People
My pick for the year is Purlom by Spain's Onmi Design. I'm the type of person that gets excited by the unexpected. I appreciate when design blends the old and the new, and this series of packaged deli meats does just that. The vibrant and playful aesthetic of the packaging makes the product so enticing. The strategic use of a peek-a-boo window serves a functional purpose but adds a clever element of the food being plated on what appears to be a vintage Spanish dish. It communicates a sense of heritage (possibly tied to a family recipe) and conveys the concept written on the package—"To The Table!" Onmi has displayed a sense of authenticity and innovation and has differentiated the design just enough across each SKU. The power of a design like this can easily impact consumer perception.
Verònica Fuerte, Founder and Creative Directress, Hey
In the realm of design, the exceptional often lies in the details. Graza’s olive oil packaging is a delightful deviation from the norm, instantly captivating with its innovative paint tube bottle design. Foregoing the traditional, these containers are a stroke of genius; they're functional, but possess an artistic flair that reflects the craft behind the product. The vibrant yellow labels adorned with whimsical illustrations resonate with the creativity that cooking represents.
As a creative, I love designs that challenge the status quo. Graza’s choice to eschew the familiar for something so spirited and practical demonstrates a deep understanding of aesthetics and user experience. It’s a testament to design’s power to transform the mundane into the magnificent, turning the act of using olive oil into an experience of beauty and joy. That is the kind of design that doesn’t just sit on a shelf; it engages, inspires, and brings a dash of playfulness to the everyday. Cheers to Graza for this beautiful blend of form and function in their packaging—a true feast for the eyes.
Lindsay McGlynn, Studio Manager, Studio MPLS
Our studio's favorite new packaging from 2023 is Big Country Organic Brewing Co.'s line of organic beers.
We appreciate how the hand-written type, individualized to each can, gives each flavor its own personality—and the consistent layout and approach bring the different styles back together to feel like a full, unique family. The varied illustrations hammer this home and portray a sense of place and heritage. The semi-matte finish on the cans gives the "carefree" design an extra feeling of quality and modernity.
All of this works together to evoke a feeling of old meets new. And what more do beer drinkers want to know other than the beer they're about to drink is indeed beer.
Hamish Campbell, VP Executive Creative Director, Pearlfisher
One piece of work that stood out for me is Deon Libra’s "Unbothered" Adaptogenic Elixir, designed by Nice People. Visually stunning work that stops you in your tracks, it's inspired by vintage 1960s perfume bottles. The very distinct round top makes you want to reach out and touch it. Combined with the striking red, then overlayed with the beautiful gloss on matte branding, it seduces you into a luxurious space. You could easily convince yourself this is a very premium skin care product. But this bold approach sets out to disrupt the ever-changing beverage space, truly elevating an everyday ritual to something special and personal. I feel as if I would need to put on my fanciest suit each morning to date my morning elixir.
You can always tell when a piece of packaging is done well by the collectability and the struggle for anyone to dispose of the pack once they finish the product. The Deon Libra "Unbothered" is sexy, unapologetic, and full of confidence. You are getting the balance of demanding my attention with subtlety and pure craft of typography just right. Beautiful work that you will want to make sure sits in pride of place in your kitchen.”
There has been a boom in character design for brands recently. One of those brands that introduced characters this year was Felicidad Bakery.
Invade Design brought to life cookie characters on the pocket cookies and I just love how cute and happy these are. Every time I see this pack, it brings a smile to my face.
My favorite part is their relationship with the flavor name, with each character's personality tied to the flavor. They are adorable and clever; Pecaminosa is just eating itself, while Cosquillas is laughing out loud. That is a great example of the advantages of having a mascot in a brand. They bring the brand personality to life, help communication, and so much more.
Candace Solola, Head of Brand Design, SO DSGN
Solento Tequila easily secures a spot as one of my favorite packaging designs from 2023. I've always loved spirits packaging and luxury brand experiences throughout my career, so Solento's packaging immediately struck a chord.
What stands out about Solento is its infusion of a sleek, ultra-modern aesthetic into the traditional realm of tequila. They've boldly challenged category norms with their utilitarian brand identity, unexpected yellow and black color palette, and unconventional rectangular textured bottle shape.
The highlight for me is Solento's Extra Añejo packaging. The striking black-on-black bottle with gold foil accents, paired with a limited-edition box set that speaks luxury through its finishes and materials, all combine to create a stunning packaging experience that feels modern and super relevant.
Aaron Draplin, Designer, Owner and Founder of Draplin Design Co.
Musgrave pencils always feel just right. They pay homage to pencils of yesteryear and don't need to reinvent themselves (even though they constantly are). There's a certain confidence in their casual, understated designs, free of fad and pretension, and that little sprinkle of "just right" all the time. Incredible pencils in stunning packaging! And they're not so out there that you're afraid to use them. Not the case here. Bonus? Affordable as all get out. Go spend some loot at the Musgrave Pencil Company, and get it going in your Field Notes!
Jonathan Sangster, Co-founder, Mx. Studio
Cartoon Network provides many fond memories for many people, and Nike has done it again with this collaboration. The Powerpuff Girls x Nike SB Dunk Low Pack commemorates the 25th anniversary of the show that first aired in 1998. Bubbles, Buttercup, and Blossom inspired three
distinct sneakers based on the characters' personalities. Aside from the glee-inspiring colorways of the sneakers themselves, the minimalist exterior of the shoebox contrasting the poppy colors and character design inside are a welcome visual surprise. This clever visual conceptual detail seems to hint at the dual identity of the crimefighters. Sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Kevin Batory, Copywriter and Producer, Center
When thinking about all the packages I saw this year, only one comes to mind. The Colour Infusion Lipstick from ISAMAYA Beauty’s LIPS collection is the hardest. This unit particularly moved me as it enlarged my perception of what package design is and what it could be. What a rush it was for me to lay eyes on this magnificent member! Not only is it beautiful, but the shape is incredibly ergonomic as it fits perfectly in one’s hand as it moves to the lips. This package is a masterpiece. Indeed, a stroke of genius!
Rudy Sanchez, Writer, Dieline
According to a study from NCS Solutions, Zoomers love convenience stores. I get it; when I was their age, I often shopped at C-stores. Whether it was the 7-Eleven right by the corner where I grabbed the bus to get to class or the corner shop by that dodgy Silverlake club, I was constantly ducking in to grab ice-cold cans of AriZona, microwaved burritos, and, in the summer, Slurpees.
It’s little surprise that one of the biggest C-store chains, 7-Eleven, has recently been refreshing its branding, creating hip merch, and building a solid social media game. As part of that reimagining of the brand, 7-Eleven tasked creative agency Safari Sundays to rework its iconic Slurpee. Safari Sundays’ approach captures the spirit of the sweet, icy treat that speaks to Zoomers and “elder” Millennials like me.
The new wordmark is evocative of the experience of pulling the lever on the Slurpee machine and seeing that thick slushy mix pouring into the cup. The upturned serif on the “S” is as satisfying as when one finishes pouring out that wonderful ice-cold treat.
Moreover, the new visual identity is extensible and adaptable, soft clay that can get molded to whatever task. To me, the best brand identities can work across different media. They can be used in our new reality, where brands must constantly post on social media and develop new promotions to stay relevant.
Joshua Breidenbach, Co-founder and Partner, Rice
I saw Eddie Opara talk about Ben Cohen's new cannabis brand (of Ben & Jerry's fame) Ben's Best while attending the D&AD awards in London. I feel it has everything design (and packaging) can be. It solved the challenge, of course—but in an act of protest, as a tool to educate and raise awareness, AND it is art, adding to visual culture in a great way.
Cannabis is a new territory, an open field; Eddie and his team saw nearly every opportunity around this product and took very solid advantage of them, serving the client and their audience beautifully.
Sarah Williams, Partner and CCO, Beardwood&Co.
Why De La Soul? And why now?
There are many reasons to celebrate the 3 Feet High and Rising limited-edition box set that came in the collectible forms of splatter-vinyl, CD, cassette, and more just shy of the album's 35th anniversary on 2023's Record Store Day. De La Soul's legendary debut was a landmark record that ushered in The Daisy Age. And if you've been following music and fashion from a design standpoint over the past few years—the vibrant, flower-filled, pop-psych aesthetic that broke through back then is reverberating and resonating today with a massive renaissance.
In packaging design overall, we've been seeing such a strong return to friendly, trippy typography and bold color palettes that it felt only right to shout out De La Soul now. Music packaging has also reappeared in mass retail, with Target and Barnes & Noble leveraging these collectible items as a reason for retail-as-destination.
For more emotional and powerful reasons, this packaging and release follows the death of beloved group member Trugoy the Dove and De La Soul's triumphant launch onto music streaming platforms this year.
Chloe Gordon, Writer, Dieline
Let me preface this by saying I'm not a lover of hard seltzer. I can do without White Claw, I have no vested interest in Truly, and Topo Chico's with the booze doesn't intrigue me.
And yet, Roy's Club, a hard seltzer, is my favorite packaging design of the year.
Why? Because it flips the entire industry on its head. Previously, hard seltzer after hard seltzer was just a monotonous iteration of what had been done before with uninspired and lackluster packaging.
Roy's, however, makes me want to live and breathe the brand. The glass bottle is luxe, and the typography is flawlessly retro. The entire brand emanates Italian sophistication, which everyone wants to exude. When packaging can make me change my mind about a whole genre, I consider it powerful. Thus, Auge Design's packaging for Roy's is the best of the year.
Adam Walko, Creative Director, Safari Sundays
The design I love falls into three categories.
Design that effectively tells a simple, cohesive story, design that disrupts conventional expectations within a category (and the hardest by far), and design that instigates social change. You seldom find something that does all three. Looking back at projects that crossed my path this year, one truly excites me and makes me want to push our own studio’s practice further.
Pentagram partner Eddie Opara’s project, Ben’s Best Blnz, cohesively challenges the status quo of communication while effectively promoting a mission-focused message. Advocacy and change are literally baked into the design story as the team celebrates typography and graphic treatments from the civil rights movement to connect the semiotics of the past to the hyper-current topics of reciprocity for non-violent victims of the US "War on Drugs."
The history is just a launchpad, as the design work goes beyond any traditional protest poster. It's a cohesive, flexible system that stands up to the plethora of challenges that designing for the Cannabis market can bring while keeping the messaging as the medium across many structures and channels. Combine all this with youthful colors, a conversational cacophony of type layouts, and commissioned artwork from Black artists, and one can never lose interest in the visual system.
This project is an amazing example of what can happen when the right risk-takers get together with the means and know-how to make something artful, practically effective, and, better still, powerfully, politically charged.
Amanda Gaskin, Creative Director, Seachange Studio
Rarely do I encounter design work that stirs a sense of envy in me, but the Stereoscope coffee packaging from Olssøn Barbieri makes me wish I'd created it myself. Its custom shape and innovative card system elevate an everyday product, transforming it into something distinctive and desirable.
Dealing with coffee packaging can be tough, and I understand the difficulties it brings. The need for freshness, adherence to food-grade standards, upright merchandising, and the necessity for a user-friendly opening/closure system is substantial. The conventional practice of labeling coffee bags with interchangeable stickers is a pragmatic response to differentiating product variants without resorting to bespoke packaging for each SKU, which most brands couldn't afford or facilitate due to constant tweaks and changes to flavors and variants.
While the decision to encase the stereoscope bag within a box raises sustainability concerns (although FSCG), I cannot overlook the ingenious solution presented for housing standard coffee bags. Implementing a card system for product identification adds a layer of cleverness to the overall design. The Stereoscope packaging earns my applause for its ingenuity, aesthetic appeal, and refreshing approach to coffee packaging.