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Twelve San-Franciscan-Parisian Macarons: Observation about A Gift Box of Macarons Traveling Abroad

The macaron, although a classic French confection, compacts female-centered language, urban-life, and simple design throughout different cultures and regions into an independent sign.


The macaron we are familiar with originated from Italy as a mellow and homie cookie in single-piece form without added colors. Then Ladurée, a famous French luxury bakery, developed it into a colorful and elegant dessert, which is made up of two almond meringue cookies sandwich a rich filling. The fillings are usually a choice from butter cream, ganache, and fruit jam, sometimes being a seasonal composition. The bakers and designers give macarons countless colors to match the various flavors respectively. Macaron demonstrates what food design is, rather than food art. When staring at a box of macarons, we can sense that the smooth surface and the slightly arched shape of them looks quite standard. Most of those perfect and precise macarons are purely made by hand. It could be industrially produced, but that is not the authentic one that caters to the majority people. Before I learned the recipe of macaron, I believed it was made in mold or at least with the assist on machines, yet it is not. Plus, the process of making macaron is complicated due to too many factors that need to be stabilized, such as the strict ratio of ingredients, the degree of whisking the egg, and temperature of drying and baking, time and humidity. Compared with any other desserts made without mold, macaron is so sophisticated and well-controlled, which I believe is an important value of design. The sense of control, but not over doing it, differentiates design process from artistic creation. Macaron is controlled to be so simple and small, but still has huge space to add characteristics on it.

Macaron is so fascinating to me for its inedible looking. My mom bought a box of macaron from France seven years ago, it was my first time eating macaron. The only impression I had was it looked like toys and tasted surprisingly sweet. They were 12 different macarons sat tightly in the box, and almost all of them were intact. The precision of thickness and size is the reason why they were safely squeezing in a small box even after a long trip from France to China. The 12 pieces were in totally different colors. I still remember that one of them was violet with glittering surface treatment. It was confusing to see their round and colorful appearances at the first glance. If the homemade cookies are wood, other desserts are glass, then macarons are more likely to be plastic for their variable choices of coloring and finishing and neutral temperature. How could I possibly eat them? Yet, the first one I tried was the purple party-looking macaron because of its wired and appealing impression.

Moreover, the macaron is the representative of luxury dessert. On one hand, the visually accurate and delicate image holds its value of high quality. On another hand, the artisanal details and crafted decoration elevate the added value. The foot of each macaron cookie, also well known as the skirt of macaron’s edge, is a decisive symbol that if macarons are made successfully. I recently purchased a box of macarons in Chantal Guillon. Its star macaron is the salted caramel flavor, boasting a tan basing color with a golden-brushed paint on the top surface. This hand drawing pattern announces how fancy and popular that macaron is.

Chantal Guillon

Macarons started spreading through America after its appearance in the Tv show Gossip Girl. Now, we can find many different bakeries, restaurants and even supermarkets selling macarons.

I bought a box of macarons from Chantal Guillon since it is the most popular San- Francisco-based macaron bakery here. It claims that it is following a French traditional style, especially the recipe. But I still noticed there were some unique San Francisco characteristics in its design system.

The interior of Chantal Guillon is bright and clean, showing their colorful macarons and ingredients in glass showcases and glassware. The lightings are plump and cute colored glass, resonating with the image of macarons. The furniture in either white or dark brown, which is cohesive with the logo, bearing modern straight and rigid edges.

Chantal Guillon has some fun decorative models, like small pumpkins and crows, and black and orange macarons that show the Halloween theme. Ladurée, the most classic and famous bakery in France, has a more vintage and girlish style. Its interior atmosphere is full of creamy mint and pink, with the furniture being Rococo style. The decorations are mainly the collection of packages and some products, such as candles and cosmetics. These two brands are both elegant, while Chantal Guillon is less romantic but more neutral and modern. This starts to sketch a relatively efficient and modern San Francisco. The customers may include more males than in Paris.

The visual identity language also extends to the packaging and logo design. The packages from Chantal Guillon has a pinch of modern and technology style. For example, the pattern the package is the collection of Chantal Guillon’s most classic macarons on white background, while the patterns are simple, flat and vectorial with high-saturation colors. This reminds me of the icons from current website and apps. The logo is a light green letter “G” with a funny twist on it. All the small texts on the package use the typeface of Century Gothic, which is also straight and simple. However, comparing with Ladurée, the logo and packaging includes laurel and full brand name in a serif typeface on a mint blue background, and it even has the package designed as a jewelry box with rose pattern on it.

When we look at the macaron themselves, Chantal Guillon has more natural color choices than Ladurée. For instance, Ladurée offers one of its classic flavors, Marie Antoinette tea flavor, the macaron is Tiffany blue. You can even purchase macarons with glittering or shiny decoration in some bakeries, but Chantal Guillon only has the tropical-fruit colors with lower saturation, which are more similar to natural food. This implies people here are more enjoying natural and organic food in San Francisco, even though they may just look like it.

Chantal Guillon keeps the original architecture of French macaron, but everything around the macarons are sketching the image of San Francisco: modern, efficient, neutral, environment-conscious. Furthermore, instead of the historical and classic aesthetics of macaron culture, it tells more about a fresh, commercial-driven and light fad.

Current Context

The design of macarons fits the modern city’s fast-pace life well, especially for females. The box I purchased was a set include twelve macarons. It is a twelve-piece gift box with twelve total different color tones macarons. The shopping experience resembles that in an accessories or flower stores,  with the visual excitement made me hesitate and addict to all kinds of choices. The multiple choice of macarons is one reason why they are so charming to customers, and slightly tend to cater females.

The prevalence of macarons reflects the contemporary urban habit and life. People no longer intake sweet for hunger or comfort, but for elevating the quality of life and rewarding themselves easily. Macarons also participate in more social occasions in the form of food or decoration.

The diverse color system of macarons directly caters the needs of food stag rammers. As a good-looking dessert, especially with well-designed packaging. It naturally pleases the customers. The small size and rich filling of macaron allow people bite it elegantly and chew it slowly with out the guilt of eating a huge-calorie monster. The sweetness and crunchy shell of macaron bring the joy of eating. Also, the dry skin of macaron provides a neat eating experience. Consumers can easily and quickly purchase a box of macarons and take it away. Based on these qualities, you can imagine a lady takes away a box of macaron to her office, and shares some with passed-by colleagues then enjoy the rest slowly and quietly in an afternoon.

Macaron, the small and light confection fills itself into the gaps of the fast-pace life and subtle distance between people, and smartly adopts itself into different cultural contexts.

Yunwen Tu