When we were asked to design some commemorative biscuit packaging for the Irish Design 2015 ‘Liminal’ show in Milan, New York, Dublin and Eindhoven, we looked at some local tall stories… some taller than others.
AA: Classic confectionery packaging design can really be quite weird and wonderful when you look closely. I never understood why Lyle’s used a dead lion as their emblem – it seems counter-productive to have a picture of a rotting carcass buzzing with flies on your golden syrup tin. But apparently Mr Lyle was a religious man and liked a biblical story about the dead lion in question. Thinking about this made me want to step into the shoes of a local baker, and try to think about what they might want to show on their packaging, rather than thinking solely as a graphic designer commemorating a design exhibition.
"Stoneybatter is a small community on Dublin’s northside, and it’s also the black hole of cats."
AA: Stoneybatter is a small community of terraced houses on Dublin’s northside, and it’s also the black hole of cats. You can’t walk past any lamppost in the ’Batter without seeing a cat’s face staring back at you from a missing poster. This was my jumping off point – what if we used the biscuit packaging to commemorate all the poor lost cats in the neighbourhood? It felt like something a local baker might want to do, especially if it meant they’d sell an absolute tonne of baked goods in the corner shop.
EN: As these were going to be shown representing Ireland internationally, we didn’t want to feature Dublin or Stoneybatter alone. So we added Skibbereen in Cork, and Antrim’s Cushendall.
AA: I’d seen a medieval woodcut of an enormous fish being cut open, and inside it were hundreds of other fish. It was obviously an exaggeration – Chinese whispers had turned a mediocre story into a great story. Eoghan, you came up with the name the Skinch of Inch, which immediately felt familiar even though it was entirely made up. Could there really have once been an infamous sea creature in Skibbereen called the Skinch? Sounds plausible!
EN: It felt right to have fun with the language so the stories themselves have little verbal Easter eggs in them, like in video games and computer programs.
"It felt right to have fun with the language so the stories themselves have little verbal Easter eggs in them."
AA: We got Alan Lambert on board to illustrate our ideas, and one of the things that I really appreciated him bringing to the table was his suggestion of exaggerating these tales even further. He turned ten burly men in the Cushendall story in to an entire village – the school teachers, the kids, even the local geese were out tugging on the rope, apparently pulling down an old tree. It was exactly the angle we were coming from – tall stories getting taller.
EN: The Cushendall tale is based on a real story that happened to a friend of mine… hope she doesn’t mind being immortalised in a biscuit package.
AA: When we presented the ideas to Design Ireland we sensed a little hesitancy there. I think they had been expecting something less conceptual? They were worried that people just wouldn’t get where we were coming from – and so The Daily Helicopter was launched. It would be the front page of a local newspaper wrapped around the biscuits that would expand on all the stories we were telling visually.
AA: Eoghan, you had to write six newspaper articles, 15 angry letters to the editor, and ten lost cat small ads over one weekend, but I think it was worth it in the end…
EN: Yes. Is it god or the devil that’s in the detail? Can never remember. Anyway, It’s my dream that someday the letters will be read by someone, anyone, and a book deal will follow. The Daily Helicopter could really take off.