Interview Richard Catty
Photography Laura Pausenwang
During the mid 1970’s, following decades of dictatorial rule, democracy was beginning to crystallize in Portugal. Meanwhile, self-taught scientist Gualdim Redol was formulating fresh ideas of his own: A revolutionary approach to medicine that focused on a new class of men and women from across Europe who were seeking a balanced, rejuvenating and natural lifestyle. In 1977, following years of research and experimentation, Gualdim and his wife Natalia Redol, a self-made business woman, founded Biocol Labs, in Lisbon, to serve the needs of this emerging health-conscious class. From the very beginning, Biocol rejected the conventions of big-brand pharmaceuticals and pioneered the concept of a post-chemical society using plant based science. Nowadays, the brand perpetuates its values through family ownership and focuses on developing products that counter the effects of modern lifestyles, which often include exposure to pollution, stress, electronic radiation, UV rays and genetically modified foods. Biocol Labs certainly sees things differently. More simply, even. And they help their customers to do the same, favouring a concise packaging style that contrasts with a chemical health industry, renowned for cramming an overwhelming amount of jargon and imagery into its products. We recently checked-in with Christine Pausewang, partner at Biocol, and asked her to break things down a little more for us.
As with your recipes, the product packaging is refreshingly refined. Did the design take inspiration from anything in particular?
Yes, sushi actually. Confusion only makes headaches worse. This was the starting point of our design – to create a remedy against the unhealthy amount of confusion that dominates the remedy aisle and the medical cabinet at our homes. Sushi is a cuisine of subtraction, and we applied that philosophy to the packaging design. We took out: the ego, branding, visuals, fonts, design, redundancy and left the bare minimum that you need to see, feel and comprehend when you are suffering from a problem.
The product names and descriptions playfully avoid categorising themselves as supplements or pharmaceutical substitutes. Is there a rationale behind this?
The Western world has forgotten that a great number of OTCs and medicines we use today are emulations of molecules found in nature, copied and synthetized for economical reasons. It would be fair to say chemical pharmaceuticals are a cheap version of nature’s pharmacy. And because society forgot about this, the two generalisations that you just mentioned have been created: Supplements (al that is natural and meant to make you feel good) and pharmaceuticals (everything that’s chemical based and supposed to cure). Philosophically, we don't identify ourselves with either of those two categories. Our mission for the last 42 years has been closing the gap between pharma and nature. We felt it was finally time to give natural OTCS & natural medicine its own distinct tone of voice and aesthetic, whilst sticking to our strong ethics and our view of the world today.
On your website you say that you want to make the world free of chemicals and silliness. Can you elaborate on what silliness means to Biocol?
Where do we start? Our bodies are not designed to take chemicals, so why do we take them to get better? Who said remedies need to sound like sci-fi characters? (Ozzel - nasal spray or star wars character?) If hangovers, post-party blues and other excesses are part of the cultural zeitgeist, why does the health community not take them seriously? If pharmaceuticals, hospitals, doctors and pharmacies are meant to make you feel good, why do we avoid them? Even more worrying, why do people trust google search over their doctor or pharmacist? We could go on...