On design | with Noémie Courtois07.10.2021
Q: In a nutshell, can you tell me what you do at 2XE?
A: I am a senior designer, meaning I work closely from strategy to artwork phases, from beginning to end. We have strategists but as designers we are involved creatively very early on in the process to make sure the strategy aligns with the design visions.
Q: How has that translated into you work with Namsû?
A: My involvement has been early on when the strategy was in process. The strategy is marketing focused but the challenge lies in bringing that back to something viable and solid enough to be pushed in the graphic concepts and copywriting. My involvement was to ensure from early on that all the creative was going to go in a specific direction, which for Namsû was this concept of ‘the art of bathing’.
Q: Was there anything in particular that was hard to translate?
A: There were two challenges. The first was how would we make this ownable? How can we make Namsû have their own identity or aesthetic because, in the last two years in particular, there has been an influx of so many natural, refillable cosmetic brands. We needed to nail the Namsû aesthetic and find what was right for them visually. The word ‘namsû’ means ‘wash bowl’ in Akkadian, so that language aspect was really interesting. We took a visual play on that by playing with the Akkadian symbols and creating our own inspired by that. Through this, we developed a coding system for Namsû that related back to the original story of ‘the art of bathing’. The second challenge was more technical – they already had a packaging provider. It can be complicated to say what we think is right regarding the look and the feel when there is already a provider in place– we are quite restricted and largely limited by what the factory can do. Originally we had in mind to have beautiful, prestigious glass bottles - but that wouldn’t fit technically. So we tried to convert that idea into the solution they already had which was a challenge in itself!
Q: Is that because it was going to be refillable/sending back that glass wouldn’t work?
A: Yes – we discussed so many options, such as ‘why don’t you look at the bottle as your main piece you keep, then use a pouch or something you can empty?’. But logistically for them, that was less sustainable and far more complicated! Sustainably, it was better to do it the way they decided with their packaging provider. Sometimes just having a beautiful glass bottle is not the most sustainable solution.
Q: Do you think in a larger sense, that sustainability is becoming a larger problem? Are you having to sacrifice appearance for sustainability?
A: Personally, I think I would say yes. I guess it’s not sacrificing the appearance, it’s an extra level of work to communicate the vision we have and the solutions that are more realistic. It’s always challenging. When you do branding, you want the whole creative concept to come across as aligned and so for us there is always a challenge when packaging comes to us as an unbranded solution. We have less freedom.
Q: When it comes to starting a design process, do you have a set process or are you led by the client?
A: 90% of the commercial projects we are taking on always start with strategy, and we follow a framework from then on. The client chooses from a selection of visual concepts we have presented, and we tend to develop two visual routes from that one concept. The client chooses between the two and so on.
Q: Do you think sustainability from a design point of view is something everyone has to consider?
A: Yes, it’s becoming less of a unique selling point. In today’s climate, most clients consider it anyway. I feel like there are still some that think it’s a point of difference, but it depends what they do. For example, a fashion brand that says they are sustainable – you could argue there is a point of difference there. However, when it comes to cosmetics, it becomes a given that you should be at least trying your best to be sustainable. The interesting thing with Namsû, they really studied it. They are without a doubt hugely educated in what is the best possible solution sustainably. So that is a point of difference. Some brands would use recycled cardboard but then the process isn’t sustainable at all. It’s becoming a given but at the same time, there is merit in praising it when it’s thought through.