One of the great insights of Steven Covey’s book ‘The seven habits of highly effective people’ is his recognition of the human tendency to over-complicate and make things more difficult than they should be, both in life and in business.
Highly effective people are able to focus on what needs to be achieved and identify the simplest way to do it, or Covey’s ‘habit 2’ – begin with the end in mind.
Creativity has to be at the heart of good packaging design. The creative vision presented to clients should be as close as possible to the package that ends up on the shelf, while making sure it is fit for purpose. As the artist, philosopher and designer William Morris observed: “Nothing useless can be truly beautiful.”
In packaging design there are many stages to go through before the product reaches the shelf and these stages are often divided among different people and different companies.
So how do you maintain a control that preserves the creative vision and does not over-complicate the process or compromise the creative idea?
Let’s start with the core – creativity. What are the characteristics that creative people have in common? Passion and drive, the desire to inspire, to delight and to communicate ideas. They obsess over detail. They are perfectionists and control freaks. But it has to work – the creative process must always keep the end in mind.
Designers, illustrators, photographers, re-touchers, reprographic art-workers and account managers have to work together to deliver an inspiring package. Consistent creative excellence makes your reputation and your brand, and more importantly
it makes the shopper choose your product ahead of another.
As a creative house we care passionately about our work and make sure that the finished package is just as it was conceived. Most packaging design companies will aim to employ the best people in their field but that is only one factor in the success of a project.
With so many people involved, the trick is to get as many of them as possible under the same roof. At Equator, we get all our creatives together – all in one building – inspiring each other and working in tight synergy to create and deliver the vision alongside the client.
Their physical proximity means that meetings can be arranged in minutes, decisions can be taken with all the key players present and every stage of the creative process can be observed as it happens – saving time and money on amends or redesigns.
Too often in commercial packaging design this doesn’t actually happen, leading to project delays, creative compromise and cost overruns. So in the real world, how can we stop that happening?
Let’s start with knowledge and understanding. Get to know your clients and their customers inside out. If you understand the target audience’s language, values and beliefs, it is fair to say that you can talk to them more effectively. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But I am constantly amazed at how this part of the process is overlooked.
Make sure the foundations are solid before you build – be thorough with the brief. The client may think they know exactly what they want but get the key players into a room
at the same time and you can often tease out subtle but crucial distinctions that can have major repercussions further down the line. Then get the brief written down and signed off so everybody understands what’s expected no matter if the personnel change deeper into the project.
The briefing process is where a good packaging designer can add value and surprise clients with insight and innovation. Strategic insight is the key to bringing great design to life, influencing all consumer touch points, not just the packaging.
For example, when you’re designing for print, it’s essential to know the print method upfront to ensure the best results. Is it flexo or litho, how many colours?
Controlling consistency is key. One design will often become multiple formats, which in turn becomes a range, then potentially hundreds of products. This is another area where the creative vision can get distorted and diluted quickly.
The creative ideal can be diluted or destroyed by other people picking up the baton who haven’t bought into the vision or do not feel the passion of the original idea. They disregard it, value-engineer it and compromise it.
That is why it is so important to get everybody in the room together to sign up to the creative vision and to keep talking. Changes need to be communicated and understood by both clients and the design team. Do not neglect the suppliers and printers, make them part of your extended team and they in turn will help you.
Things will sometimes go wrong so make sure you have done a risk analysis. Control what you can, identify the pitfalls and avoid them or make contingency plans.
Controlling and delivering on true creativity is like being the conductor of an orchestra – to create one harmonious and beautiful sound and play the composer’s music as he heard it means bringing all the players together at the same time. How can you do that if half the orchestra is not even in the same building?