Oslo based printing firm, Print House, has developed exclusive new packaging for the underwear brand Northern Playground.
THIS CONTENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN INSPIRE ISSUE 53
It looks like someone has driven a forklift truck through the giant meeting room at Print House in Oslo. We have to push through reams of paper, simple prototypes and bits of cardboard box to find a place for our coffee cups on the oblong table. Steven Widlic, project leader at the long-established family business, apologises for the mess:
“For many years we tried to create some sort of order, but we gave up in the end. Print House works with super creative people and we often sit in long meetings where we experiment our way forwards, and it can easily end up like this.”
One of those creative meetings led Print House to their latest success, a range of unique packaging for Northern Playground. The underwear brand has quickly become one of Norway’s most popular and they are building on their success with packaging that is as exclusive as the product. Jo Egil Tobiassen, one of Northern Playground’s founders, jumps in:
“If there’s one market you should avoid in Norway, it’s underwear. There must be fifteen famous brands already, but this packaging means that we stand out in stores. What’s more, it reflects the quality of the product and gives customers an immediate feeling of luxury.”
“What’s unique is that we produce variable-data printing in 50 x 70 centimetres, and that makes us quite unique in Europe."
Jo Egil Tobiassen weighs the packaging in her hand and smoothes her fingers over the sleek matte finish.
“Professors who specialise in this area have suggested that packaging can be more important than the product itself. Our goal was to remove any barriers that stop people from buying, and if the packaging had been average I believe it would have been much harder for us. We don’t want to give people a reason not to choose Northern Playground.”
Print House is situated in north east Oslo, a stone’s throw from Grünerløkka – one of Scandinavia’s most creative neighbourhoods. They are one of the Norwegian capital’s most popular print firms, and for the last few years have housed their hyper-modern machinery under the same roof as their offices.
"It’s much more effective that way,” says Steven Widlic. “It’s about securing the quality and the production.”
Print House has twenty employees and prints everything from exclusive gift wrap to simple business cards in large volumes, using both offset printing and digital production. Steven Widlic and Jo Egil Tobiassen came into contact through a mutual client, White Design Studios, the same bureau who designed the packaging for Northern Playground.
“The first examples have been produced in a run of around 12000. White boxes for women and black boxes for men,” says Steven Widlic.
The packaging is made from Invercote Creato, a product that has been developed specifically for graphic products of the highest quality.
“What’s unique is that we produce variable-data printing in 50 x 70 centimetres, and that makes us quite unique in Europe. On the outside the packing has PE-foil, the purpose of which was to strengthen and protect the surface, but also to give the box a quality finish. It’s the same type of surface treatment that Apple uses for its logo.”
Mentioning Apple is no coincidence. The world-leading company has revolutionised the packaging industry over the last decade. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, design boss Jonathon Ive says:
“You design a ritual around unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story.”
"Invercote is a much stronger and better material than the competitors."
Another advanced detail of the Northern Playground packaging, which feels a little Apple-inspired, is that it comes in two parts. This function makes it possible for potential customers to open the box and feel the quality of the merino wool. And when it comes to the question of technical difficulties involved in the print run, Steven Widlic says:
"It’s been easier to produce the white cartons than the black ones. When it comes to black you are very dependent on the colour being even. The carton is printed using a first generation digital printing machine, which requires a lot from the print specialists, for example they must be extremely careful when it comes to unevenness in the ink. And with black ink, any eventual mistakes are more noticeable. Put simply, the work process has been much more intense with the black packaging, but overall the production has been a great success.”
And why did Print House use Invercote? Steven Widlic’s answer is immediate:
“Quality. Invercote is a much stronger and better material than the competitors.”
It’s hard to say exactly what effect the packaging, which was launched this summer, has had on sales, says Jo Egil Tobiassen. There are many variables.
“Sales have been good, but regardless of the numbers I think the result has been fantastic. We love the packaging and we’re extremely proud of the collaboration.”
TEXT: JOHAN KELLMAN LARSSON