Interview
Mini British Food Hall

Curating Talent with & SMITH

The branding and identity experts reveal all on our Liberty London Food illustrations

Shop Liberty London Food

Our Mini British Food Hall brings together the finest foodstuffs in the country, crafted by artisan micro-producers. In order to give this exceptional new produce the treatment it deserves, we teamed up with branding and identity experts, & SMITH, to curate a collective of emerging British illustrators – commissioning them to create bespoke packaging for the speciality products.

Reflecting the idea of our food producers coming together as an eclectic collection from across the country, the illustrators delved into the stories behind the artisans – bringing the individuality of the products to life. We caught up with & SMITH’s Creative Partner Dan Bernstein to find out how it all came about.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
LOUISE LOCKHART for Buttermilk

How and when did & SMITH come about?I run & SMITH with my business partner Rachel Smith. We were on the same Graphic Design course at Kingston and both got a job at Pentagram London when we graduated. As we came to the end of our stint there, we spoke about setting up ourselves. I left and joined Here Design as their Senior Designer, whilst Rachel started building up a set of clients from her bedroom in Hackney. When it reached the point where it was getting too busy, we joined forces again and set up a studio for real. It’ll be our 10th birthday next year.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
GUY CATLING for Rosebud Preserves

What’s the story behind the & SMITH name?In the very early days we always spoke about Bernstein & Smith (or vice versa) sounding too much like a solicitor, so I was always happy not having my name above the door! It sounded much more intriguing and collaborative just leaving it as & SMITH. We also thought there was a nice link with the associations of the word ‘smith’ (wordsmith, coppersmith, blacksmith etc.) and the craft behind what we do.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
HANI ABUSAMRA
for South Devon Chilli Farm

Can you tell us a little about what you do?All we do is eat, drink and sleep...

Straplines aside, that means we specialise in branding for hotels, food and drink. We actually never set out to specialise in a particular sector but over time everything naturally progressed that way. I’m glad we did it as it’s helped make us experts in the field, really understanding the business needs of our clients.

Approach-wise, we like to be a bit disruptive and change things up to help our clients get noticed. We always say that 'different beats better'. It’s not for everyone but it keeps us creative — we can never turn up with ‘something we made earlier'!

Curating Talent with & SMITH
SARAH WICKINGS
for London Cru

Where are you based?We’re based in Stoke Newington N16, right next to Clissold Park.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
CAROLINE MAGNERE
for Tregothnan
& Frank’s Luxury Biscuits

How did you become involved in the Mini British Foodhall project?We were recommended by a food & drink product developer who teamed up with Liberty London specifically for the job.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
MR GORDO for The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company

"We liked the Liberty London approach to building the collection and generally how they go about things – we always like to work with clients that have a similar approach and way of thinking to us. "

Why were you keen to work with Liberty London?Who wouldn’t be? We’re not a huge studio by any means, so it was a bit of a no-brainer for us. We liked the Liberty London approach to building the collection and generally how they go about things – we always like to work with clients that have a similar approach and way of thinking to us.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
MARGAUX CARPENTIER for Scarlett & Mustard

How many illustrators did you bring in for the project?14

Curating Talent with & SMITH
ROB BAILEY for Sloemotion

How did you go about choosing/finding them?We work with illustrators quite a lot, so over time we've got a bit of a process down. It's generally a mix of existing contacts, looking for new up-and-coming graduates and researching illustration agency portfolios.

When we were selecting the final group, we knew it was all about finding the right mix so the illustrator's styles worked not only for the individual product lines they were briefed on, but also for the range as a whole. It was really important for the full range to be varied and eclectic as possible.

"We were keen to make sure each illustration had a bit of 'weird and wonderful'. We wanted something running through the entire range to make it feel more Liberty. "

Curating Talent with & SMITH
SARAH ARNETT for Jensen’s

Were they given a brief? How does each illustration reflect the product?Yes, we went through our strategy and thinking with each of them individually. It turned out to be quite a labour-intensive job – briefing and art directing each illustrator on over 50 products – but we knew how important that was for it to be a success.

From the off we stressed that the idea was to really hero the suppliers. Each illustrator had their own supplier, so we told them to look at the stories behind the brands, their individual products or flavours, and any interesting techniques that make that particular supplier or product stand out. We summarised what we thought could work in a briefing pack bespoke to each illustrator.

As art directors overseeing the entire range, we were keen to make sure each illustration had a bit of 'weird and wonderful'. We wanted something running through the entire range to make it feel more Liberty.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
JORDAN ANDREW CARTER
for Pump Street Bakery

Can you tell us a little bit about your approach to the design?It may sound a bit strange but from the beginning we knew what we didn't want to do, rather than what we wanted to. We were keen to stay away from the standard approach to 'own brand' range packaging. We didn't want too strict a formula that would made the range look very 'samey' on the shelf.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
BILLY CLARK for Dark Woods Coffee

How did this develop?We felt the best way to make it interesting (and different) was not to ‘white label' the suppliers like most other department stores do. Instead we thought bringing the suppliers and their stories to the front of pack was a good way to make it much more interesting and more Liberty. Behind the scenes we referred to the range as 'an emporium of creativity'. As a top line, it was always there to make sure we kept everything as interesting and creative as possible.

Bringing all these different artists together nicely mirrored the approach Liberty London used to create the range too.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
DAVE ANDERSON for Manfood

Do you have a favourite?Everyone will hopefully have their favourites – mine is the Manfood range. The illustrator Dave Anderson (AKA BloodSausage) gets me every time. Check out his website if you get a second.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
VALERO DOVAL for Prestat

Which products stand out for you?Most of the products have won a Great Taste Award so they're all pretty good. The Rosebud Preserves Raspberry Jam and the Pump Street chocolate are probably at top of my list.

Curating Talent with & SMITH
ROB LOWE a.k.a SUPERMUNDANE for Hawkshead Relish
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