Design & Creativity
February 14, 2024
5 minute read time

Sachet Archives: Exploring "Tingi" Packaging Design

Lex Celera & Ivan Grasparin
Photos by
Illustrations by

What’s behind the name ‘Sachet Archives’?
Sachet Archives is an offshoot of an informal curatorial project I started called Sachet Projects. The aim is to not be held down by a stationary physical space. “Sachet” as the name suggests is a mobile, pocket- sized initiative by me and my partner, Bencent, with collaborators in different fields. I can also say it’s inspired by the “menudo” or “tingi-tingi” culture of the Philippines. The initiative is pocket-sized because it’s the only thing we can afford, much like most of the consumers in our country.

Sachet Archives is a coincidence and an impulsive decision. I didn’t have a lot of activities with my Sachet Projects initiative when a Twitter post of mine blew up. It was about me going out of my way and actually compiling/collating the packaging I liked. Then I made the Sachet Archives Instagram account to become a sort of repository of the scans and a little bit of design commentary.

What made you decide to create an Instagram account as the platform?
Instagram has a huge design community given it’s a visual social media platform. It was a no-brainer from the beginning. The scans can be shared and reposted by like-minded individuals and design pages and that generates the conversation around local ephemera.

Could you explain what “Ephemera” means in the context of Sachet Archives?
Ephemera as in something ephemeral, mostly product packaging and printed matter like posters, pamphlets, flyers.

What drew your curiosity towards ephemera?
I’ve always been fascinated with images since I was a child. I remember bugging my mother to open up a sari- sari store up until I was 9 years old, and then one day, I just came home to a tiny store in front of our house.

I remember being excited about all the free food I could get. I did not have any of the gaming consoles like my classmates nor was I afforded the luxury of cable TV cartoons. What preoccupied most of my weekends was manning our store and just staring at the products in between customer visits. Maybe that’s how I developed an affinity for ephemera? I also taught myself how to use GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) when I was in 4th grade. At that time, Friendster was popular and I’d spend nights coding my profile layout and learning design. Those two things, happening at the same time when I was younger, intersected again when I was in college studying Digital Media Arts.

Generally speaking, what can designers learn from ephemeral design?
That design is about problem-solving first and foremost. The ephemera I collect are usually low-cost commodities, so you could guess that the design process for their packaging had some restriction on ideation and production. They had to find ways to work with flimsy material, how the product would look like on the shelves, the limited color palette and the ease of the printing process. Given these limitations, these unnamed designers came up with interesting design choices utilizing transparency, contrast, and character design. Some people would call it “kitsch” but I think that term is condescending. That discussion is for another time, though.

In an interview with Scout, you mentioned that the processes behind these designs were forgotten. Is Sachet Archives advocating for these processes to “come back”?
I don’t think I’m necessarily advocating for the “resurrection” of some old printing processes. It’s more of finding out the thought process behind them and utilizing that thinking into new design challenges. By reverse-engineering the approach to these product packaging designs, we might learn a technique or two that we can apply to new design problems.

The account bio explicitly says no to corporate moodboards. How did you arrive at making this decision?
We can go back to my principle of design as a problem- solver. I think we should prioritize the problems faced by the main consumers of these products – the general public. A lot of us in the art and design industry are guilty of aestheticizing poverty – using it as a kind of grit to roughen things up, for cool points, maybe. That is fine if you’re giving back to these communities or you’re affording them a seat at the table to actually represent themselves. It’s wrong to utilize their visual language while we exclude them from the conversation. You can use anything in Sachet Archives (even though I don’t own any intellectual properties) if it helps alleviate the disenfranchised.

I’ve seen so many people profiteering off a culture they haven’t experienced, and in Sachet Archives I hope to encourage a kind of mindful design thinking. Your “pegs” don’t exist in a vacuum – some of them are borne out of material realities that are out of your realm. I guess what I’m advocating is design that is mindful, sensitive, thoughtful and research-based. Design that is not only understood by designers but a more universal language reflecting the realities of the different kinds of people.