“I knew he would have different products, at least 60! but I didn’t know he would have six variations of Sottolio.” Laughs Simone Züger, as she shows me a huge scan of her work-in-progress for Zürich deli Genova’s.
Located proudly on the fringes of Kreis 3’s Idaplatz, Genova’s is an Italian food shop which makes you feel like you’ve walked into to your Nonnina’s pantry. Entering the shop is a commitment to indulgence. At first you may not notice, but the reason you’ve come away with a brimming paper bag of goodies is as much down to the packaging as to Miloud Genova’s loving introduction to each item.
“The two owners are father and son, it’s a family thing, so we had to bear this in mind with the branding and product design with the illustrations and typography… It’s deliberately not perfect, it has its own character.”
Before the creative direction for the shop was agreed upon, Simone worked on three different routes. One was a clean, contemporary look with nostalgic touches in the typography and colour. The second was a more traditional romantic Italian look, almost wine-bottle style. But the route they opted for was Simone’s favourite.
“The product itself is really good quality. I wanted to show this, but also that it’s affordable for everyone. Fair price/quality is the goal. So it couldn’t be silkscreened printing techniques or vanish, it had to be rough and black and white.
I chose a lot of different handwriting-designs matching them together, like in a family with six different handwriting-personalities, and also because handwriting is personal, like their products which are from the area where they grew up.
I didn’t want to show on an olive jar that there are olives inside. Because they’re an italian family I chose drawings of portraits/people inspired by the old Italian paintings - like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa - but in a rough interpretation and used this for the bottles, spaghetti and Anti Pasti…
You should get a feeling of getting people together and talking and drinking wine. There is much more in a product than just olives.”
Complementing the illustrations are hand-written product names. Simone’s love of hand script goes back to her childhood, “I did all the drawings in pen, because I’m really familiar with calligraphy. As a teenager, I was given a calligraphy pen, and ever since I’ve had a fascination for illustrating and typography. Since then I have practiced calligraphy a lot. I can do it really exactly, but for Genova’s it’s really rough; it should feel like it’s written quickly, not too decorative in style.”
There are hundreds of label variations for all of the different products, but there is one consistent logo. “At first I had the logo only as an outline, and I was never happy with it. I had to figure out something more like a label of a stamp they can put on everything. Because it’s only black and white there had to be more characteristics, and so I came across this, drawing the outside.
In fact the logo should work on its own, with an illustration or with text. They can add things themselves, and play with the space.”
The ability for the shop owners to be able to use the identity is vital, “I know Miloud is passionate about it, he wants to produce stuff, stuff, stuff. So it would get really expensive if I had to do it every time they wanted a flyer design or a price label. So if he wants to sell a new bottle he can write the price, and I don’t have to do this. But for every new product I still do the labels. That’s maybe every half year. And I love to work with him on this.”
On Swiss Design
The Genova’s identity is a good example of Simone’s overall style, which she attributes to a mix of Swiss education, and experience working in America. “I grew up in Swiss design, and I have my education in it. Then I worked in New York and I learned there a more ‘open’ way - you can put your own style and make it a little bit richer, rather than anonymous. Then I returned to Switzerland and – I didn’t realise it really – but now [my work is] a mix of the traditional Swiss graphic design with an open, playful and experimental style I explored over the years.”
For me the Swiss design is still the base of my design. Design should have function. I think as Swiss designers we are branded like this - no design without function – but you should also have fun with what you do. And for me I realised that fun is when I can put my own style, illustration, and draw, and bring people in. It makes it more human to me with more personality.”
Life in Zurich
With a great knowledge of the design scene in Zürich, and having set up a business herself, Simone knew the pitfalls women could come across in the industry. So this year she begun a series of meet ups for females designers to chat about creativity, business and life as a female creative - and so far they’ve all been sold out. The food and drink sponsor? Genova’s, naturally.
So next time you walk out of Genova’s with a well stocked wine cellar, replenished olive oil supply or some special-occasion truffle pesto, now you know who to thank.