Pearlfisher's view on desirable brand building

What is Pearlfisher’s specialty and what is your role?

Pearlfisher is a global brand and design consultancy. We are based in London, New York, Copenhagen and (most recently) San Francisco

We’re known for building the world’s most desirable brands, which we refer to as Challengers & Icons. Challenger brands are the ones that are disrupting and challenging our status quo.. Iconic brands are the ones that we intrinsically know and love.  Iconic brands form the fabric of the nation, a part of us and our lifestyles that we couldn’t imagine living without.  

Pearlfisher is built on three key areas of expertise – Futures, Strategy and Design. When it comes to our design work, while we are probably best known for our packaging expertise, we actually work with brands on everything from their identity systems, product, environment and digital design.

Brandi Parker

Head of Realization, Pearlfisher New York

Where does your team get their inspiration for label designs? Who selects the type of material used for your designs?

For us, inspiration comes from the brands themselves. It is never arbitrary. The team never strives to design something that just looks beautiful – everything we do is rooted in the brand. Additionally, we never work in a vacuum, which I think successfully ensures we take a radically different approach each time we begin a new project.

Realization works very closely with the client from the beginning of the project – even joining the brand immersion with the strategists and designers working on the project. Our team will begin making recommendations about materials early on to ensure that whatever is chosen works in harmony with the brand and the design. Our involvement also allows us to ensure the final product will be produced on budget, something our clients definitely love. Quite often, we do source Avery Dennison pressure-sensitive labels, as these are often the most ubiquitous label stocks available via our clients’ vendors, and have the most variety in terms of uncoated stocks.

What do you see as the trend at this moment? Is this a regional trend?

We actually don’t focus on trends, as they can be fleeting and superficial. Pearlfisher has a built-in Futures team, which looks closely at the ongoing macro-cultural shifts occurring in four key categories that touch our clients: body, connection, luxury and taste. Their reports on these categories look closely at cultural shifts— highlighting key changes that will continue to affect us over the next 10 to 15 years. Our team gets incredible insight and inspiration from their reports, which influence the designs we create and materials we chose.

That being said, there are definitively “trends” we see from clients and consumers. A lot of what is being produced right now looks artisanal, hand-made, fresh and un-corporate. When our clients are looking for this, we often suggest using an uncoated stock as it looks less “corporate” on shelf.

For us, regional doesn’t really apply, as most of the projects we work on are global.

What was the most challenging design ever?

Challenging designs are always the ones where the brief is left open – where we have less restrictions and parameters. These usually end up being the most fun though!

Recently we worked with a great challenger brand, Seedlip. They approached us to create the branding and design for the world’s first non-alcoholic, distilled spirit. It was a rare and amazing opportunity to establish new category cues and determine a visual language for, not only this product, but also all subsequent non-alcoholic spirits to come – something our Futures team are certain we will see more of in the coming months and years. With this project we had fewer restrictions than usual.  Ben Branson, the Founder, is a visionary and trusted the team here completely. Together, we came up with a design that used beautifully drawn illustrations of archetypical English animals. We used a large uncoated pressure-sensitive label, which enabled us to premiumize the brand in an affordable way.

What is a product for which you love to design?

We love to work with companies who trust the design process and who value design. When it comes to actual projects, we love to work with brands that strive to be more sustainable or have a do-good component to their brand. Sustainability is something I feel especially passionate about. There are so many opportunities to find more sustainable options when it comes to materials— by having our team more closely integrated with the design team we’re able to expose our clients to these options more frequently and earlier on in the design process.

I love working with brands that are innovative with their materials and finishes. Liquor brands are really fun to work with because of this. They have a lot to say with limited real estate— and most liquor brands invest heavily in designing something wonderful to take full advantage of their label space.