Craig Ward and Xie Xie Tea Steep in Design
In the United States, we don’t really understand tea. We drink it from time to time and line our pantries with boxes of tea while we sip our coffee, but it’s not an institution like over in the UK. So when Taiwanese tea company Xie Xie Tea was looking to completely reconfigure their brand identity, they knew to go to a Brit, so they linked up with Craig Ward. “I’m British. It’s not something to drink, it’s something to do for us,” says Craig. “It’s a different thing, you know. The British, we have kettles and tea cups in our tanks.” Craig is best known for his typography and projects that combine surprising reality with expression, but with Xie Xie he directed every angle of repackaging, from ideation to font and logo design to photography. It was an entire ground-up operation.
As a design conscious tea brand, Xie Xie wanted to make sure that they were moving in the right direction. They came to Craig with an idea that they could make a space for themselves in a higher fashion plane. They had already been tapped by a high-end fashion house and wanted to use it as a jumping off point to help people think about their brand and drinking tea in a new way. “They were going to be giving boxes away in Alexander Wang’s Fashion Week gift bag, which was sort of going to the right people,” says Craig. “They wanted a bit more of a premium, fashion focused identity and pack design.” They have since been picked up by stores all over the world, including Colette in Paris one of the hotbeds of creative, contemporary style. And now Xie Xie fits right into that space.
The look that Craig created for Xie Xie is incredibly clean, with elegant lettering and sleek graphic elements with some added chaos. For Craig, it’s all about creating a balance. “The majority of the ingredients, even though they were dry, are very interesting shapes. And because the look we were going for was so clean and grided and designed, I wanted to introduce a little chaos,” says Craig. When water is poured into a pot of tea, everything swirls together in a steeping torrent, and Craig’s design reflects that moment that’s often hidden in the shadows of a mug. “I like the idea that it sort of washes around in there in the teabag, kind of floats around in the water,” he says. “So I wanted to get a little bit of that, the motion to go against a really clean design.” It required someone like Craig thinking about this brand and what they do to interpret it the way it needed to be interpreted. The best stories always come from the root of what a brand does, and Xie Xie tea is all about pouring water into that pot and making a great cup of tea.