Packaging design, much like all design, follows trends manipulated by many factors from negative media to lifestyle, to health, to fashion. It’s important to acknowledge trends and use them to our advantage whilst keeping our brands relevant and desired. One challenge commonly faced when first addressing a redesign is where on the evolution to revolution scale to focus our attention. To grow, evolve and progress whilst identifying and retaining key assets is a brand’s key to success. It is not only healthy, but also essential for survival.
‘Change or die’.
As designers, we face a challenge before even picking up a pencil, and that is to convince clients and those close to a brand to trust in this process. Most often what appears a small step change to a designer, is perceived as a crazy leap of faith to a client.
After an initial strategic analysis and identifying design direction, the first stage of design involves a juicy concoction of imagination, big ideas, trending styles and innovative details. As impressive as this can be to a client, it is often met with a combination of admiration and a look of fear.
‘Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision.’
Occasionally, designer’s dreams do come true, and initial design can carry through to the shelves of stores, and pages of design blogs… But sadly, more often, the final design ends up in a much safer space. Watered down and backtracked, until often becoming only a slight departure from the original pack. Brand managers immersed in the world of their brand baby feel much has changed, when in fact consumers rarely even notice! Many a wonderful design has fallen victim to this process.
So how do we convince clients to let go of the reins and trust in the design process, progress, and importance of change? A frustrating comment is when a client points out a competitor that took a complete leap of faith and departure from the norm, declaring ‘we want to do what they have done’… and by this they mean copy them, not pave their own path.
The key is to get to the heart of a brand, identify what their reason for existence is, and understand their mission and passion. Thinking of a brand as a person, and preserving the fundamental things that make them tick. This is the core of a brand. We should establish this core and keep it safe and untouched. The focus should then shift to breathe fresh life into the ever-evolving outer layer; the way a brand looks and behaves. Design should be fluid, ever changing and evolving.
A frustrating client request is for ‘future proof’ design, this term may make one believe they will save money by redesigning less frequently, but usually it just makes a brand less relevant to the current climate instead of more current in the next. The 2012 London Olympics logo is a great example of this. Designed to be timeless it ended up confused and irrelevant to any point in time!
Nike are a great example of a brand that keeps hold of core values, but flexes its outer aesthetic muscle in any direction it chooses. This extreme example may be easier to relate to a well established, on trend brand such as Nike, but really this approach is a great model of behaviour to some degree for every brand.
‘Step forward into growth or back into safety’
The main problem is that change is scary, and the struggle of convincing a client to let go of something they’ve already built, has served them well and in some cases is still successful, is real. But the key is trust and partnership between designer and client. We have a common interest of brand success at heart. Sometimes this can take a brand out of its comfort zone, but really this fear is healthy. The key is not to back track after that initial design stage of excitement. Not to meddle until the idea disappears, or the ideas merge into one confusing message. And especially not to listen to the opinions of too many people, there is no such thing as pleasing everyone.
To grow is to change, and as much as we love tweaking logos, we prefer moving mountains.
‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.’