Announcing Dieline Awards Studio of the Year Winner: Nice People
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 06/07/2023 | 6 Minute Read
“Quantity over quality,” the saying goes. But the 2023 Studio of the Year winner at the Dieline Awards proves every year that you can, in fact, have both—meticulously-designed packaging and the heaps of awards to show for it.
Studio of the Year goes to the studio, agency, or in-house team that receives the most overall wins across all categories in the competition, and in 2023 the award goes to Los Angeles-based Nice People. They placed in multiple categories, including Functional Beverage and Body Care for the adaptogenic stress care brand DEON LIBRA.
The team behind DEON LIBRA knew from the start that they didn’t want to settle when building the brand, especially with brand aesthetics and packaging. They turned to Nice People to handle the design with care.
“Our mission has always been to remind Black people that they are worthy of everything good in this world, from simple things like luxury beauty and wellness products to complex shit like longer lives and generational wealth,” said Devin McGhee, founder and CEO of DEON LIBRA. She created the brand with her wife (co-founder and COO Brit Kirkland) through the grief after losing her father and the love she felt for him and all Black people. “We always say DEON LIBRA is the hip-hop of wellness. It feels good, looks good, and is rooted in soul and our collective experiences.”
Nice People co-entered Dieline Awards with the DEON LIBRA team, and it’s not the design studio’s first time submitting work—or winning, for that matter. Amber Asay, creative director and owner of Nice People, said that wins like these give a big boost of confidence to clients and further encourages them to forge ahead and show off their product and packaging. She also explained that awards programming seems like a competitive opportunity, but the reality she stumbled on is that it brings the design community together. It’s one of the reasons she enters work into the Dieline Awards in the first place.
“It never feels like a competition because there’s so much support in all of it,” she said. “I feel a lot of support in congratulating everyone who won in categories that we didn't win in. It really is this feel-good industry event to come together about.”
Looking at DEON LIBRA, it’s no surprise they walked away with five awards and Studio of the Year. There are the elegant and enticing cartons, the confident sans serif font on the packaging, the striking bottle design, and that divinely rich red hue—everything combines to make this luxury brand timeless yet beautifully bold.
“It's a very unexpected visual for a skincare and body care brand,” Amber said. “The tendency for that industry is to have black text on a white bottle, and it’s turning into a sea of sameness and minimalism. With this client in particular, they had brought their vision into this project, and it felt like a very collaborative process with us helping to bring that vision to life.”
As a proudly Black-owned brand intended for the Black community, Nice People leaned into DEON LIBRA’S expertise. The DEON LIBRA team had done research and conducted polls with prospective consumers, which helped them land on choosing their head-turning red. They also approached Nice People with a bottle shape in mind, something inspired by Vintage Murano glass bottles.
“That’s the way a lot of our projects end up being, is the client comes with a specific vision of what they want and where they want to go,” Amber said. “Our job has always been to evaluate that vision and think about what the strongest parts of that vision are to hold onto, and then what can we add to it that will make it even stronger and better? So starting with these must-haves is sometimes a fun challenge for us because it's kind of like a science experiment. You have the thing that will stay the same, and there's so much you can change around it to make it feel different and act different and give it a completely different personality.”
That led Nice People to select spot gloss letters on the bottle, which worked with the already-decided bottle design but amped it up even more while still retaining those luxurious vibes. Nice People also designed the boxes for DEON LIBRA's products, which give a subtle nod to the simple black and white packs many brands in this category have. Still, that playful splash of red signals that what’s inside really is something unique and different.
The response to DEON LIBRA has been immense, and Amber admitted she’s loved seeing this new brand experience such success. Nice People executes exquisite designs for all its clients, but they can never truly know what the response will be to their projects—so she loves seeing a brand do incredibly well and garner a lot of attention.
“Nice People was created with the idea of only wanting to work with nice people,” Amber said. “We think of ourselves as a people-first studio, where we make sure that our team is happy and that our clients are happy. Our favorite projects are the ones that excite us the most because the process went so well, because they were equally ambitious, because we were working together toward the same goal, and because they were trusting and grateful along the way."
“It’s so rewarding to see the end result—how happy they are with the final product, and how well it's working for them from a business standpoint," Amber added. "Because at the end of the day, we're not just creating beautiful things and beautiful designs and packages. We're really creating something that is these people's business. We're creating something that people will interact with, and we want the project to be successful.”
Devin said the Dieline Awards wins instilled even more trust in herself as a first-time founder. She has even more confidence that she is on the right journey and should stay the course. “It is proof that I am walking boldly through my ancestors' wildest dreams,” she said, “and that love is always the answer.
For Nice People, winning multiple categories for DEON LIBRA along with Studio of the Year is undoubtedly huge—especially for a fully remote agency with no more than ten employees. Although Amber admitted there are other agencies out there who have been in business for longer, are bigger, and work with larger brands, she recognized what an honor it is to receive.
“It’s nice to know that studios like ours can win things like this,” Amber said. “Our clients are mostly women, they're mostly BIPOC and AAPI business owners, and that's naturally who comes to us and who we've worked with. We also work with many brands that are thinking about their social impact and their economic impact. So really, this win feels like something more than us. It feels like something for other studios and agencies to look forward to, and it’s something that really speaks to our clients and their ambition to create something they truly love.”