Good packaging design is about more than just creating an attractive exterior. Barcelona’s Lo Siento design studio strives to get inside the products in order to convey their unique identity.
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Lo Siento is a different kind of communications firm. Based in a converted warehouse in Barcelona’s trendy Gràcia district, the office feels more like an artist’s studio or artisan’s workshop than a bustling agency.
This is precisely the kind of environment in which Borja Martínez, Lo Siento’s creative director and founder, prefers to work.
“We’re not really an agency – we’re a graphic design workshop and studio,” he says. “Our methodology is artisanal. We use the old ways of working, exploring textures and dimensions to create something you can touch. I believe physical objects are warmer than those that just exist in the digital world.”
“When we start a project, the first thing we do is visit the client’s ‘home’ – by which I mean their factory or office – to understand their dna, their essence,”- Pablo Salas is Lo Siento’s studio manager
Founded in 2007, Lo Siento employs eight people and specialises in design projects within branding, packaging and editorial. Martínez has a particular preference for identity projects and likes working with small to medium-sized companies, as opposed to huge brands.
“We worked with some big companies in the past but didn’t really enjoy it,” he says. “If I’m not enjoying myself, I don’t do good work.”
Pablo Salas is Lo Siento’s studio manager, as well as the person responsible for its commercial and financial matters.
“The name Lo Siento has a double meaning,” Salas explains. “On the one hand, it translates as ‘I feel’, which reflects passion for our work and way of working. On the other hand, it means ‘I’m sorry’ – because we know we’re not infallible.
“When we start a project, the first thing we do is visit the client’s ‘home’ – by which I mean their factory or office – to understand their dna, their essence,” he says. “After that, it’s up to us to translate it into something visual.”
Gerard Miró, Lo Siento’s volumetric design and packaging expert, helps transform Borja Martínez’s ideas into tangible objects.
“From a sketch, we make a drawing, usually digitally, of all the parts needed to build the object,” Miró says. “We then print and cut manually before assembling it. Sometimes the drawing of the final piece is made by hand, but for more complex geometries we use Illustrator.
“I really enjoy our experimental projects, using mathematical calculations to create three-dimensional shapes, forms and typographies,” he says.
When Martínez was a student of visual communications specialising in experimental typography at the London College of Communication, he learned that products are like people – they communicate constantly.
“Products communicate through their packaging and graphic design,” he says. “When I develop packaging, I imagine that I’m the pasta or wine or olive oil and try to understand what defines me. That’s the identity I have to convey to the consumer.”
In 2012, Lo Siento was asked to develop a new packaging solution for Dauro, a premium brand of Spanish olive oil.
“The previous Dauro branding was very loud, but this isn’t a loud product – it’s meant to be subtle,” Martínez says. “We tried to create something lighter, more refined, reflecting the premium nature of what’s inside.”
Martínez says packaging should be “honest” about its contents. “If the product is premium, it should look exclusive,” he says. “However, if the brand isn’t any good, you can dress it up and use all the nice materials you like, but ultimately the consumer will know if it doesn’t live up to its communication.”
This approach is reflected in Lo Siento’s work for Italian pasta and ice cream producer Sandro Desii. With a high-end range of close to 30 different types of pasta, Sandro Desii needed a concept that would stand out on the shelf.
“Now each pack has a number and a unique colour, reflecting the colour of what’s inside,” Martínez says. “It works well for organising the products on the shelves, and it looks great.”
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Martínez makes no secret of the fact that a lot of his work is related to food.
“We love food, and when you’re passionate about something, it makes sense that those projects come to you,” he says. “Because I love to eat, I also love designing products that I love to eat.
“I like to compare our way of working to slow food,” he says. “We do it the old-fashioned way, by hand, and we take our time. I always aim to create something timeless – something that won’t disappear or go out of fashion.”
TEXT ISABELLE KLIGER PHOTO RODRIGO DIAZ WICHMANN