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20 September 2019


2019 marks the 21st anniversary of Equator and to honour the occasion our Manchester creatives have created a collection of bespoke foil cards.

Themed around Equator, the work we do, our location and the number 21, these cards showcase our designers’ unique styles and talents, while experimenting with a foil finish.

In conjunction with FoilCo, who very kindly ran workshops for us, the team experimented with different colour stocks and foils to get a variety of results and finishes. The team at FoilCo were wonderfully inviting and inspired our team with a tour of their studio and examples of how foiling could be integrated into our designs for clients. Skill improvement and experience of different crafts is something Equator strongly believe in, to encourage the best work from our teams in order to deliver the best possible results for our clients.

Foilco is leading the way when it comes to educating the industry about the misconceptions around foil and are pioneering new methods to help companies handle their foil waste.

We recognise our responsibilities to the environment, and how important it is to pursue best environmental practice, so our partnership with Foilco is incredibly important.  Foilco is the first foil company to be accredited and certified as a Zero2LandFill company, even using their surplus foils as fuel, contributing towards sustainable energy supplies. 

Foil stamping is a totally dry, solvent-free process so there’s no need to be concerned about nasty emissions, and during independent studies, Foilco foil was shown to have no visible effects slowing down the rate of biodegradation of paper or card.

So, when the recipients of our cards are ready to say goodbye, they can still be recycled with other paper and card waste.

The creation of the foil card designs represents 21 years of creativity for Equator with many more to follow and is another example of our commitment to innovative, sustainable packaging design techniques.

[With thanks to Matt Hornby and the team at FoilCo]


1. Nick - Nick’s design might be an open book, but the meaning behind it takes slightly more explaining. The book itself symbolises Equator’s search for in-depth knowledge over the last 21 years across various industry sectors, while the decorative scrolls above and below pay tribute to the company’s history and heritage. Nick also wanted to give the suggestion of a timeline that stretches from the past and into the future, alluding to the company’s future growth and milestones yet to be achieved. A passion for design is represented by the pencil and the Apple Mac. And if you’re still searching for meaning, you may just find the Equator logo in the mix too.

2.Paul - Foils within the food and drink packaging industry are predominately used on top-tier products as a sign of quality. For example, luxury chocolates or fine wines often incorporate slithers of foil across their sleeves and labels. For this project Paul sought to turn the usual business of using foils on its head and instead communicate through oversized, overstated foil balloons, as though part of an all-singing, all-dancing birthday bash. It’s a not-so-subtle way to say, ‘Happy 21st Birthday Equator!’

3. Emily - In Emily’s design, she emphasises the curve of the door frame at the Ragged School, which she chose as a representation of Manchester’s Industrial Era architecture. Not a typical design in terms of Emily’s styling, she wanted to create something which was a departure from the norm and to employ delicate line work which would create an elegant effect in foil.

4. Sarah - This detailed bacchanalian creation from our Manchester-based illustrator Sarah takes the numbers 21 and turns them into an intricate vine of leaves and flowers, punctuated by bunches of ripe grapes. The opulence of the ornate gold foiling looks particularly striking against the red background of Equator’s signature shade.  

5. Simon - Twisting octopus arms angle away from the viewer to provide a sense of depth in this marine life-inspired design from Simon Kirk. 3D is something of a speciality for Simon, whose projects often go beyond two dimensions.

6. Martin - Aiming to depict the number 21 quite literally created by the tools of our trade, Martin’s original spray-can character – we’ll leave you to give it a name – provided Martin the opportunity to play with the metallic finish to add visual interest and texture, while also allowing the design be loose and anarchic through paint splashes and runs. The overriding expression? Creativity and fun, of course.

7. Leila - Curlicued and saccharine, this design cleverly incorporates components of the ornate lettering to represent twirls of icing. The cherry on the top represents the company’s 21st Thirst campaign, while the delicate whips of foil leverage the material’s lustrous qualities to add an extra element of pizzazz.

8. Heather - Abstraction is the ether in which inspiration takes shape. Here, Heather has taken a minimal approach in her design based on the number 21, utilising a handful of simple geometric shapes to create what visually can still be interpreted as an iconic number.

9 & 10. Gavin - A collection of bold geometric shapes is used in a playful block formation to form the number 21, as well as a shadow of the numbers below. Since most designs aren’t printed in foil, for Gavin it was a chance to depart from the everyday and make a bold, punchy statement. The abstract design plays on repetition and variety to catch eyes and offer Gavin’s own unique take on the foil 21st Thirst design campaign.

11. Stephen - Stephen’s design depicts Holyoake House, a building on Hanover Street which now forms part of Sadler’s Yard, the original home of GJ Creative/Equator. While these streets and all of Manchester’s Northern Quarter are now subject to a construction boom, this building, erected at the cusp of the 20th century, is still in pretty good nick. Particularly fond of the ornamental railing, Stephen wanted to pay tribute to the Holyoake House’s history as the birthplace of the Co-operative Union as “a federation of co-operative societies for the purpose of propagandist and defensive action”.

12. Jack - Utilising his own background in graffiti art, Jack has brought a modern twist to classic lettering. He’s combined black letter-style calligraphy with street typography, which he has framed in Art Deco elements, in a tribute to a trio of popular design influences. A graffiti artist for the past 10 years and a member of the Equator team for nearly three, Jack merged a variety of elements to make a unique, striking design.

13. Alison - This design is a tribute to one of Alison’s most admired artists, Yayoi Kusama. The Japanese contemporary art figure is perhaps most famous for her enthusiastic use of dots, which Alison mirrors here. The dots within dots pattern creates the background for Roman numerals in negative space, creating an engaging, original piece.

14. Heather - This card brings a real celebratory feeling to the mix. Geometric shapes serve for confetti and streamers, and it takes just a moment to find the number 21. Heather repeated the same pattern on multiple times in order to make this design reminiscent of brightly coloured, shiny gift wrap

15. Alex - Born out of a love for type, Alex explores a vintage-style type face along with elements of 3D and a few ornamental flourishes. Since the Ragged School is Equator Manchester’s adopted home, this look plays on influences that could have shaped advertising and popular culture back in the day when the Ragged School first opened its doors. Regarding the foil itself, Alex said: “I wanted to try using Foilco’s laminated film in a way that pushed past the limit of what the process normally allowed. Using templates, I was able to create a two-colour foiled number, which had a great effect and was something the guys had not seen done before.”

16 & 17. Stephen - Another designer, another interpretation of the brief. In this case, a reference to Blackjack and the winning hand of 21. Inviting you to “Read ‘em and weep,” the Queen of Pop in her heyday teams up with Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades to deliver the lucky hand. These pop culture icons are fixtures of the music industry – a bit like the way Equator has forged its own place in packaging design history. 

18. Glyn - Determined to stretch the theme of 21 to its limit, Glyn arrived at a numerical interpretation of 21 through this dice-themed sequence. Glyn’s use of these monochromatic everyday objects to create something that’s instantly recognisable yet fascinating to unpiece is a great example of how one unique take on a brief brings a new level of interest to the project at hand.

19. Simon - This quality can also be seen in Simon’s second design, an optical illusion graphic. Not common in packaging design, visual dissonance can create discomfort on the part of the viewer – a controversial approach when you’re aiming for on-shelf appeal. But this challenge created the ideal opportunity to experiment with shapes and visual play utilising the variations in texture and light made possible by foil. Simon’s design pays homage to single line and overlapping line artwork, known for its identical spacing, such as in the oeuvres of artists including Manolo Guerrero and Dave Towers.

20. Andy - Year on year, the trunk of a tree becomes more solid, strengthened by the challenges it has faced. Here, the Equator logo is made up of 21 gnarly rings, representing the many challenges and developments the company has withstood and grown from. The delicate circles create a beautifully natural version of our logo, and the fine lines are particularly striking in foil.

21. Lejla - This piece from Lejla demonstrates her varied influences, including block all-caps design reminiscent of retro neon signs – a tribute to classic sci-fi in film and television.