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"This is packaging design that generates enthusiasm" 2015-03-12
Award-winning design by Panorama

Panorama Design spent around 1000 hours on creating an attractive packaging for the well-known Norwegian company Bergans. And it payed off in many ways, winning the Award for Design Excellence being one of them.

A re-useable fabric bag containing an undergarment of pure wool won the Award for Design Excellence in the category “packaging design” in april 2013. 

“The Award for Design Excellence confirms that the design communicates well and is appealing, but it probably won’t have any greater impact on sales. The fact that our woollen products, thanks to the packaging, have sold way more than we’d ever dared to hope is mainly due to their quality, price, the positive feedback they’ve received and good exposure in our shops”, says Ronny Hammer , head of communications at Bergans.

In the citation for the award, which is given at the annual Design Day in Oslo, and which is only granted for one product per category, the jury explained that “ This is packaging that generates enthusiasm! It shows complete understanding of the user’s situation. Not only is the bag packaging of fine quality, it is also impressively useful... The aesthetics show honesty and toughness, and strike a fine balance between the masculine and the feminine.

With the aim of revitalising its entire packaging programme and making it easy to display its new collection, Bergans contacted a handful of external design agencies in the autumn of 2011.

“Our in-house agency had previously provided most of the designs we needed, but this time we decided to seek help from the outside. The packaging design of our many different products was not at all cohesive. It took all sorts of expressions, pulled in different directions. We wanted help to address this problem from a new external agency”, says Ronny Hammer.

A pitch with several agencies eventually singled out Panorama Design.

“It was an exciting agency with considerable experience of the sports sector and with employees who were very interested in sport. That suits us”, says Hammer. 

The Oslo agency Panorama Design has existed since 2001. Ever since then it has had a handful of employees, including two of the founders Morten Fornebo and Nichlas Tangen . Several of the agency’s clients have been companies specialising in sport and leisure products.Clothes for outdoor sports

But Bergans, which is Norway’s best-known company in its sector, was a new client for the agency.

Bergans was established in 1908 after the bicycle manufacturer Ole F. Bergan from Tønsberg south of Oslo produced what was presumably the first ever rucksack. Ole Bergan reportedly reached his destination after a hunting expedition, tired and physically exhausted, with a battered back after carrying his equipment and game in an uncomfortable way. He found a birch branch and bent it to fit the shape of his back, then hung a sack on it. The principle of “putting one’s sack on” and stabilising it still applies today. Just one year later, Bergan patented his discovery, a patent that came to apply in 22 countries. The birch branch was replaced with a lightweight steel frame and straps and the fact that this rucksack was later used by the Norwegian defence forces was in itself proof of its quality. That it was also used in connection with, among other things, polar expeditions, where it was exposed to extreme conditions, also meant that the product could be improved, as well as generating the best possible PR value. The Norwegian polar region explorer Roald Amundsen, for example, was one of those to declare his satisfaction with Bergan’s rucksacks, which contributed to the high status of the brand around the world. In English-speaking countries, the name Bergans became synonymous with rucksack, which was not all positive as it made it difficult, once the patent had expired in the early 1920s, to make a name for Bergans as an independent brand in competition with cheaper products that had emerged on the market.

In the early 1930s, production was extended to leather ski bindings and sheath-knives. In total, Bergans has produced more than 300 models of knives over the years. In the early 1960s, the company started to produce sleeping bags. In the autumn of 1967, 36 people lost their lives in the Norwegian mountains on account of bad weather and poor clothes. This led to the launch, by Bergans, of the “extreme anorak”. The popular Ally canoes, which were used in expeditions throughout the world, were produced in the early 1970s, and a couple of years later, the company added tents and workwear to its line.

The 1980s were a turbulent period for the company. In 1986, the Bergans factory burnt to the ground along with the entire collection of production patterns. Consequently Bergans lost a big share of the market to competitors and went bankrupt. Together with two others, a previous employee decided to take over Bergans which, in 1991, had just seven employees and a modest turnover of NOK 7 million.

A few years later, the new owners decided to switch their focus increasingly to the production of sports and leisure wear, a steadily growing market. As a result of the new direction, Bergans became a prominent sponsor of various expeditions in the 2000s, to the polar regions, to the highest mountains in the world and of the massively popular annual TV production in Norway “71 grader Nord” (71 degrees North), where the participants, under considerable hardship, make their way to the North Cape. The results were immediate. The annual increase in turnover in the first decade of 2000 has been between NOK 50 and 100 million and, today, production of clothing makes up 80 per cent of Bergans’ turnover of just over NOK 600 million. In Norway, Bergans is the leader in its sector amid fierce competition, while Germany and Sweden are the company’s largest export markets.

“We produce 1,600 textile products today, ranging from underwear to anoraks. In this over-established sector, we depend on our own products, which are characterised by high quality, good design and reasonable price levels”, says Ronny Hammer.

For Panorama it was important that the Bergans’ signature, as a company that prioritises the environment and is associated with outdoor life, was reflected in the packaging design.

“It was important that it wasn’t too plasticky. The design and choice of material for the bag should evoke the feeling of a snowy landscape – of being out on an expedition”, says Morten Fornebo, senior designer at the agency.

 The beautiful, re-useable bags are therefore white, with a limited area around the opening in other colours – blue, red, orange – depending on the content. The logo – Bergans of Norway – and declaration of contents, as well as symbols, are in black plus one other colour.

“We felt that the old logo was a little too fat, that’s why we slimmed it down. And the blue colour will primarily be used for the logo, with black and white as alternatives”, says Fornebo.

For those responsible at Bergans, it has turned out that Panorama Design’s remuneration has so far been money well invested.

“For reasons of competition, we never disclose how much we sell of a particular product, but suppose I can reveal that after the first five months of 2013, we’d sold as many woollen products as we did in the whole of 2012”, says Ronny Hammer.   

Åke Lindberg

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