"Something mums could happily drink in public": How to design a CBD drink with mass appeal

Why Common Water isn't common at all.

You're waiting for the train in the station, and your throat's feeling rather parched.

Stepping into WHSmith or Boots, you see the usual water brands – but what's this? Something new has joined the ranks, a bottle labelled Common Water and 'Full Spectrum CBD', infused with hemp extract of all things.

Do you grab one to wash down your Cornish pasty? Or are you too scared to try a little cannabidiol in your life? 

The obvious answer in this scenario lies in the bottle's design, the way it communicates the brand in a way that makes knocking back a CBD beverage as normal as making a cup of tea. Tasked with this challenge for Common was The Clerkenwell Brothers, who designed an identity bottoms up for the new brand. 

"Guy and Julian from Common Water came in with a real vision as to how they wanted to be perceived as a brand with a brief to create a premium beverage brand that had impact on shelf, but felt discreet in hand," says Clerkenwell Brothers co-founder Faraz Aghaei.

"We'd worked in creating more mature identities across fashion and travel before, and had recently worked on our in house beer - but this was the first time we'd worked on a CBD-infused brand."

From the get-go, Faraz and company made a conscious decision with the client to stick away from obvious marijuana references.

"Refraining from any obvious hemp or weed visuals, we wanted this to be something that our mums could happily pick up and drink in public," he explains.

"We instead focussed on the calming benefits of the product, led by the brand essence of 'room to breathe' to create a stripped-back, bold identity that is refined and acts as an antithesis to the hectic nature of modern life."

And what can be more hectic than hungrily waiting for a train before shoving a pasty down your mouth? Blue is the perfect colour to calm you in such a situation, instead of an Ali G-green.

"We wanted to create an iconic brand that used its application limitations to its advantage. We had to use a blue bottle, we could only use white ink to be sprayed directly onto the bottle, and we only had use of 60% of the surface of the bottle for our artwork.

"We didn't see these restrictions necessarily as problems, but instead as an opportunity to change the internal design brief to accommodate the challenges, and to use them to our advantage.

"We looked at what other healthcare and medicinal brands were doing in this sphere with limited space, and took inspiration from their clear communications of the functional product benefits."

Interestingly, the designers came to use white ink due to cost restrictions. 

"But when we thought about the brand we were creating, it felt completely right," Faraz reveals. "This is a brand for people and the planet, for the common good, and if we could reduce our impact when it came to printing, whilst ensuring all objectives were met, then why wouldn't we do it!"

In that white ink you'll find Common's distinctive logo, the double Ms conjoined in a wavy, heart-rate measuring line.

"Every once in a while, the stars align with branding projects. The perfect name, the perfect product and the perfect brand essence all combine to give you an opportunity you can't miss.

"The double 'mm' in Common Water gave us exactly this. The way the letters fell meant we could communicate the nature of the product makeup (water) and its functional benefits (calming). At the same time, we could create a distinguishable logo mark that was simple yet iconic in its own right."

Once the bottle was out of the way, Clerkenwell Brothers moved onto the pack design, a stylish blue box that you carry like a bowling ball.

"We wanted to create something that was easy to use, carry and looked good on the eye."

And that it does. Find more work by The Clerkenwell Brothers on their website.

Read next: How to design for the budding marijuana market

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