Date: 11-07-2014

AOD students take on the Saaraketha design challenge on sustainable packaging

'Lightweight, recyclable, reusable, minimalistic, innovative, inspiring!' These were just some of the words graphic design students of the AOD International Design Campus were dabbling with for the last 6 months. Their quest was to produce sustainable packaging choices that would transform the image of how organic food would be seen by conscious consumers.  
 
Their challenge came from Saaraketha Organics which runs the only organic retail store in Sri Lanka with a range of over 250 products, from fruits, vegetables, rice, spices to greens, herbs and free-range eggs. 
 
Saaraketha presented the students with two challenging new products – organic dried fruit and fresh smoothies. Their job was to produce a line of packaging designs that would allow Saaraketha to market these products to a variety of clients. 
 
Saaraketha is a frontrunner in its quest to promote sustainable living in Sri Lanka and its Chairman Prasanna Hettiarachchi says influencing how customers understand and learn more about seemingly simple items like fruits and vegetables begins with the packaging.
 
'Packaging is something we always overlook in the organic sector, simple because our customers understand that more wrapping means more landfills and they consciously choose less. But for Saaraketha our packaging helps us to have a voice, it helps us share information and the stories behind how this food comes to you. We wanted to find out what AOD’s graphic design students understand about this concept and we are extremely pleased with their efforts.'
 
AOD says packaging organic food presents a greater challenge than most people think – the students had to consider high level of perishability, using glass and other materials that were eco-friendly, supply chain dynamics, shelf life and storage as well as point of sale display. The students managed to complete all these elements in their design project. 
 
 
Top Left: Chiranthana with his double sided function and hand-drawn traditional farmers Left:  
Top Right : Tikiri with her radically sophisticated “Bomu” theme with the King Coconut water winner! 
Bottom:Bani with his playful catchy kids’ toy snack box and colorful Organic Isle mask theme. 

The Winning Results  

The students’ final designs ranged from swanky to bold to complete works of art. Some chose functional while other chose fun and some even went a little further and put out some daring designs that wow’d the Saaraketha team with their attention to detail and keen research. 
  
Customers browsed, questioned and voted as students displayed their work at the Saaraketha stall at Good Market.
 
‘This was a design experiment more or less – we wondered whether these students would deliver something that could be used, something cost-effective, something creative and we are amazed at their ability to learn and use what insight they had so well!’ says Prasanna.
 
 
Saaraketha took this campaign a little further by putting each design to the final test by allowing their customers to vote for their favourites online. ‘Not surprisingly most of our customers picked the most minimalistic designs which showed the product off to its best advantage. We learnt from this exercise as well – because whatever we as a company put out there we must understand that it is the customer buying our product who finally decides what pleases their eye, and inspires them to reach out, read and make that purchase!’ 
 
 
AOD’s graphic design programme offers the comprehensive curriculum of the internationally recognized Northumbria University UK design degree. The programme also constantly provides opportunities for its students to engage in industry-relevant exercises where they get first-hand experience on working on a live project, presenting work in a professional manner and dealing with clients. This project with Saaraketha has been part of this important exercise to get real, practical training on what graphic designers experience out there in the industry. This training is what ensures them to be industry-ready and highly employable by the time they graduate. In addition to this, AOD is also a strong supporter of sustainability and integrates this to its academic curriculum often, making Saaraketha a brand that aligns well with AOD’s vision. This project provides a great example of how graphic design is a sector that adds value to almost all businesses through essential services like logo/corporate identity design and packaging etc. The progress of this project and the student work can be found online at the official blog of AOD’s graphic design programme; aod-graphics.tumblr.com 
 
Saaraketha Organics sees itself as a provider of choices to help people to live a sustainable lifestyle. As its chairman explains, ‘Choosing organic food is just one of them. Sustainable consumption goes beyond thinking of what is healthy for you and your family. It is about being conscious of the impacts your consumption choices have on society, the environment, our future as a planet. Triple bottom line thinking is being aware of the total chain every time you make a consumption choice.’  
 

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