Create. Reveal. Evolve.

Michael Osborne Design Celebrates 30 Years of Creativity and Design Innovation

20 June, 2011

San Francisco - San Francisco based branding and packaging design agency Michael Osborne Design is proud to announce their 30th anniversary this year. Established in 1981, the agency has created some of the most memorable branding and packaging design systems for renowned names in the food and beverage, wine and spirits and retail industries.

For three decades, Michael Osborne Design has created innovative and understated design solutions for clients as diverse as gourmet foods and luxury culinary brand Williams-Sonoma, to the Yosemite Conservancy, to the U.S. Postal Service. The agency has cultivated a reputation for launching brands to success while creating sophisticated design systems that are truly timeless. The agency conceived the design for Target’s premium private label food line Archer Farms several years ago, which remains a leader in the retail private label arena. One of their longest-running client relationships is with Brown-Forman, continuing a 16-year design partnership on the Jack Daniels brand.

A premier package design agency for the California wine industry, Michael Osborne Design’s breakthrough wine label project was designing and launching the Benziger brand for the then Glen Ellen Winery, which eventually became the Benziger Family Winery. Since then, Michael Osborne Design has created iconic packaging for Clos du Bois, Gabbiano, Geyser Peak, Robert Mondavi, Chateau Souverain and Silver Oak among many others. Renewing a design relationship from the 1990’s, Michael Osborne Design was recently called in for a complete redesign of an existing brand by Trinchero Family Estates (formerly Sutter Home Winery). The newly designed labels will hit the shelves later this year. The agency’s colorful and sophisticated label designs range from targeting the emerging millennial demographic, to appealing to the super-luxury market segment.  Additional wine industry projects have included brand identities for the California Wine Institute and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association.

San Francisco natives and museum visitors from the U.S. and abroad are likely to be familiar with Michael Osborne’s work for the SFMOMA gift store. For many years the agency designed SFMOMA private label graphics and products, from coffee cups and tee-shirts, to silk scarves, umbrellas and a line of cups and saucers. The SFMOMA museum store became the highest selling fine art museum retail store in the country.

Michael Osborne Design was the agency behind Kettle Foods’ brand identity and premium potato chip packaging redesign in 2005. Effortless for retailers to stock and for consumers to find, the color-block packaging system has allowed the Kettle chip and snack products to stand out on-shelf in an omnipresent sea of competitive products. Michael Osborne Design has remained Kettle Foods’ trusted design agency since the brand makeover, and has designed and launched a new brand, Kettle TIAS! a line of flavored tortillas chips.

As a young Vietnam veteran and graduate of the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (1978), Michael began his business in 1981 on the proverbial dining room table, and shortly moved to a single room space in the South Park neighborhood of San Francisco. Michael Osborne Design’s current space is a 4,500 square-foot light, airy, Cass Calder Smith-designed studio on Potrero Hill. The former stark, gymnasium-like space has been utterly transformed into a modern and open office, now bustling with the energy of a bright, talented staff.

The company’s first Macintosh computer (Osborne first began using a computer in 1988) serves as a focal point on a conference room shelf, flanked by Michael’s playfully ornate ceramic sculptures of that quintessential California sandal: the flip flop. Osborne was taught, and holds the belief that the design process should start with the brain and a pencil, developing concepts by sketching and writing before going to the computer. “Solving design problems on paper is becoming a lost art as design schools eliminate hand-skill classes in curriculums in lieu of more computer program classes such as Adobe InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop. “You really shouldn’t turn on a computer, look at a white screen and just say go”, says Osborne.  “Since many students today haven’t refined their hand skills in their technology-heavy curriculums, some of the rudiments of graphic design are being skipped over. In the last 20 years or so the computer and the Internet have certainly changed the way designers work, but it may be at the cost of the problem solving process. My designers are provided with sketchpads and are encouraged to hone their ability to think on paper through a problem solving process.” According to Osborne, Milton Glaser, one of the godfathers of graphic design, said it best: “The computer is to the designer as the typewriter is to the poet.” On whether pop culture influences design or vice versa, Osborne says, “Pop culture is certainly a large influencer of graphic design trends, but designers and pop artists also set trends. The work of a rock star, pop-artist de jour– for example Shepard Fairey – can have an affect on trends not only in the art world, but in the world of graphic design as well.”

Osborne graduated with honors from Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design in 1978. He has been a faculty member at both the University of California at Berkeley, and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco since 1991. After 25 years as a successful San Francisco graphic designer, Osborne decided to go back to school at the age of 55. He received his MFA in Graphic Design at the Academy of Art University in 2007, and was elected Valedictorian. Upon graduating, he designed and wrote Back to School, an impressive compilation of his classes, assignments and experiences as a returning graphic design student.

An influential speaker, Osborne has lectured at many universities and has been a featured speaker at numerous design conferences and events including: Western Art Directors Club and American Institute of Graphic Arts events, the A.D.A.C. Envision Design Conference and the HOW Design Conference. In the summer of 2006, Osborne was the recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellow Award. He was invited back to speak again this year at the Dieline Package Design Conference presented by HOW from June 22-24 in Chicago. Osborne’s work is on display in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1981, Michael Osborne Design is a leading San Francisco design agency specializing in packaging design for food & beverage, wine & spirits and private label. Past and current clients include Allied Domecq, Brown-Forman, Constellation, Driscoll’s, Kettle Foods, Kroger, Pacific Natural Foods, Safeway, Sam’s Club, SFMOMA, Target, Thomas Kemper, US Postal Service, Williams-Sonoma and the Yosemite Conservancy to name a few. For more information, please visit Michael Osborne Design’s web site at or contact Dennis Whalen at or 415-255-0125.

For interviews with Michael Osborne, images or general media assistance, please contact Kristin Namimoto at Charles Communications Associates or 415-701-9463.