This article was originally written by Melissa Delzio and published by Partners of the Americas here.
Name: Melissa Delzio
Current title/profession: Independent Graphic Designer at Meldel LLC; Adjunct Professor at Portland State University
Current hometown: Portland, Oregon
Areas of expertise: Graphic design, illustration, branding, social media
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Caribbean Region
Location of the project: Guatemala
Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas
With his silver-streaked beard and fashion scarf, seated in Sukhasana (a yoga meditation pose), Marco Barbi may seem like an unlikely candidate to help kickstart the Guatemalan economy. For starters he is Italian, married to a French astrologist and is himself the author of several personal growth books. He arrived to Guatemala via Mexico over a decade ago, and choose to make the outskirts of Antigua his home. He leads a meditation session every Monday evening on one of Antigua’s many photogenic rooftops, and I attend on my first day in the city. I focus on his rhythmic incantations and try to resolve all of the nervous and excited energy that comes from freshly arriving in a foreign land.
Marco, the yogi guru, is on a mission to serve up high quality, health food products to the Guatemalan people and I am happy to have him as my client for the coming weeks. He calls his mostly Guatemalan-sourced products, “super foods” and thusly named his company, “Yogi Super Foods” (YSF). On our first day together, before the rooftop meditation session, we met at his company’s headquarters, that houses his offices and production center. Here we viewed and sampled a variety of his over 40 products such as Raw Chocolate (cocoa beans are not heated above 42°C to maintain nutrients), goji berries, pumpkin seeds, apple cider vinegar drinks, ghee and kombucha.
My role as a graphic designer is to help Marco evolve his brand to have a more consistent and professional look and messaging. Up to this point, the packaging design for this startup was produced by Marco himself, and consisted of a system of black ink clear labels that were applied to kraft bags, jars and bottles.
While this was the most inexpensive way to produce labels, it resulted in a few problems:
- All the products looking/feeling the same. It was hard to distinguish different items from each other when they were all on a shelf.
- Black printing on a clear label worked fine when set against a light color, but was very difficult to read when the product in the clear jar was darker, like a berry kombucha.
- There was too much information on the package and not enough hierarchy. Consumers gave feedback that the multiple decorative typefaces gave it a jumbled look that made it difficult to parse information.
Thanks to a previous volunteer’s work, we had great information about YSF’s current consumer base and market reach. “They are mid to upper socioeconomic consumers. Estimated 60% Guatemalans, 40% Foreigners — predominately North American and European. Most live in Guatemala City or Antigua. Interested in a healthy lifestyle.” Together, Marco and I created a scope of work that included an overhaul of the full line of packaging products. With over 40 products and only 2 weeks to create something from scratch, we decided that the most efficient thing to do was to instead create a series of templates for every packaging form with some size variations. The templates were: kraft bags (3 sizes), Square jars (2 sizes), 1 Kombucha jar, 1 chocolate bar, and 1 bottled drink.
We finished off the day with a tour of five grocery stores and boutique shops where YSF products were sold to view how the products are displayed and evaluate the design of local competitors. Many local competitor’s packaging designs were very generic and did not reflect local Antigua culture or scenery. I noted that our redesign must include the volcanoes!
I settled into my hotel and quickly realized that working from my hostel room would have all the comfort of church pews. Thank goodness for the world’s extensive network of digital nomads! I found a multitude of resources online for the best wifi-friendly coffee shops and restaurants to work from remotely in Antigua and I set out test every one. Bella Vista Coffee (aptly named) quickly became a favorite due to their beautiful views, ready outlets and covered patio. Guatemala is in the tropics, so nearly every space has an indoor/outdoor component. At Bella Vista there were private Spanish lessons in session, a local tour company planning their schedule and missionary groups checking in with each other about their week’s challenges. Many languages darted back and forth, and the coffee was served strong and abundantly.
Soon, it was clear that my new design direction for YSF was not compatible with the original company logo. The logo was too horizontal, didn’t size down well, and wasn’t available in a vector file format. The tagline of the logo was an afterthought. Marco was attached to the heart element of the current logo and the infinity symbol, but was otherwise open to suggestions. I set to work presenting a new set of logo options along with the packaging redesign, starting with the kraft bags.
By the end of the first week, we had settled in on a new logo direction, a new look for the “benefits” icons, and chosen a package design for the kraft bags. We were set up to fully implement the designs across the full product line during the second week.
After back-to-back volcano hikes over the weekend, I kick off week two with a new appreciation for the volcanic mountains that form the base of the designs. The work week offers more opportunities for mobile office coffee and café explorations. Most notably, was Fernando’s Kaffee, which makes it own chocolate onsite and roasts their own coffee. Like many establishments, Fernando’s doesn’t look like much until you wind through their gift shop, stroll past the chocolate makers in action, and arrive at their gorgeous garden courtyard. Fernando himself makes the rounds, ensuring all customers are cared for, taking time to pet his aging café cat, Misha, who is curled up on a chair in the sun. A Mayan woman weaves in the center of the courtyard, demonstrating the backstrap style loom. Her bright textile creations are spread out before her. With the hum of café conversation and wafts of chocolate from their factory enticing me with every breeze, I work on expanding the approved design for the kraft bags across the full product line.
By Friday, Marco and I are putting the finishing touches on the full set of packaging templates. We meet with his web developer. While website design is not in the scope of work for this assignment, we agree on some strategies, show him the work and agree to share assets. YSF’s new designs may not hit shelves for some time, but Marco can start implementing some digital design pieces sooner. My objective is give Marco as many assets that he can use on his own to help build up his new brand.
I include a “yogi” illustration of Marco himself with his tagline that can be used as a sticker on packaging and draw a more clear association between the food brand and his “Happy Soul Messages.” Marco’s messages, are small folded cards with inspirational and empowering notes that pair with his meditation classes (his larger Happy Soul Project). I urge Marco to continue these messages as a way to help build brand loyalty and trust. I design a template for him so that future cards match the new aesthetic and integrate the cards into the packaging design so that a message is revealed when you pull off the card. I also recommended adopting the hashtag #yogihappysoul for future Instagram marketing. It is daunting to start a company from scratch as Marco has, and overhauling the branding, messaging and marketing to a more professional level will take awhile. But Marco knows what he needs to do, and hopefully he is set up to make a giant leap forward in that regard.
It was hard to leave Antigua. The city was feeling extra festive as Ash Wednesday passed, kicking off the month of Lent. Across town, unique religious vigils were held. All week there were fireworks in celebration. Puppets called gigantes were propped up in formation outside of a church, awaiting their time to be called to perform.
I race up to Cerro de la Cruz, a hill just north of town with sweeping views of the city. The clouds hug close to Volcán de Agua’s peak. Night falls, and my last day in Antigua comes to an end.