With Mentorship from Laura Prpich (Caribou Creative)
For this project I really wanted to do hotel amenities. I did some research on different hotels and came across (possibly) the most perfect one. Established on one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa, Babylonstoren Farm Hotel is tucked in amidst the vineyards and orchards of the Drakenstein Valley. The hotels’ renovated farm cottages are minimalistic in style, with whitewashed walls and cozy fireplaces, and are surrounded by 8 acres of working farmland. The original farmhouse has also been converted into nine comfortable suites with a modern, botanical-themed design.
There are two restaurants at Babylonstoren, Babel and Greenhouse, as well as a bakery. The farm has a ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy, using seasonal ingredients which are almost all grown on the farm itself. Babel is located in a former cow shed and is very popular, often requiring booking far in advance, and the Greenhouse is in a vintage conservatory. The farm also has a wine cellar and tasting room where guests can sample the farms own selection of wines.
When I made my moodboards I really tried to capture the aesthetic of the hotel in everything from colour, materials, type treatment and subject matter. When they were digging on their property to make a garden they found lots of Delft shards from different centuries, dating all the way back to the 1700’s. They have been incorporating Delft elements in an interesting and modern way ever since. The hotel’s personal connection to Delft was something that I wanted to carry through from the beginning, that and their strong connection to the land, since they are on a working farm. To see more of this amazing hotel visit their website https://www.babylonstoren.com/
The most rewarding part of this phase was forming a deeper connection with the hotel, learning about the history of the hotel and more about my own heritage. While doing my research I was incredibly proud to be connected to this incredible world-class hotel and all its accomplishments, even if it’s just in some small way. It made me proud to be a South African, which isn’t always the case.
The most challenging part was finding an Afrikaans name for the brand that wouldn’t be too hard to pronounce for non-Afrikaans guests, but that would still hold significance to the brand values that the hotel has. My mentor Laura Prpich was a valuable asset on this end as I sometimes forget how Afrikaans words must sound to non-Afrikaans speakers. We ended up going with ‘Wandel’ which means: to take a stroll.
I would give myself a 9/10.
In this phase I really tried to think broadly, while still keeping the direction established in my mooodboards in mind. I played with framing the type, pushing the boundaries of the illustration and trying to find a happy medium between modern and traditional. Simple and intricate; elegant and rustic. Separating the text from the design with loads of whitespace is ultimately what is going to achieve the best result, by echoing the aesthetic of the hotel itself.
In traditional South African farms glass bottles are very prevalent. Everything is stored in glass bottles rather than plastic bottles; and since South Africa has a less sophisticated (close to no) recycling system glass would be the most sustainable option, something that Babylonstoren prides itself in. Finding the right bottle shape was a difficulty I experienced during this phase, especially since the bottles are so small. I wanted to make sure that the layout options fit well with the bottle that I would use. It did give me a good opportunity to scour some of my favourite shops and take a closer look at other travel sized bathroom products.
I showed these rough sketches to my mentor Laura and there were 3 options that stood out for her. With option A she really liked the unique and contemporary way that the illustration wrapped around the neck of the bottle, with option B she liked the organic quality that came through in the side illustration and option C was her . favourite of them all for it’s simplicity.
After talking to Judy, my small group and with the feedback from Laura pursuing option C seemed the obvious direction to pursue in the next phase.
Finding the right typeface was crucial. I explored different sans serif options that felt modern and elegant, and then paired it down to Vanitas Black which I then pushed further by changing some of the letters and increasing the overall weight. I also explored some other options like changing the shape of the W, lowering/lifting the crossbar of the A and E significantly etc. In the end the simpler treatment fit the best with brand of the hotel.
The logo was definitely the hardest part of this phase (that still carried into the next phase). It looks deceivingly simple, but getting a well balanced and legible word mark, (especially at the size that the final word mark will be seen at) took a look of reworking, because I was essentially hand-lettering the logo.
The most valuable advice that Laura gave me was that when you are working on your logo and you are looking for the perfect font for a word-mark you have to make sure that each letter is roughly the same width for a good balance. And that this is especially important with ‘W’ as they tend to dominate. This immediately changed the way I looked at the typefaces I had been considering for the word-mark and helped me to understand why some just ‘felt’ better.
I would give myself a 8.5/10
For this last phase of the refinement of my logo I made few final adjustments that made the biggest difference. I really pushed the tracking, and the increase in space between the letters made the word mark feel more high end. It was also more reminiscent of taking a stroll: where there is a lot space and you take your time getting from one end to the other. I also changed the colour to a coral colour that helped to distinguish the logo from the rest of the type and helped to add a bit more personality to the packaging.
As I mentioned in my previous blogpost I decided to go with option A after the feedback I received. I took this general design and applied it to the other pieces of collateral, having some that still felt similar, but wasn’t an exact match and others that took that design as is, with a few adjustments to fit the shape of the containers. I also used this opportunity to explore the containers of the other products outside my primary scope of the lotion, shampoo, conditioner and body wash which I knew I would use the same bottle for.
We decided to stick with a more cohesive layout across all the pieces of collateral, with some pieces having some small unexpected elements that really set them apart (the blue on the inside of the candle and the honey bees on the honey). Laura also suggested using white product inside all of my containers as to eliminate the need for white within the illustration itself, which was a great idea!
I then set about illustrating the Delft patterning. I chose to illustrate the botanical elements connected to the scents of the products: vanilla and mint, both of which are grown on the farm, and create a repeat pattern. While drawing I decided to go with a more organic edge (I had a very straight edge in my rough sketches) to lend a softness to the range of packaging that made it feel less stark and more elegant.
The most challenging part of this phase was finding container shapes for the candle, the bath salts and the soap that still fit with the overall aesthetic of the range, all the while looking distinctly different, because of the product it contained. The layout treatment helped to tie it together, but it needed to feel like it was as considered as the essentials’ container (lotion, shampoo, conditioner and body wash) and not just an after thought. Even though this was difficult I am still glad that I focussed on finding the right essentials’ bottle first as it informed all my decisions from there on.
The most rewarding part of this phase has to be the moment when I finally finished my logo, after going back and making so many adjustments, and then seeing the end result working so well and carrying the simplistic elegant aesthetic that was crucial to this project was a definite high.
I would give myself a 9/10
In this phase I brought my vision to completion. I did my best to do a professional mock-up of the different products in my range of hotel amenities. This was simultaneously the most challenging and the most rewarding part of this phase. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but in the end it really elevated my designs and helped to bring the products to life. I took photos of the essentials’ bottle that I had bought and then combined other photos to create the other containers as well as the organic wooden tops.
There isn’t much to talk about in this phase unfortunately as I have not yet shared my presentation with my mentor. I will update this section as soon as I do and share some of her thoughts if that is all right with her.
I did present my work to the class today and they had very good feedback and I’ve already made some of the minor adjustments. The biggest problem seemed to be the wooden stopper/lids that I had on my bottles. The general consensus was that it made it look less high-end and drew too much attention away from the illustration. While I was still presenting I remembered blue sea glass. Since recycling and reusing sea glass fits in with the values of my hotel it’s a definite possibility. I would do some exploration and that could potentially replace the wooden top that I have now and make the overall effect more cohesive and feel even more sophisticated.
Overall people seemed to like it, and Rae especially commented that she really likes my wordmark which was probably the nicest compliment anyone could have given.
I would give myself an 8/10
All in all I would say this project turned out really well, arguably my best to date, definitely in the top 3. I have also learned the most. As a student in the illustration concentration, this project was my first real experience with designing packaging. I could not have had a better mentor for this project than Laura Prpich. Her advice was invaluable and will most certainly inform the decisions I make in future projects. When I chose Babylonstoren as the hotel I would design the amenities for, I knew their brand would pair beautifully with her simplistic and elegant aesthetic as well as with my own.
I am really proud of how this project came together. When I look over this project I can see that careful thought and consideration went into the different elements of the packaging and I think that the right decisions were made along the way:
The name of our brand is successful in that it is inspired by guests strolling through the property, a laid-back way of life, really taking in your surroundings, being comfortable and feeling at home. At Babylonstoren they really strive to make guests feel like they’re at home, they’re even encouraged to pick and eat anything from garden.
The use of glass bottles makes the brand simultaneously feel very high-end as well as giving it that traditional South African farm quality. The bottles themselves and the wooden tops also emphasizes the eco-friendly, down-to-earth and sustainable roots of the hotel (which will most likely change, but will still have those properties).
The logo feels considered, contemporary and luxurious. It strikes the right balance between catching your eye and blending in. It doesn’t take the focus away from illustration, but it holds it’s ground. The coral colour also strikes a nice balance with the white and blue everywhere else, making it feel more modern. The decision to only use a wordmark was also the most practical when the size of packaging and the minimal aesthetic of the hotel is taken into consideration.
The vanilla and the mint pays homage to the hotel’s cultivated garden and green house where these plants among others are cultivated. The scents themselves are not too feminine which is often the case in hotel amenities. The illustration of these scents really carries the ‘modern Delft’ theme of the line packaging. With a contemporary entwining of the plants to create a repeating pattern, and a more authentically delft aspect being incorporated through the specific delft-blue that was used and the traditional brushstrokes that are visible upon closer inspection.
Having a mentor outside of the scope of the school really made this project special. Our instructors are all really amazing, but we don’t always have the luxury to work so closely with someone who has an aesthetic that perfectly lines up with the project that we’re working on. So working with Laura and drawing from all her knowledge was the most rewarding part of this project and having the opportunity to create something that we can both be really proud of.
In the end the biggest challenge with this project was that it was such a significant project and that we had another equally as significant a project (our Entrepreneurial Project) running at the same time. It did make it feel more like a project in the ‘real world’ where you would have many significant projects happening at the same time. Moving forward I would still like to design the back of the packaging and all the information that would be on there, something that I had set out to design, but just didn’t get to.
A lot of people were surprised that I took on a packaging design project instead of an illustration one, I just thought it would be the best addition to my portfolio and looking back it was the best decision I could’ve made. I had the opportunity to try something new and had the opportunity to do so in a one-on-one environment, and all that with somebody as accomplished as Laura. I can’t fully articulate how valuable this experience has been.
Overall I would give myself a 9/10. I know there are still some improvements to be made, but I learned a lot and I’m proud of what and how much I’ve done over these last weeks.
Thank you Laura for all the effort you helped put into this project, for taking me on as a mentee and for the insights that you so kindly shared, I am so grateful!
And thank you Judy for making it all possible and for being there every step of the way!