Gubbeen Farmhouse Products is a large, family-run, artisan foods enterprise making cheese, cured meats, and market garden products. The Ferguson family has been working the land for three generations, and in the 1970s Giana and Tom Ferguson started making farmhouse cheese as one of the first in the country to revive that tradition. In 1998, Fingal their son established a smokehouse making a series of cured meats. At the same time, their daughter Clovisse established a market garden operation supplying local markets and restaurant with biodynamic vegetables.
In 2000 we were asked by Giana Ferguson to undertake the redesign of the packaging which had until then been the original hand-drawn lettering and type.
The first task was to establish how the enterprise operated and how it was structured, what the product range was, and what the projected plans were for expansion, if any. Having met with them all, it became obvious that this was a highly dynamic and creative business, with constant product ideas being tested and launched. Their distribution network for the cheese was already extensive nationally and internationally, but the cured meats range which was successful, was only sold at farmers’ markets. Equally, the biodynamic market garden produce was sold at markets and supplied to restaurants. Very quickly it was realised by them and myself during discussions, that an expansion into the retail sector for the cured meats was the next logical step. The potential for product range expansion was huge!
Following our discussion and a look at their business potential, various factors had to be taken into account before designing:
Family business structure, and collaborative decision-making
Constant flow of product ideas to be explored and contributed to
Close working relationship with some key members of the family
Organic and non-planned way of expansion
Adaptability of design solution for future use
Possible addition of other businesses to the family enterprise
The work is ongoing, even after this long working together. It is purely a collaborative working method, where idea for products are mentioned, and our design solutions are discussed at a very early stage. We very quickly established a working method based on trust of each other’s opinion and I could design something for them having a good understanding what their thinking was for a particular product. The initial work was designing a branding style for the enterprise and for their products. As the company was long established and had many generations of the family farming the land, we decided to use a ‘retro style’ based on a drawing of a pig and a wheat sheaf in from of the farm building. This drawing dates back to the 30s, so it was appropriate to use it to reflect the tradition.
A ‘contemporary’ aspect had to be introduced into the packaging branding, as well as the flexibility. Colour does that perfectly well, a well as the layout of the ‘labels’ which offers the possibility to fit any shape box or labels of advert or POS, etc. It is flexible to the extreme, and a simple change of colour and sometime typeface adds the needed uniqueness of particular products.
The products and the companies constantly evolve and change and add new directions, and the design work follows suit, adding the visual value to their products, and making sure the product range remains coherent. Anything that you see that is made by Gubbeen has come through our office for branding, and many items and products you will not see have been handled by us before being dropped. Other things like Fingal’s knife-making business also was branded by us. Future developments are constantly discussed and appraised at their meetings, and we get involved at an early stage to give our views and design thinking. It’s a perfect, long-term relationship that brings success and satisfaction to all involved. For us, the challenge of maintaining the brand consistency while introducing evolution in a shifting product range is what makes this work so interesting.