The "High-End Souvenir" Branding
I packaged the oil in three distinct ways representing three parts of the mushroom's identity and history.
This approach looks at the idea of appropriation and gives people who have not been exposed to the real mushroom a sense of the culture and value surrounding it.
Inspiration for The "High-End Souvenir" Packaging
This design is based on high-end Japanese packaging, drawing inspiration from whiskey bottles.
Web Mockup for the "High-End Souvenir" Packaging
The "Cult Brand" Packaging
In this approach, I am selling the name Matsutake. Setting culture and tradition aside, this brand provides little information or context creating contemporary mystery around it. It confronts the idea of a cult name and the cult status/inaccessibility of the mushroom in Japan.
Web Mockup for the "Cult Brand" Packaging
Entanglement Map for the Matsutake Mushroom
This treasured mushroom can only be found in pine forests in Japan and the pacific northwest, this mushroom cannot be cultivated.
We asked ourselves "Could we as consumers in a western culture reproduce and really understand the value of a mushroom we’ve never tasted or experienced?" Reproduce authentically? No. But understand the value and love for the mushroom through its story and our inability to obtain it? Yes.
My design process employed in this project.
Designing a Bottle of Assumptions
I made the decision not to taste the mushroom and kept it partially a mystery as I produced an inspired product remaining in the shoes of the potential target consumers.
For me, a bottle of assumptions has much more value a cheap imitation trying to be authentic.
Designing from Description
Instead of tasting the mushroom itself, I conducted interviews and found every decsription possible available online to base the product on.
I reached out to chefs in the London area where I was based to interview them about the flavor and characterisitics of the matsutake.
Import and Harvesting Research
The matsutake is only valued highly in Japan and for fine dining in a handful of other nations producing seasonal work and an entire popup distribution system for harvesters, buyers and sellers across the pacific northwest where it is produced.
Designing in the Kitchen
I researched the smell and flavor of Matsutake and collected a wide variety of ingredients that represented the described flavors and iterated through combinations in crafting my own oil infusion.
The "Home Remedy" Packaging
This third approach to packaging investigates the history of the mushroom as a traditional medicine said to boost sexual performance among other things. In many places, this “word of mouth” approach towards medicine is still prevalent today, taken out of context and presented in an unlabeled bottle, is this product actually more valuable unbranded?