Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 10 September 2014
Proper Beans is a handmade baked bean range created in the English countryside and available from Fortnum & Mason. Proper’s mission is to “reinstate baked beans as the premium meal it once was” with six unique flavour combinations. These include Fava Beans & Smoked Pork Collar, Hamhock, Potato & Thyme and Smoked Bacon & English Mustard. The story and passion behind the brand, as well as the product’s Britishness and handmade quality, is visualised as a distinctive crest and simple packaging treatment designed by London based studio Interabang, and website by James Hayter and Mike Polom.
Although packaging can provide a broad canvas from which to establish quality and individuality through structural choice, sleeve shape, material choice and print finish, Interabang’s approach is largely logo-centric.
The crest’s blend of elephants on bikes, cutlery, castle and umbrella; well rendered with a period etched illustrative authenticity, and what must be an intentionally awkward approach to type — condensed characters broadly spaced along a curved baseline — make for a smart mix of tradition, provenance (rain and castles?), food and contemporary quirk.
While there is little in the way of variation — the elephants are near mirrors of each other, the logo remains unchanged between flavours and used across both front and top panels — brand character is well-established and appropriately informed by the range and its origin.
Repetition, off-the-shelf structural choices, uncoated card sleeves and a limited use of ink across the range have an economy that works in favour of a small, handmade, batch based brand. That is not to say that these do not look polished rather that they have a start-up authenticity without looking low quality, but are absent the finishes, aesthetic or communicative diversity you might expect from a premium brand. It does, however, make good use of the interior walls of the sleeve, and a combination of heavy uncoated cream board and black block foil print finish across the business cards add further detail to the project.
Flavour differentiation is delivered conventionally but effectively through colour and language. The single colour and black ink, and broadly spaced uppercase type combination feel reminiscent of WWII public information posters without appearing explicit in their reference which is a neat touch. A British font may have added a subtle layer of detail, and the art deco popularity of low waisted characters feels a touch out-of-place, however, Neutraface shares a few geometric similarities with some of the characters you might associate with UK infrastructure of the past.
It is a logo-centric approach with an unwavering consistency, one that balances a farmers-market economy with high quality, mixes tradition and craft with contemporary convenience, and does a good job of improving the perceived value of beans.