Outstanding By Design – Guest Post by Theresa Phelan (@ 3sa23)

Coming up to Outstanding I was contacted by Theresa Phelan (link to her Linkedin Profile) who lives in Kilkenny. She did Visual Comms in Limerick and heard about the day during a work placement with Brand Union.

She helped me out during the day and wrote this guest post on each of the talks. I enjoyed her take on each of the talks and the day overall -thanks 🙂



Outstanding by Design, took place on the 10th of May and explored the beneficial outcomes of great branding and design on food producers sales. The one day event of inspirational discussion, happened in the beautiful surroundings of Highbank Orchards, located on the outskirts of medieval Kilkenny.

The itinerary for the day scheduled 7 Irish designers to speak with their partner food producing client, about collaborating and developing their successful branding and packaging. Outstanding by Design was not limited to insightful and inspiring presentations, but also held 1 to 1 consultations between attendees and designers. The atmosphere was light and relaxed with a wide range of attendees from local entrepreneurs to passionate designers.

Sarah Maguire, Brand Union & Paddy O’Connell, Paddy O’Granola

The day kicked off with Sarah Maguire from Brand Union, discussing her role in constructing the branding and packaging designs for Paddy O’s Granola. Paddy O’Connell is the owner and producer of Paddy O’s Granola and holds the ambition of becoming the leading granola seller in the UK.

The choice to rebrand was also driven by his desire to heighten his on-shelf visibility within supplier outlets. Sarah strived to portray the product as being fun and wholesome by placing Paddy’s own personal story at the heart of the brand. Sarah described the different visual assets used in order to communicate the brand essence ‘getting the most out of life’.

One area of design which particularly stood out was the inclusion of intricate map illustrations on the packaging, which provides the consumer with a personal experience and builds consumer engagement with the brand. Paddy pointed out that it is quite expensive to rebrand, yet it is definitely an essential key to progressing a brand. In regard to the success of the rebrand, sales grew by over 300% with the product being sold in large retailers including Tesco, SuperValu, Dunnes Stores, Palas Foods and Avoca.

Laura Macaulay, Navigate By Design & Ka Tutandike

The second discussion of the day reflected on the success of Ugandan Katu Honey collaborating with designer Laura Macaulay and Kristina Moody from non-profit organisation, Value-Added in Africa. Kristina discussed the Value Added Africa model which explores the plan, concept, research, copy, design and produce.

The Ka Tutandike ‘Lets Get Started’ charity is based in Uganda and decided upon selling honey due to its accessible production and high demand from a consumers point of view. Laura Macaulay from Navigate by Design looked at rebranding the existing identity of Katu Honey by choosing to portray women empowered as the underlying brand concept. Tying in the idea of women harnessing the power of nature in their back garden to produce quality food gave way for a strongly ethical piece of design.

Kristina discussed the process of survey evaluation on the product which took place on survey monkey prior to the products launch. This allowed for feedback from consumers which helped exam the designs created for the brand thus creating a solid structured finalised brand. Other points given during the talk included the necessity of creating a compelling brand story, hiring a copywriter can strengthen a products design, develop strong working relationships with everyone on board the project and to market with broad brush strokes.

Erik Johansson, The Green Man Studio & Paul O Connor, Trouble Brewing

The third talk was by Trouble Brewing who originated in 2010 and has been producing beer for nearly 4 years. Paul O’Connor is a partner in Trouble Brewing and began the discussion about the different variations of beers they are marketing and producing within their Kildare based brewery. They decided upon a name that wasn’t typical Irish for standout amongst similar produce sellers while their approach to design is quite unusual for differentiation in their point of sale. 

The craft beer industry allows for great exploration in ingredients and alcohol levels which ultimately allows for creative branding. Erik spoke about the given brief for the redesign of the existing brand identity which aimed to be rebellious yet not offensive. The design was inspired by cartoon comic strips to get a story across to the consumer.

Erik looked at humour to portray a contemporary feel to the brand, resulting to a highly innovative piece of design with a controversial approach to brand identity. There is currently a large interest in the craft beer sector with Trouble Brewing’s sales growing almost 50% every year of their existence.

Liz Maybury & Mella McAuley, Mella Fudge

Mella McAuley grew up producing fudge in the locality of Clonakilty in Co.Cork. Mella’s passion for making fudge expanded into a large scale project which currently markets in a variety of artisanal stockists including; Avoca, Butlers Pantry, Selfridges and SuperValu.

Liz Maybury is a young passionate designer who took on the task of creating Mella’s Fudge brand identity and packaging. Liz firstly spoke about her own design process and how she believes in meeting the client in person to discuss their brand belief and to gain insight into what the client requires.

Mella had one criteria for the design which was to include gold foil in the packaging design to evoke a sense of quality.Liz pointed out the importance of looking at different competitors on a national and international level to gain deep insight into the existing branding trends.

The Q & A section of this discussion gave rise to some interesting protocols needed to be considered when creating a brand which included registering a brand to become the full owner of a brand name. Liz also stated that when a client is choosing a designer, they need to research their portfolio and previous designs to ensure that their style is suitable to their product.

Steve Simpson & Mic Wejchert, Mic’s Chilli

The afternoon session of discussions began with renowned illustrator Steve Simpson speaking about his role in creating the branding packaging and identity for Mic’s Chilli. Mic was unfortunately absent for the talk yet Steve gave great insight into the alternative approach taken in producing the packaging and label design. Mic was drawn to the chilli industry after he became redundant. Mic wanted a design that is attractive on a table not just in the supermarket. The packaging acts as a piece of artwork on its own rather than a food product.

Mic got in touch with Steve to create a brand for his new product even though he is not a traditional graphic designer. Simpson’s background is based in comic book design and has designed for renowned brands such as Boyne Valley , Eddie Rocket and Panda.

Steve’s inspiration for Mic’s Chilli derived from day of the dead artwork. Hand lettering was a huge influence as Simpson wanted to incorporate a vintage feel into the packaging with a limited colour palette. A particular area of the package design which is intriguing is the development of a personalised barcode. Simpson cleverly created this barcode to sit with his design. Steve has a set of guidelines to stick to with barcodes on his website which may be usual for designers: http://stevesimpson.com/17721/1202053/portfolio/illustrated-barcodes

Mic’s chilli has gone on to win various awards including the Great Taste Awards and the ICAD Awards. The produce is currently being sold in SuperValu, Harvey Nichols, Avoca and many other stockists on an international scale.

Rachel Kerr, Creative Inc & Liz Skehan, Skoff

Skoff pies are a new range of premium branded Irish pies by Donal Skehan. The new product is only 6 weeks old and has already received great commendation from consumers. Donal’s mother Liz, worked in conjunction with Bord Bia who held 3 pitches with different design agencies in attaining the branding project for the new range. Liz required the brand to stand for home cooked food with a funky personality which ultimately reflects Donal’s own self. 

Rachel Kerr from Creative Inc took on the job of branding Skoff and spoke about her main ambition of getting the story of the client across through the packaging and branding. Creative Inc originated in 1995 and are primarily a branding company whom have worked with clients from public to private sector. A strong point Rachel made confirms ‘a good name is the gateway to be identified, recognised and understood’.

The name Skoff is an overarching and distinctive name that suggest wholesomeness while still linking Donal’s own name by replacing the c with k which links to Skehan. The design was influenced by 50s graphics with vibrant colours which undoubtedly grabs the consumers eye. Liz lastly spoke about the importance of the packaging format in terms of being stackable and sustainable. Skoff pies are currently being supplied in various stockists including SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and are currently in negotiation with Tesco.

Lorenzo Tonti & Fingal Ferguson, Gubeen

The penultimate discussion of the day was given by Fingal Ferguson from cheese producing company Gubeen and the brand designer Lorenzo Tonti. Fingal grew up on a family farm in West Cork and has been always creating exiting foods and holds a strong working relationship with Lorenzo.

Fingal spoke about the heritage of the family and the existence of the Gubeen Logo which is a piece of artwork owned by the family and was originally created by renowned typographer Eric Gill. Lorenzo furthered the discussion by stating the relevance of getting to know the client in order to reflect on the story of the producer to communicate to the consumer. Exploring the essence of the producer provides a rich identity for the brand.

Lorenzo felt Gubeen are a group of passionate and creative people with strong beliefs which needed to be communicated in the brand. They are also inventive in the sense of using up in season products. Gubeen act in a collaborative manner to provide the best end product. This notion lead to the highlighting point of the talk which reflected on the necessity of strong interaction in the development of new and innovative products. Lorenzo wanted to express the history of the family through the survival of the brand logo from the 70s.

Revitalising this brand mark as the current logotype was inevitable due to its rich essence. Gubeen revisited the brand wanting to extend their range to salami’s and smoked meets which required the design of new flexible packaging systems and colour schemes. Overall Lorenzo and Fingal’s discussion pinpointed the value of close relationships as they allow for ease of development of ideas. The range is constantly growing which keeps the brand contemporary thus business is always changing. The talk finished up with the term ‘chaordic’ which is a system that may appear unorganised from the exterior but has an underlying organised system, which reflects the creative working methods of Gubeen.

Giles Calver

The day came to a close with Giles Calver speaking about food packaging designs and examining the different traits of successful branding. Strong points to take into consideration included the advantage of communicating the provenance of local food producers in branding is huge. The quality of packaging is also crucial as its longevity will allow for the brand to last. Asserting a particular attitude and building a relationship with consumers can help strengthen sales. The visual style of a product is relevant in keeping a consistent and own-able brand.

Calver ended his insightful talk with an astonishing figure which stated that a barrel of oil is valued at the same price as a barrel of Coca-Cola. Branding is truly an essential part of business development and driving sales.

In review, the event was highly inspiring which gave real scope into the branding and packaging design industry for entrepreneurs, potential producers, designers and food lovers. The discussions evoked many topics of interest which informed my understanding of how a client and designer relationship can help strengthen a brand. It was great to see such creative energy combined with passionate business mindsets. This one day event has surely instigated great encouragement for food producers to become more aware and familiarised with their own branding and the process involved in building a successful business.