Responses by James Acton, cofounder/creative lead, The Brand Nursery
Background: The pet food market has been historically saturated with an array of packaging that portrays beautifully shot images of pets enacting that well-versed role of being “one of the family.” Our purpose was to disrupt this convention as Walker and Drake was a new brand that used a “cold pressed” method—cold pressing the food preserves more nutrients and makes it easier for the dog to digest. Pet owners have many choices of diets for their dogs these days—be it raw, low fat, protein rich, dried or wet. Any new entrant to this growing sector has to bring in impact and relevance.
Reasoning: Having talked to consumers, it was clear that owners were confused as to what to buy their pets. They are always on the lookout for the best possible food for their dogs and the fixture is awash with confusion. We wanted to make it simple. Our aim was not to overcomplicate the pack with unnecessary information, which can become daunting. This is very much a pack for the owner, an inclusive brand that has broad appeal and approachability.
Challenges: Honestly, it was the expression on the dogs’ faces and, in particular, the eyelids. Too low and they looked asleep or drowsy. Too high and they looked they had been up all night on some kind of illegal substance. It was a fine line to make the dogs faces and their expressions look and feel different for each pack and, of course, make them likeable!
Favorite details: The illustrations are the real winner in all of this, and also the fact that they use the entire real estate of the front face of the pack to make a statement of intent. They are also simple in their make-up and lack any kind of superfluous detail. Often, we can be constrained by visible front face restrictions or side of pack information, but because the 10 kilogram (22 pound) pack is a virtually flat surface, we can use the packaging like a billboard. If you can get two or three facings of this brand in store, it is going to be unmissable on the aisle, and that’s what’s important when you only have two or three seconds at fixture.
Visual influences: Any form of flat, graphic illustration forms the beating visual heart of this project. However, at the time we started working on Walker and Drake, we were also working on a large travel rebrand and, as such, we had been looking back at a lot of archive travel posters for airlines, regional rail travel and the London Underground. Artists like John Hassall and Horace Taylor did a lot of work on the United Kingdom railways and while they were more decorative, what struck us were the expanses of flat colors that worked so well. While times have most definitely changed, the idea that flat graphic shapes can be used to communicate is still relevant, and we have reimagined that kind of thinking to develop a modern day interpretation for this great pet food brand.