When Cytosport, maker of Muscle Milk® protein bars, decided to launch a new series of bars with a new package design, they tried photography first. But to represent their product in the most delicious way possible, they needed a blend of realism and fantasy. That was a job for illustration. It had to look as good as it tastes.

Cytosport called on me to do super-real illustrations of the new bars for their packaging, saying they liked the “balance of realism and fantasy” in my food work.

They sent me one prototype of each bar that I was to use for reference. I did take some of my own photos of these bars to start with, breaking, cutting, slicing, and distorting them to get a variety of effects. From there, it was time to venture into the more subtle areas of emotional and gustatory communication.

Yes, I tasted the prototype bars too.

The final art would be partly an image from the client’s imagination, yet the goal was a very precise look. My job was to add substance to the image in their minds. They would know it when they saw it.


vanilla toffee muscle milk bar

“Realistic”, with an element of “fantasy”, but not “cartoony”. “We want deliciousness,” said the Cytosport marketing manager.

We went back and forth with comments and new variations quite a few times, each one getting closer to the client’s mark. “Appealing, moist, textured, yummy, more chocolatey, more caramel, smoother, less grainy interior”. These are some of the terms we batted around  while I made subtle variations until it looked just right.

muscle milk printed packages
Muscle Milk bars in their new packages

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