Cannes Lions

Food for thought: visiting the Tolstoys

TRANSFORMER STUDIO, Moscow / YASNAYA POLYANA / 2021

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Supporting Images
Supporting Images

Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Deep in the Russian countryside, among the birch trees and pine forests, lies Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate of Leo Tolstoy where he was born in 1828. The scenery of the place inspired his famous works, including "War and Peace".

Tolstoy is less known as an organic gardening enthusiast, yet there he created an ecosystem of apple orchards with an apiary, that also contributed to the estate's economy.

Since 2018 Ilya Tolstoy makes natural juices under the estate’s name from the apples, planted by his great-great-grandf?ther with the idea: to physically connect a person with the world’s heritage through a great product.

As every story needs a conflict, here it is between art and commerce: the legacy of one of the world's greatest artists vs the fact it is wrapped and sold with a profit. Let’s prevent the accusations of exploiting the cultural icon from ruining the idea.

Idea

Let's refocus from the writer’s persona to prosaic life of the family estate: skip the grandiose yet obvious to find depth in the ordinary. A new story of Yasnaya as told by another Tolstoy.

The scene of the story is set by the summer terrace of the Tolstoys' house, a place where family and guests gather. Small folk figures carved on the porch greet visitors here. These hidden characters become the story’s main characters.

By simply flipping the figures left-to-right, the viewpoint turns from one of a visitor to the one of a guest: imagine yourself dining with the Tolstoys.

Look into the characters’ traits:

1.Transparency

From the terrace, you can see the estate right through the figures.

2.Duality

Each baluster is split into halves, dividing every character in two. This detail becomes a trove of meanings if seen as a symbol of contradiction: from the well-known inconsistencies of Tolstoy...

Execution

…to the core theme of this project and Advertising Design in general, the strive for the Real Thing. As Deyan Sudjic put it: striving for authenticity signals its antithesis.

3.Repetition

In the context of art and commerce, repetition is a metaphor for commodification: recall the main theme of Warhol, the most prominent commercial artist.

Meet the minor characters:

Letters from the family Remington typewriter, after 100 years of resting in the museum, now recreated and brought back to life. Colors: white (paint of mansion), black (typewriter’s ink); gold (sunlight, the estate's name means "bright meadow").

All these gather into a story unrolling on the package. While holding the bottle you see the contents through carved symbols on the label, just as you see the estate through them from the terrace. Website and Instagram further unveil the story behind the product's surface.

Outcome

Besides working as a sales tool (the first batches were sold out instantly), the outcome creates a new channel connecting people with a history surrounding Leo Tolstoy, and through it hopefully sparking interest for what the artist and thinker wanted to share in his work.

Public feedback ranges from calling it the landmark's new 'brand', to even comparing it to a piece of art. Let's not go that far, yet the later comment touches the question of what Design, originally called 'Commercial Art', is or can sometimes be.