Caroline Santos is co-founder and creative director of Mette, a design practice that uses design thinking to solve problems and create opportunities in the food industry. Designing for visionary projects with a knack for engagement and social interaction, their design thinking process helps leading brands and fast-moving startups realise their visions and achieve creative and commercial success: they’ve helped pave the way to £1 million of investment, they’ve been voted most inspirational by 25,000 industry professionals, and their work has featured internationally from New York Times and Wired Magazine to Elle Decoration, Icon and Wallpaper*. Co-founder Caroline Santos has over 10 years experience as a brand consultant and creative entrepreneur.
We chatted with Caroline about her business and combining food and design.
What led you to start up a business combining food and design?
Food culture is fascinating. Nature, art, colour, texture, aromas, flavour, culture, family, friends, nourishment, refreshment, rejuvenation - it fuels every aspect of our lives and is a source of constant inspiration. But today’s global food landscape is a VERY delicate ecosystem. On the good days, we have endless diversity, innovation, potential to make change. On the bad days we have fast-pace, fads and over-production. We strongly believe that applying design thinking to the food industry and its infrastructure will help swing the balance in favour of improving health, wellbeing, economic growth, and sustainability - as well as enhance everyday life and culture. With our background in brand and design, we can help realise the changemaking potential of the food industry by creating the experiences that bring it to life.
What projects are you currently working on?
We consult on various food or culinary brand, product and spatial design projects - particularly where human interaction and engagement is integral to the outcome. But at the moment our attention is mostly on Pop Up Cookspace; our exhibition kit concept for the food events and exhibition industry. It’s designed to help set the scene for strong brand stories while tackling the throwaway culture of the expo scene. So far it’s used by a variety of brands, from luxury retail and experiential campaigns to healthy living and community development, and we’ve produced almost 1000 and counting for use in Tesco stores. We believe that with brand experience-led, reusable product designs developed with waste reduction and sustainability in mind, we can support the creativity and energy of the food industry, while helping to solve a big problem in its infrastructure along the way.
What advice do you have on working with high profile clients?
However far up the food chain folk may seem, they are all just the same as us at heart, and enjoy good rapport and a job well done. Just be yourself and be professional, with open and transparent communication. ALWAYS be communicative. Even if there are a couple of bumps in the road, it shows you have things under control.
Be a problem-solver. High-profile clients can encounter a lot of stress and pressure because the spotlight is always on them. If you can make the process smoother and gain trust and confidence, you will become part of their extended team and have a great relationship.
Remember your worth and be confident in yourself. For every lovely client you’ll meet there’ll be another on the horizon that will try to chip away at your value, often in an attempt to pay less or pinch your IP. You worked hard to get where you are and you have unique skills and perspective - that’s your strong foundation and you must stand firm. Mutual respect from the outset is what will create lasting and enjoyable relationships, doing good work together and having fun along the way.