Beer bottle designer speaks of designing in CEE region
As an international branding agency with roots in Central and Eastern Europe, Cocoon Group is intimately familiar with the region’s brands, especially beers. The company thinks that in the past 5 years, over 200 beer projects have passed across the desktop monitors of its designers. Recently, the bottle of the Croatian beer Ožujsko, one of the agency’s creations, received the title of best local design in the prestigious Cropak Awards. The responsible for that project, Tanguy Prevot, has been in the Industrial Design department of Cocoon Group for just a bit over 2 years, and has been an Associate Creative Director for 9 months. We recently caught up with him to gain some insight into what makes great beer design in CEE and what makes an industrial designer tick.
Tell us a bit about your experience. How long have you been designing in CEE?
I’ve been in Prague for 3 years; that is not particularly long. Yet I have practiced design in 6 other European countries, and I build my understanding of each region by comparing with others. Constantly being out of my comfort zone with languages also taught me to read context, mimics and body language. From Sweden to Italy, from France to Czech Republic, I have learnt to identify the specific differences that make a culture or a nation what it is.
What are the most interesting or challenging aspects of industrial design in CEE?
The industrial design scene is still very scattered, like a cloud of more or less famous personalities, each with their own profile. The downside is that the profession lacks the credibility that it has in Scandinavia for example, where designers are expected to be methodical professionals, just like any engineer or marketing specialist. The potential and limits of the role are also understood differently in each region; in the CEE “industrial design” has a very technical connotation, and “product design” is on the edge of deco with a sense of fashion to it… I’d love people to understand we do best when we handle both sides of the coin!
The packaging design of the Croatian beer Ozujsko recently won two awards in Cropak 2012. What was so special about this project?
The client gave us valid input and trusted us enough. They knew that branding is not only about paper and print; that a brand’s DNA is in everything it does or shows. We worked with them on creating the right bottle for the on-trade market, in terms of soft values, the subjective side of our craft. I believe we hit the spot on the consumer’s expectations and needs. It is new enough, but not unnecessarily breaking the codes. Ozujsko is an easy-going confident brand which embraced its nickname! No fake claims, just real complicity with the consumer. We built upon that. Then technically, this bottle is actually quite a piece of work, but it doesn’t show, and it doesn’t need to show. To make it short, the silhouette that you perceive at first would not allow any label if it were constant all around the bottle. So we created a specific area for the label, surrounded by embossing. The whole thing works very well with the established language of the brand.
Is there something about CEE, which is different from other parts of the world?
Flexibility. We call it New Europe, and a big difference from the old Europe is the very loose conduct towards history, implicit rules of tradition, etc. Each project is a learning process, a try-out, a fresh start. I perceive the old Europe as much more framed in its heritage; with a sense of expertise and certainty in the idea of experience. Here, for me, it often feels like dealing with a bunch of fresh minds looking for new solutions, ready to go find out. The definition of right and wrong is evidently connected to that as well, since experience is valued differently. In the CEE, the mindset of “back in the good old days,…” simply isn’t playing much of a role. When we meet conservatism, it is driven by habit and comfort, but not by nostalgia nor any kind of respect for a glorious past.
Has beer design changed here since you started working on it?
Well, this is implied in the previous answer somehow. Because they see they can, the big players put a lot of efforts in reaching out broader target groups, aiming at other categories, stretching the scope of their brands in ways that the old Europe would have a hard time to swallow. And so with a market open to innovations and cross-overs, when the mindset is near pioneering, then you can’t expect your job to be set in stone. We often have to find the right proportion of “beerishness” in balance with attributes coming from other categories. And this trend is not about to drop, the beverage market is redefining its categories; it’s an on-going process.
Advice to other designers who might want to work in Central Europe?
Make sure to have many strings on your bow. As I said, the job description keeps evolving, fast. The range of topics you work on will have to be broad. A flexible mindset is a must. It’s all about constant learning and adjusting, as well as sharing and educating those you work with.
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