Ikea’s New Food Packaging Makes Crab Paste Look Good

You know you’re a crack designer when you manage to make anchovy-style sprat fillets look appetizing. So it was when Ikea tapped Stockholm Design Lab, the wizards behind this excellent pharmacy rebrand, to refresh the packaging of its gourmet food recently.

Stockholm Design Lab opted for a stripped-down look, with lots of white space, a dearth of text, and big 2-D icons that visualize the contents at a glance (a tomato on the ketchup bottle, for instance). The packaging encompasses pasta, cheese, candy, condiments, booze, crackers, canned fish, and other staples of Ikea’s private food label, which was launched in 2006 with an emphasis on Swedish delicacies.

The simplicity of the design belies the challenges of the design brief. Ikea, purveyor of oppressive Swedishness that it is, insisted that the designers use the company’s house font, Verdana, exclusively. They also had to maintain the products’ Swedish-language headings–this for a company with more than 300 stores in 41 countries, 40 of which, presumably, do not understand Swedish. That placed “high demands on the design to be self-explanatory and inspirational at the same time,” the designers say.

So the designers resorted to the international language of pictures. It’s hard to imagine something called “Skarpsill” (the aforementioned marinated sprat fillets) flying off the shelves anywhere outside of Sweden, but slap a cutesy fish on the can (with the nose cleverly doubling as the stay-tab), and you know exactly what you’re looking at, whether you’re in Saudi Arabia or the Dominican Republic. If only Ikea’s assembly manuals were that easy to read.

Stockholm Design Lab won gold in Cannes for the sprat cans recently. Read more here.

[Images courtesy of Stockholm Design Lab]SL