Design Champion: reel-y good pack design for Portuguese sardines


Frankie Swaine

Associate Director, New York

Categories Blog Design Champions

Last month, we celebrated The Big Picture’s 25th birthday in Lisbon, Portugal. We ate, we drank, and we shopped — because alongside being experts on designing for authenticity, we’re suckers for a good souvenir.


On our hunt for the perfect “I’m having fun in Lisbon, don’t you wish you were here?” gifts for our nearest and dearest, we stumbled across a small artisanal store promoting the history and conservation of Portugal’s fishing practices, and ended up with a taste for sardines…


Well, sardine packaging at least, not so much the fish in my case.

Interestingly, a number of Portuguese sardine brands have paired logos or iconography that showcases their heritage with precise graphic architecture, vibrant colorways, and distinct typography to create visually striking packs that have a unique cultural flair to them.

The Pinhaus and Porthos brands use color blocking, contrast, and hand-drawn graphics to create a bold, striking look that’s reminiscent of a Pop Art comic or Warhol screen-print.

Briosa capitalizes on Lisbon’s rich ceramic tradition, combining decorative tile patterns with a diverse color palette to create impressive blocking at shelf and an artisanal feel similar to that of gift-wrapped hand soaps.

Lucas vamps up the vintage appeal, pairing their 50’s-esque typography and pencil-sketched patroness with retro colors to produce characterful packaging worthy of display in your kitchen (ideally, in the vicinity of your SMEG tea kettle or fridge).

Meanwhile, Comur embodies a modern take on tradition, with illustrative flourishes that champion Portuguese history, vibrant color-coding across variants, and embellished age-callouts that enhance the packs quality feel.

And finally, as we strolled the departures terminal at Lisbon International we were accosted by the exquisitely avant garde packaging of Jose Gourmet. In a bold move away from packaging norms, the brand has adopted a clean, minimal box, but contrasts the exposed cardboard with a striking, artistic rendition of sardines (and other sea life). Each variant boasts a unique, characterful design, making them the perfect gift for the design-nut in your life.

Overall, we were pretty spoilt for choice — and with packaging this beautiful, it’s easy to fill a suitcase with authentic goods that celebrate and support Portuguese history, industry, and culture.