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The Design for PepsiCo’s New Lemon-Lime Soda Has Us STARRY-Eyed

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/22/2023 | 4 Minute Read

RIP Sierra Mist, and thank you for your service. 

After more than two decades, PepsiCo announced they would retire this beverage for good. But all you lemon lime lovers needn’t worry—PepsiCo recently welcomed a new beverage to its lineup named STARRY, and we got the inside scoop on the drink’s refreshing, Gen Z-focused design.

“The demand for lemon-lime flavored soda has never been greater, steadily increasing since 2019,” said Leon Imas, design vice president at PepsiCo. “We saw a significant opportunity to give people a new choice in an area dominated by one brand for years.”

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Announcing the discontinuation of one lemon-lime flavored soda and, in the same breath, introducing a new one (while refreshing 7UP for international markets) means comparisons will be inevitable. But a fresh start with a new brand meant the PepsiCo team wanted STARRY to stand on its own without constant comparisons to its predecessor or its biggest competitor, Sprite. They needed a design that instantly made STARRY distinctive while still very clearly a citrusy-flavored drink.

“The lemon-lime soda category has always been predominantly green,” said Ange Luke, design director of innovation for beverages at PepsiCo. “For STARRY, we wanted to freshen it up and express both flavors equally, as they are equal in name and flavor. With a simple yet bold color-blocking system of Zesty Yellow and Crisp Green, the visual identity system is split with the two flavor colors. Owning yellow is how we stay fresh, break through the noise, and carve out a recognizable and memorable space in the lemon-lime category.”

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Ange and Leon were working on STARRY from day one, doing research, naming ideation, product development, and helping all the way to the national launch. A critical part of their work involved honing in on their target audience, Gen Z, a group Leon described as “optimistic about the future and bringing a sense of irreverence to their every day.” As such, STARRY’s design needed to be bold and fresh with a touch of whimsy to appeal to this younger generation of consumers.

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“STARRY drinkers are inspired by nostalgia and have a thirst for all things playful and funny,” Leon said. “Even though STARRY is a new brand, we leaned into the simple good feelings associated with the past and mixed those in with excitement for the future. The visual identity system aims to bring brightness and levity to shine through any daily negativity. The result is a fresh look that nods to the past but feels warm and familiar.”

The design needed to speak to Gen Z. Using Zesty Yellow as their primary color (and having the Crisp Green act as an accent rather than the hero hue like other lemon-lime sodas do) instantly makes the packaging pop—plus it imbues STARRY with all the positive, feel-good vibes we associate with yellow, like happiness and warmth. Adorable four-point stars amp up the effervescence appeal, and clusters of those add some sparkle and create a sense of movement.

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The black and white text grounds the design, and three distinctive fonts bring even more life to the packaging and branding. The STARRY wordmark, for instance, puts a spin on a script type, and the star placed in the lower part of the S conveys that fun-loving attitude and the drink’s crisp taste. On the other hand, the simple yet confident sans serif, Druk, gives the design a bit of balance.

“We also created a bespoke expressive font called Cloud9, which nods to nostalgic bubble fonts of the 90s and Y2k eras,” Ange added. “Cloud9 is modeled from Edkies, a font created by 24Design Studios. Highlights on the font add brightness and an airy, weightless feel. A black outline and shadow create boldness and connect to our STARRY logo wordmark. Cloud9’s letterforms take on the excitement of refreshing fizzy bubbles.”

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PepsiCo also created a couple of characters to go hand in hand with STARRY, lovingly named Lem and Lime. “They’re responsible for bringing fun and lightness to create moments of connection within culture,” Ange explained. Lem and Lime don’t take themselves too seriously, and they bring even more character to the brand. Leon said creating the duo was one of his favorite parts of the design process.

“They are the perfect portal into the brand through their eyes and personalities,” he said. “We were inspired by cartoon and comic culture and used elements of both when creating Lem and Lime to showcase the beverage’s bold flavor and STARRY drinkers’ fresh, irreverent attitudes. I love the characters’ genderless simplicity and interconnectedness—Lem wears a lime outfit, while Lime wears a lemon outfit.”

STARRY is the new lemon-lime soda on the block, and Leon emphasized that there is still so much more to come, including partnerships, campaigns, and content the PepsiCo team can’t wait to share with the world. And while Gen Z may be the target audience for this beverage, we think any demographic can appreciate how STARRY has shaken things up and effortlessly sidestepped Sierra Mist’s shadow and walked right into the limelight.


Images courtesy of PepsiCo.