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Getting into the local spirit

Kevin Viyse visits a quintessentially English region to discover local award-winning brewers and distillers are choosing local design talent for all their packaging needs

Kevin Vyse KBV Consultants / Institute of Packaging Professionals UK

Ahh the Cotswolds, that home from home for most ex Londoners and A list music people! Maybe the reason this western area of England is so popular is because it has such a range of things on offer to those who are used to having what they want when they want. For sure, one of these things is the food and drink world, alive and buzzing with the region peppered with Michelin stars and micro award winning micro breweries.

Nestled amongst the Cotswold valleys near Stroud is the small town of Nailsworth, the home of Hobbs Bakery, the fabulous Britannia Pub and a real peach of a restaurant, the Wild Garlic. The latter boasts an entire menu based on local produce which illustrates just how fecund the Cotswolds is. On a recent trip there I had the pleasure of a long conversation with Henry Bannister, the venue manager and what this man doesn’t know about his drink offer is not worth knowing. I am ashamed to admit that, on being introduced to 6 O’clock Gin and its companion Tonic by him, I had to plead ignorance.
This simple, beautifully crafted bottle and label was everything that was right about a good pack design. It spoke for what was inside and had all the right visual cues to raise expectation and to not disappoint.
6 o’clock gin is the brain-child of Michael Kain, director of Bramley & Gage (more renowned for their liqueurs than their gin). It was inspired by his Great Grandfather, Edward Kain, a Victorian engineer, inventor and gentleman. Edward’s motto was “balance, poise and precision” and he not only created many refinements of existing technologies but created blueprints for boilers and stills. Apparently, after retiring from the Merchant Navy, every day Edward would retire at 6 o’clock to his old armchair, with a G&T, to allow his mind to wander for an hour to mull-over inventions and innovations.
Having eulogised over the 6’Oclock Henry introduced me to Fi and Bill Keene who run the Cotswold Brewing Company in Chipping Norton. They too have a Gin and Vodka offer which, once again, was inspired by local ingredients. Their highly successful little business is now setting a new benchmark for lagers and ales in the area and thus adding to the rich British tradition whilst giving us locals more choice and experience.  Digging further there is Bath Ales and Butcombe Brewery, both award winners and both who rely on local talent to create their brands.
The joy of this for me, and from a packaging perspective, is that most of the ‘local’ producers seem to turn to local design talent. Many of the packs are designed within a 50 mile radius of the producer company. This truly does represent something special in the overall mix. I am certain this experience is the same for most regions of the UK.  In a world where global brand is the mantra, a dumming down of message and quality, then maybe local is the panacea.
But we give so little acknowledgement to these interpreters of the marketing story. These designers are the people who take the producers product idea and marketing story and make it flesh; these are the people who create the interface, the cue, the memory that we all hold in common when we want to find that great product again. These are the people who create the tactile experience as we dispense the experience. So why not give them a little praise ! I might even go as far to say that local brewers and distillers should always use local design talent to be authentic to themselves !
As Spike Milligan might have penned...
Why is there no monument to pack design in our land
If it’s good enough to see its good enough to stand
One a plinth in our town we should see
A statue to pack design, signed OBE

3 July 2013