Fresh From the Field – Usai – by Tomorrow

5 days ago by

Fresh from the Field is a weekly article series sharing the fresh and inspiring work of our Aotearoa Design Assembly community.

Connecting people through tea – Tomorrow walk us through their brand identity work for Usai

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The Brief:

Our brief was to create a new premium loose leaf tea brand to enter the New Zealand market. One that connected people through tea, sparking conversation and igniting stories. Our objective was to bring a sense of maturity and depth to the tea drinking category, while ensuring clear differentiation through a distinctive brand, and packaging that would be proudly displayed. 

Our scope was:

  • Naming
  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Identity Design
  • Brand Story
  • Packaging
  • Website
  • Photography
Product imagery of Usai tea boxes
Two product images of Usai tea boxes. One all black on black and one al white on white
website mockups of Usai

The Design Response:

We identified three key audiences; Cultured Professionals, Curious Mid-lifers and Later-life Explorers. The commonality? They are curious by nature and share a love for discovery. They are widely travelled with an adventurous spirit. This idea of curiosity and discovery drove our early thinking for the brand. 

Tea is steeped in culture and rich with history. Its rituals and stories have been handed down for generations. The name Usai was actually inspired by a Japanese Buddhist priest called Eisai, who was known for bringing the first green tea seeds from China to Japan in 1191. 

An ‘ah huh’ moment occurred in our research where we started to see that the world of tea is full of opposing forces. Centuries old traditions enjoyed in modern environments. Originating in the East, but being exported to the West. And in particular the role light and shade play in creating the unique characteristics and flavour profile of each tea variety. These dualities, especially that between light and dark, informed all visual and tactile elements of the brand.

The identity is restrained, purposely intended on elevating the products to a premium position through space, balance and simplicity. Anchoring the identity at the front is the strong ‘U’ form, a visual nod to a cup or vessel. What we really fell in love with though, was the natural mirroring between the ‘s’ and ‘a’ letterforms, creating lovely symmetry and connection to duality. 

A largely monochromatic palette symbolising light and dark, allows the brand to play into the concept on multiple levels. For example, whether the box is light or dark relates back to the oxidation process of the tea. Oxidation is the process where tea is exposed to the air in order to dry and darken, contributing to the flavour, aroma, and strength. Light boxes are for teas with no/low oxidation, like a vibrant green tea. Whereas more oxidised teas, like an Oolong or black tea, are in dark boxes.

From a tactile perspective, it was exploring the duality of ups and downs, positives and negatives. Negative detailing at the base of the box and embossing and debossing elements on the faces of the boxes to create depth, light and shadow.

This thinking then fed into the brand photography, creatively allowing us to explore the contrasts between light and dark, soft and rigid. All products were shot in both a light and dark set, using sheets of paper to form liquid-like forms and compositions, with beautiful depth coming from the play of shadows and light on the surfaces.

Mobile mockups of Usai online shop and cart pages
Product imagery of Usai packaging
product imagery of Usai packaging

The Design Team

Tomorrow

Charlotte Sole – Creative Strategy & Lead Designer

Ben Crawford – Strategy 

Nick Vaudry – Developer

Marc Warwick – Developer

https://tomorrowstudio.co.nz

@tomorrow.brand.studio

The Client:

Usai

https://usai.co.nz/

https://www.instagram.com/discoverusai/

Collaborators:

Cardboard Engineering – Think

Packaging Production – Porter

Copywriting – Hello Elo

Brand Photography – Josh Harvey

Styling – Sam van Kan


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