Tia Queen on Gangplank’s latest project: Bee One Third

We had a chat with Tia Queen, Co-founder and Creative Director of the newly award-winning design studio Gangplank, about her latest (and sweetest) project with urban apiarists Bee One Third. She gives us the lowdown on relentless prototyping, the importance of designing with purpose, and building long-lasting relationships.

Hot Chicks with Big Brains: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project at Gangplank?

Tia Queen: We recently launched an exciting project in collaboration with Bee One Third, the pioneers of urban beekeeping in Brisbane.

What began as a design audit and refresh turned into a reconceptualisation of their entire brand identity, packaging range, and ecommerce.

The new range of honey, honeycomb, and bee pollen is now rolling out across Queensland and New South Wales, and we’ve just received exciting news that the project has received three trophies in the 2018 BADC Awards (for brand and packaging) and was a finalist in the 2018 AGDA Awards. It’s fantastic to think that this recognition will help spread the Bee One Third mission across Australia.

HCwBB: What drew you to working with Bee One Third?

TQ: I’ve always believed that good design is grounded in a deeper purpose. Beyond beekeeping and honey products, Bee One Third’s mission is to spread awareness about the importance of insect pollinators for our food security. Globally, bees contribute directly to one in every three plates of food that we eat—hence the Bee One Third name.

We get excited by projects like this where we have the potential to bring together conscious capitalism and human-centered design to serve not just profits but people and the planet.

HCwBB: What does an average day spent working on the brand evolution for Bee One Third look like for you and your team?

TQ: From food packaging legalities to responsible packaging materials, there was a lot of research involved. Of course, we also had to get to know the product, which meant a decent increase in our honey consumption!

We visited various existing and potential retailers of honey products—from boutiques to supermarkets—and documented their shelving. Since packaging is so tangible, you really need to prototype extensively to get it right. Once we had a solid direction, we created our own “mock shop” where we could mix-and-match various shelf arrangements to test our prototypes.

HCwBB: What factors were at the forefront of your mind when you began designing packaging for Bee One Third? How have things changed throughout the design process?

TQ: At times, it felt like a dizzying number of factors at play. Bee One Third had already built a loyal following, so we needed to ensure that what we produced would be recognisable. But we also needed to elevate the brand to appeal to a broader and very savvy market. After discovering Bee One Third’s incredibly unique points of difference, we realised that these needed to be made much clearer on the packaging and throughout all of the brand communications.

One of their major points of difference is every Bee One Third honey is single-origin, which means every honey is unique to their hive source. These hive sources range from Australia’s most unique forests to our very own suburban backyard gardens. This, along with the fact each honey is unique to its season, led us to the realisation that Bee One Third honey can be tasted and evaluated similarly to the way we evaluate wine according to its terroir and harvest.

So, we took inspiration from wine labels by establishing a seasonal approach to the designs. Each harvest of honey now features a unique season of artwork released in sync with the Australian beekeeping seasons.

The artwork also helps express another point of difference—education. This is a core element of Bee One Third’s mission, so each season of artwork is inspired by a different educational theme. The first seasonal range (Spring Summer 2018) was illustrated by me personally, inspired by the theme of the ‘pollen path’. These illustrations are incorporated within various brand touchpoints as intentional conversation‑starters, creating opportunities for educating the public about the importance and beauty of bees.

We went through countless prototypes and “mock shops” throughout the design process, but our recurring mantra was to simplify, simplify, simplify. Then simplify again.

HCwBB: Who are some of the individuals within your industry that you admire most and why?

TQ: I’m inspired most by people who don’t let doubt stand in their way and who have the ability to harness the wonderfully wild nature of creativity to produce focused action. For me, this would have to include Brenton Craig (my partner in life and work), Matthew Haynes (The Design Conference & Analogue Digital Agency), Despina Macris (dotdash), and the creative teams behind Fuzzco and Sons & Co.

HCwBB: How do you ensure genuine, long-lasting relationships with your clients, and how do you hope this translates in the work you produce?

TQ: Time and wine! We love to linger (in a good way… ha!). Some of the best insights have come from tangential topics and stories shared in an open style meeting. We once heard DesignStudio comment that they start every project with an “I know nothing” mentality—we find this approach not only allows us to learn a lot from our clients but it also cultivates trust and authenticity. We often work in what we call “Sprint Sessions”, where we work in the same physical space alongside our clients to iterate and collaborate as a team. This usually leads to us being involved in the bigger business strategy, which ultimately produces more effective and authentic design solutions.

Want more? Read our interview with Tia in Hot Chicks with Big Brains Issue #6!


Answers by Tia Queen

Brand and Packaging by Gangplank

Photography by Michael Carrello

Questions by Emma-Kate Lewis

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