5 key Design elements in Chinese Medicine packaging

5 key Design elements in Chinese Medicine packaging

Milk Carton_tam kung_lite.jpg

This is a title designed for the Chinese Deity Tam Kung. It is part of the larger 'Football Tribes_Hong Kong project', and the aim was to establish a style and direction for the rest of the project. The inspiration was Tradititional Chinese Medicine Packaging from HongKong, and the aim was to blend characteristics of this with the naiyo style. To do this, 5 elements commonly found in TCM packaging were identified.


1. Limited colour palette

A combination of cost and printing technology resulted in a limited colour palette in a lot of the old designs. This often resulted in a few vivid and highly contrasting colours, or a selection of more harmonious shades of one colour. I ended up choosing a harmonious colour scheme, as these titles will be used next to lots of other images. I wanted to contrast the titles against these other elements rather than high internal contrast by itself.



2. Vertical Structure

With the tall box shape of many packages, it is not surprising that the many designs feature a strong vertical structure. This usually consists of a circle with the image of the owner/illustration, and the name of the medicine descending down from this. It is the obvious way to maximise the space for clear and strong branding.


3. Image of owner/trademark

As mentioned above, images of the owner often graced the front of the packaging or as a trademark. It was very enjoyable to play on this element with a big smiling face of Tam Kung


4. Decorative borders

Many designs included ornate decorative borders, which I followed but adding a vintage ball motif in the design.


5. Ornate decorative flourishes

Another consistent feature were over the top flourishes that embellished the design. Common motifs were flowers and leaves entwined around the borders and typography. Tam Kung has the ability to influence the wind and rain, so a cloud like motif has been used instead of flora. The excessive, decorative nature of Traditional Chinese Medicine packaging is one of it's defining features and part of its charm.

Most of the research into this subject came from the excellent 'HONG KONG APOTHECARY - A visual history of Chinese Medicine Packaging', a super book for any designer. Also came across these Skateboards designed by Zhan Wei - a nice play on the aesthetic, and these designs by Benny Luk, which are not specifically Chinese medicine designs, but share some of the aesthetic feel.

For the FBT_HK project, these titles were successful in helping define a style for the project, and looking forward to developing it further as the project progresses