The Package Design Makeover Challenge is an exciting exhibition every year. Like previous years, four package design teams will be charged with redesigning packages for a real brand in the marketplace. The teams have seven full weeks to complete the challenge and submit graphic representations of the redesigned packages.
By agreeing to participate in the Makeover Challenge, the design firms also agree to let the brand owner use their ideas, if they choose, in refreshing their package designs. Here we introduce the four design firms that will participate in the challenge. In the August issue, the firms will have 2.5 pages to showcase and explain their new design execution. The design firm that is most popular with our readers will become the subject of our November Cover Story.
The best part of the Makeover Challenge is that there are practically no rules. Design teams are free to be as structurally innovative and as graphically adventurous as they wish when redesigning the packages. In each of the previous five years, this "blue sky" experiment always yields a surprising variety of brand interpretations.
EskoArtwork is this year's Makeover Challenge sponsor, and has agreed to supply the teams with a number of software tools for the duration of the Makeover Challenge. EskoArtwork has software systems, from digital asset management to 3D modeling, designed specifically for package design professionals. EskoArtwork's WebCenter, which started out as a communication platform for packaging, could be called an upstream/downstream solution. The software won an InterTech Technology Award from PIA/GATF.
Susie Stitzel, solution manager at EskoArtwork, describes it as a "blend between an approval, workflow, and asset manager." Although it does not start out with an asset library per se, the system does store projects as they are entered so that over a period of time. WebCenter holds a large store of historical data and becomes a source, as Stitzel puts it, for "rich metadata." It is an appropriate system for designers as well as prepress houses and printers.
WebCenter's Viewer component supports high-resolution approval workflows on virtually any structural and graphic design file format. Another tool in WebCenter provides accurate measurement of distances and angles, while a densitometer accurately measures each ink as well as the total ink coverage.
The EskoArtwork Visualizer program was developed to empower designers with 3D views and, more importantly, demonstrate the appearance of special effects such as embossing or metallic inks under different lighting conditions. This all occurs in a live interactive interface, with the ability to create a QuickTime movie for sharing with other project participants. This allows "virtual" design ideas to be communicated quickly back and forth between different parties in the production process. Tools like this save manufacturing and prototyping costs and decision-making time both early on and in the final approval stages.
Today, designers are using Visualizer in innovative ways that allow for additional time savings, because they can output files in a number of formats. Designers are trying out ideas inside Visualizer, because as Stitzel stresses, "It's a very faithful rendition of what the package will look like." Users have found Visualizer useful in presentations, sharing ideas with sales, and capturing the interest of retailers. One company created an eight-foot-square cigar poster entirely in the Visualizer software. The poster featured exceptional detail of the cigar band blown up at many times the original size. For more, visit www.eskoartwork.com.
Beach Packaging Design
Staten Island, NY
Partners and husband and wife team Randy Ludacer and Deborah Davis have built a boutique design house from their home on Beach Street in Staten Island, NY. Since 1990, Ludacer and Davis have compiled a client list of manufacturers and distributors that would make a large firm jealous.
When growing the business in the nineties, Davis established a strong track record in textile and "soft home" product package design at Macy's and Ludacer expanded his relationship with clients in variety of industries including hair care, home decor and accessories, toys and novelties, and green kitchen appliances (with the recent addition of Nature Mill). Ludacer explains that clients use Beach Packaging Design in different ways, from detailed planograms to extensive package design proposals, and their most important process is to ask a lot of questions.
"We don't have a spiel or special, proprietary lingo," says Ludacer. "We try to get to know the client and understand their business." Ludacer and Davis believe their flexibility has been helpful in establishing their business and that the best relationships spark when they come to a common design language. When that happens, says Davis, "You can hit the nail on the head very early in the game."
Davis recently developed and designed the introduction of a new brand of scent-infused sandal insoles. The Summer Soles company and its owner came to Beach Packaging with a pretty specific idea of where they wanted to take the new product line.
Aiming for an upscale customer, Davis took elements from the profile of a high-end design shoe as viewed from above. "We wanted this to stand apart from the drug store insoles," Davis explains. She collaborated closely with the Summer Soles owner and then let Summer Soles test the final ideas with focus groups of the target upscale, female demographic.
The Fragrant Footings paperboard pillow pack is unique to the category, and the saturated, bright inks keep the brand fun and lively. The die-cut in the front panel gives access to the product, which is very important in engaging the customer in this category. Finally, the black cord adds attraction through its intrigue appeal whether the package is hanging, standing, or lying flat.
The project gave Davis and Ludacer an opportunity to use a favorite printing trick on these pillow packs—getting a "full color" photo effect from black plus two Pantone colors. Explaining their technique, Ludacer says, "Besides the economy of using fewer ink colors, the PANTONE spot colors are so much brighter than CMYK alone would have been. Of course, this trick is only applicable if the photo is predominately just one or two colors (yellow in the flower and the lemon, for example)—and judicious color choices are key."
In 1985, founder Joe Ray named his company Estudio Ray because he was anticipating the coming multiculturalism in design and media. Beyond that, he simply liked the sound of it and thought it fit into modern European design fashion as well as Southwestern U.S. sensibilities.
Having established himself among a number of freelance clients, he envisioned his new firm as a creative outlet to balance his corporate work. With the help of wife and partner Christine Ray, Joe explains that he developed an efficient design process geared toward innovative brand strategy by asking pointedly, "How can we humanize our approach?"
Ray likes to have clients feel that they are a part of the process in a constructive, collaborative atmosphere. His painting and sculpting background has instilled in him an appreciation for the creative process, and he looks for inspiration in his clients, in museums, in stores, in freelancers—pretty much everywhere. His advice to his staff is to get out there and seek out sensory experiences that will nourish creativity.
In branding identity development, the visual is where things come to life for Ray. The brand or package creates a moment when the visual presentation both defines the brand message and entices with sensory appeal. "We want to grab the eye," Ray says with conviction.
A year-and-a-half ago, a private label alcohol company came to Estudio Ray to ask for help in defining a new brand for a new product. Horchata is a rice milk drink familiar to most Hispanics as well as much of the general market. Estudio Ray helped build the La Tradición brand from scratch for the introduction of their delicious Horchata Liqueur, made from high-quality ingredients.
The liqueur concept tested well even before design began, so Ray's team was excited. "We wanted to do something that was culturally authentic," says Ray. "We wanted to make sure it made people smile." The team researched how horchata would be served in traditional settings, like outdoor markets, and mimicked the large, ribbed jugs normally used. They also found that horchata was actually more romanticized by non-Hispanics than Hispanics.
For the label, Estudio Ray agreed with the brand owner that the product should be positioned as an authentic Mexican beverage. The festive air of the background pattern, the guitar and barrel graphic, and the lively type bring the message home. The easily translatable "El Sabor de lo Auténtico" touts "The Flavor of the Authentic" across the top, but the brand also suggests the beginnings of new traditions. More recently, La Tradición asked Estudio Ray to extend the brand in two new flavors—Tamarindo (Tamarind) and Jamaica (Hibiscus flower)—based on traditional non-alcohol flavors enjoyed throughout Latin America.
Queue, with offices in Chicago and Kansas City, was born 10 years ago after the successful brand launch of celebrity chef Rick Bayless's Frontera Foods. Proprietor Ross Vangalis combined insightful trend work with bleeding edge design to create an award winning product line. "When I realized how impactful this approach was, I wanted to incorporate it into an agency model." Today, the firm has a growing staff of 17 and the client base has expanded rapidly.
The proprietary process at the firm is the Queue BrandNuesm approach, which identifies untapped equity in the branding and marketing that span from website to retail. "When we meet a client, we try to understand exactly what the brand's business objectives are," Vangalis says. The firm applies different lenses to projects with an eye—or NueVuesm—toward emerging trends, turning the corner from today into tomorrow.
"We think a brand should not present, but engage," Vangalis says. Consumers expect unique experiences today, and Vangalis believes that the best package design is contextual, connecting with the right function and emotional need state to create that engagement. Each person in the firm has four different lenses they apply: 1) innovative; 2) strategic; 3) engineering; and 4) implementation. Vangalis sees the creative process as constructing a conceptual "play box" space where everyone involved play or experiment with new ideas.
Queue was on the crest of the emerging micro-trend of wellness in 2001, and Vangalis realized, "as this trend grew, it was going to envelop a holistic lifestyle, becoming a mega-trend." He worked to help client's capitalize on these emerging markets by linking their brand and marketing message to the wellness needs of their consumers.
For the redesign of Mrs. Fields product packaging, the firm performed an immersive exploration in stores. Vangalis noted that the previous packaging and branding did not align with the premium perception that Mrs. Fields had earlier in its history when it led the category in its gourmet positioning.
Queue brought the Mrs. Fields brand back to its core red brand color, realigned the brand image and logo to a premium position, and emphasized oven freshness with intimate photography. The unique package shape, solid structure, high-quality printing, and vertical stripes create a unique brand experience that stands out on shelves. The design engages the audience through an indulgent aura that activates the equity of the Mrs. Fields brand.
Queue creates Unique Branding Experiences that strive to go beyond the ordinary. Vangalis believes that in today's competitive environment brands must stand up and express themselves authentically. When done correctly, each customer gets the feeling that the package design is speaking to him or her individually.
São Paulo, Brazil
REX Design partners Gustavo Piqueira and Marco Kato both graduated from the University of São Paulo and started their design career in that city of 11 million. The REX Design that began with these two designers in a small room 12 years ago has grown to a staff of 40 that now has international clients such as Unilever's London office and package design work for names such as Knorr, Silk, Dove, AXE, Philadelphia, and Hershey´s.
"We have a really particular approach to design," Piqueira says. "We like to think that good design is more than just graphic design. Design is the best way to know the world we're in."
At international industry events, the REX partners have been told that they are not really "Brazilian" in their work because they do not favor any tropical cues or colors. The firm does not take offense at this characterization, as they operate with a spirit of healthy disrespect, even irreverence, for the prevailing fashion of the time. REX Design believes that they are hired to make a real difference and provide a specific solution catered to each client, and balancing strategic goals with creative solutions.
In response to the "not Brazilian enough" critique, Piqueira wrote in an article: "Being Brazilian can mean many things. The happy, colorful Brazil does exist, but it is different to mine. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro makes sense as a cultural expression for those for whom samba is an integral part of everyday life. For everyone else, whether they hail from São Paulo or Austria, it is tourism. Measuring the "Brazilianness" of a graphic project through its folkloric elements—explicit or not—is ridiculous."
REX Design recently created the global identity of the new LUX soap brand for Unilever in more than a 100 countries. The major brand novelty of the launch was a new Soft Skin platform that contains whipped cream as the basic ingredient and other "culinary" items such as strawberry and macadamia mixed in. REX designed packages that similarly mixed the culinary and cosmetic universes.
"We have found in this mixture a way to create an inspiring and attractive layout," says Piqueira. "The main ingredient, whipped cream, is not portrayed in its usual culinary look, but with its potential to arouse the other senses by the fluidity of its consistency and smoothness of its texture. The complementary ingredients appear out of focus, on a separate plane."
To distinguish the packaging design even more, different back panel elements align with each LUX Soft Skin variant. Female sillhouettes, full of attitude and feminineness, represent the specific concept of each product. Even the bar code was transformed into a delightful bathtub while respecting all the scanner technical requirements.