Sage Abplanalp


"This program allowed me to tackle complex systems issues through design thinking."

Sage Abplanalp is a multi-disciplined designer with a passion for serving her community. She brings attention to detail and a genuine desire to provide value to her clients on every project. Sage combines a foundation of technical design skills with user-centered principles, illustration, and web development knowledge to create a wide range of projects. She has a special love for typography and has found inspiration from many places including the Bauhaus Movement and artists like Yusuke Nakamura.

During her time at LWTech, Sage had the opportunity to get involved in her community by working as a Student Educator for the campus RISE Center and later as an Instructional Support for the BAS program. This experience taught her the importance of equity in design and helped her discover a passion for education. Sage is seeking employment at a company with aligned values where she can showcase her skills.  She will also be joining the campus UCD program as an Adjunct Professor in the Fall Quarter of 2022!



Project Overview

This project was an exercise in designing for behavioral and systematic change through branding. The goal was to investigate the grocery industry, determine what might be hindering “zero-waste” models, and then design a potential solution in the form of a hypothetical brand. Throughout my research, I realized that the term “zero-waste” was typically more of an ideal than a literal goal within the industry. I found that the idea of eliminating packaging was not feasible nor equitable in practice, however, a sustainable model with cycles of reuse and minimal waste was. The following is a highly condensed case study of this project. The full process book can be found here for a more in depth look at the process.

Process Work


From the start, I knew that tackling the problem of scalable grocery store sustainability practices would not be simple or easy. With this in mind, I determined a high level of research would need completing before I could start designing anything. I started this process by creating a plan using the KWHL model. This gave me a basic idea of the methods I might use for collection and how I might analyze my findings later on.

From there, I conducted several research methods including field studies, academic research, and industry benchmarking. I analyzed all the data I had collected via an interrelationship diagram and created customer personas as well as design approach recommendations for business model, visual identity, and brand essence.


Utilizing the design approach recommendations, I finally began the process of building a brand. I settled on the name Blossom because it was representative of an intersection between biomimicry and cycles of renewal. I then developed a brand strategy guide which helped me define vital aspects like purpose, promise, positioning, and more.

I began crafting the visual identity for the Blossom brand by investigating the visual syntax of cherry blossom forms, both natural and designed. I then thumbnail sketched some initial concepts and moved into illustrator to mock up the more promising ideas. Colors were initially sampled from photography and refined over time. I also conducted a type study to determine the best fit. I ended up going with a humanistic font to achieve a uniform x-height across the top as I felt this set better. The final visual identity was determined after many rounds of iteration and feedback.


My project culminated in the finalization of my brand guide (click here for full guide) and creation of the trade show poster. All of the research and design refinements were reflected in this final guidebook. The trade show poster was created to test out how all this brand work could be used on a real communication objective.


I came into this project wanting to help our planet and wondering why we don’t have more “zero-waste” stores. I left it with the realization that “zero-waste” may not be the answer I was looking for. I had assumed that packaging was what needed fixing, and while that is still true, I learned that food waste is an even bigger issue. I also became aware of all the equity, waste, and safety issues that removing packaging creates.

I have a much better understanding of what needs to be done to help our planet now, especially from the position of a grocer. But with this understanding comes the knowledge that there is still so much more to do. I plan to continue this project in the future by expanding on the brand work even more. I would especially like to flesh out the illustrative style and how multichannel shopping would work with web design. I also plan to get more feedback and conduct user research on the brand as it is now, so I can continue to improve it and build a more viable model.

The path to a more sustainable world is a long one with no clear end in site, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep marching forward.

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