Archive for packaging

Jeff Kleinsmith on the New Wave of Music Design

In the last three decades we’ve witnessed the demise of cassette tapes, the rise and fall of CDs, and the near end and now re-emergence of LPs. And through it all, Jeff Kleinsmith, creative director at Sub Pop Records, has pivoted at each turn, adapting and changing with the times.

He started at the Seattle-based record label when bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves. Not only was the music transitioning from hair bands to grunge, but the way music was played and packaged was changing dramatically, and it still is. Here, we talk to Kleinsmith about how his job has shifted and transitioned over the years, and what it’s like to work with musicians on their albums.

You’ve said that working in rock n’roll is a dream job some days and some days it’s the same as any other in-house gig. Tell me a little about that.

Well it’s funny. I do talks and I teach students, and I always get asked if this is my dream job. It is a dream job. I still feel that way after 23 years, frankly! But, I have to laugh at the notion that all we do is design album covers and go to rock shows. We’re doing a ton of behind the scenes stuff like creating very specific digital marketing tools or designing shrink wrap stickers, or editing catalog pages for a distributor. I think that’s not what these students are thinking of when they ask about the music industry. They’re thinking of Nirvana or Father John Misty covers or something. But that’s actually a pretty small part of our day-to-day job—creating the cover that is. Look, we deal with meetings, and last-minute crap, and clients not liking our mockups, just like anyone else. It’s the same stuff you would complain about if you were in a corporate job. Read the rest of the interview here.

Developing Successful Identities for a Mr. & Mrs.

If you’re an identity designer, the most critical function in the beginning of the project is research—getting to know your client’s brand inside and out, as well as the competition, and some of that involves what Sharon Werner, principal of Werner Design Werks in Minneapolis, Minn., calls “feet on the ground.” This is especially true when working on a start-up brand, like Mr. Mak’s Ginbao, a new wellness drink that is based on a traditional Chinese recipe made from natural ingredients.

Werner and her team spent the day in New York’s Chinatown with the Mak family, even enjoying a traditional Chinese lunch prepared by Mrs. Mak. “We walked the streets of New York and looked at brands they liked and disliked in the same category,” Werner explains. “When it’s a startup we want the identity and the brand to feel true to who they are, and the only way to do that is through an intensive immersion and getting to know them. We want to understand who they are compared to their competitors; what they’ll offer that others don’t; what their personal beliefs are and how those will translate to their business and product.”

A challenge with developing brand identities for start ups is determining what will work past the first year, which is sometimes hard for clients to envision. “We’re building for a future, which means we’re asking the ‘what if’ questions—What if you add more flavors? What if you add 100 employees? What if you sell the company?” she says. “We want to build an identity that can grow with them and is fluid enough to adapt if the ‘what if’ becomes ‘What do we do now?’” Read the rest of the story here.

Tosh Hall: Stop Redesigning Brands Every Few Years!

Tosh Hall has a problem with companies that try to redefine themselves every three years, and the agencies that convince them to do it. In a world of constant change and upheaval, isn’t it comforting to be able to pick out your favorite brand of cereal on the shelf because of its easily identifiable colors and markings? When brands do big overhauls there’s always the risk they will alienate customers, so why take this chance? Hall will tell you, stick to what works.

As global executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie in New York, he knows a thing or two about this. He is responsible for the creative and strategic output of the agency for clients like Budweiser, Wheaties, Kashi, and Stella Artois. Previously, he was the creative director at Landor Associates. Although his resume is envy-inspiring to any young designer, he took the circuitous route to his career destination.

Hall studied economics and journalism in college, but ended up as a publication designer right out of college. Through the journalism school at the University of North Carolina, he learned how to lay out publications, and landed his first job at the UNC Press. He recalls working with the “craggy pressman” with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and ink smeared on his hands and shirt saying to him: “You can’t have twelve colors, dummy. Let me show you the four-color process.” Hall loved that entire experience and how it helped to shape him as a designer, though he admits that he had the worst portfolio when he moved to New York. “I found the transition to the real design world very difficult. It was a harsh wake-up call.”

Last month, Hall gave a presentation at the HOW Live Design Conference called “Dear Designers: Please Stop!” where he addressed the mistake of rebranding too often. Here he elaborates on that, and points to the most publicized brand overhaul failure in modern times and how that rocked the industry.

Why is it so wrong to redesign a brand every few years?

Well, I think it’s a bigger macro problem with marketing and companies in general. A lot of the companies that we work with, we’ve had long-term relationships with, and they often look to us as being the brand guardian. In some ways, your agency partners know more about your brand than the branders, the marketers, and the clients do. And I think because of a lot of the things that have happened in recent years—looking to drive performance quarterly, instead of looking at things over decades and over quarter-centuries—people want to make an impact very quickly. Especially on the client side.

Often people in marketing come in and they’re given a role in branding or packaging or advertising, and they have to make an impact, and they have to do it quickly, and then they move on to the next part of their career. And rarely do we see clients that stay on brands for long periods of time. I think the reason is because it reflects the marketing side of the clients we work with.

We have to constantly educate them, that it’s best for the brand to go in a long-term direction of health and growth instead of zigging, zagging back and forth between whatever the marketing plan du jour is, and a hope for short-term success.

Read the reset of the interview here.

Budweiser brand update by JKR.

Wink. Thyme. Scentsational.

For nearly three decades, Thymes has applied artisan craftsmanship to enriching the quality of daily experience through naturally-derived scents. Its fragrances are composed at its on-site fragrance studio, where perfumers blend nature, art, and science to create products that soothe and delight us. For the past three years, Wink in Minneapolis, has been helping the company integrate its message across its brand identity through artistic quality photography, integrated website design, product catalogs, and brand packaging. It is an aesthetic that celebrates the natural, botanical, and organic. Read the rest here.

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Loyalty & the Rebranding Process: Celestial Seasonings

Celestial Seasonings has led the herbal tea brand category since its inception, 45 years ago. It boasts a legion of loyal brand fans who love everything about the brand from its many tea flavors to its iconic and lovable illustrations on the packaging. But, as with any beloved brand, change is inevitable, and Celestial Seasonings was no exception.

Tether was hired to reposition the brand without losing its core consumer base. Stanley Hainsworth, Tether’s Chief Creative Officer, acknowledges, “Our challenge was a tough one: Introducing and attracting a younger audience that didn’t have a previous experience to grow from, while still staying true to the existing brand, and its loyal fans. We believed at heart, the great tea flavors and the authentic story of Celestial could resonate with both given the chance.” Read the rest of the story here.

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Command X: Design’s Ultimate Reality Show

Each year Command X, AIGA’s reality show-style, live design competition pits seven young designers against one another in daily elimination challenges, and is one of the most anticipated events at the AIGA Design Conference. Last week we introduced you to the contestants, and just a few days ago we sat rapt as the host, the ever-charming and enigmatic Sean Adams (former president of AIGA’s national board) and a star-studded panel of judges—Aaron Draplin, Robynne Raye, Gail Anderson, plus a special guest judge each day—took over the stage. Read the rest here.

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Command X contestants awaiting their fate.

Take a Whiff: The Allure of Great Package Design

Thymes has been creating beautiful, botanical bath and body products with artisan fragrances for more than 30 years. In that time, the marketplace has become flooded with competitors, all vying for the same customers. To continue building excitement amidst a stream of new brands in the category, Thymes sought an elevated, modern aesthetic, so they reached out to Minneapolis-based, Wink. Initially, they only wanted their catalog redesigned, but principal Scott Thares asked them about their heritage and what they wanted to accomplish with a new catalog. “We spoke about how the vision needed to evolve into a more contemporary look and feel. They kept wanting to elevate their brand presence,” he recalls.

So he asked them what they felt they were doing better than the competition. “They kept coming back with this statement that they create artisanal, botanically-inspired fragrances—in house—versus other companies where fragrances are created in an outside chemical lab,” he says. “Everything they do evokes a memory; certain smells take you back to a particular moment in time. So we said we should capitalize on that.” Read the rest here.

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HOW Chicago: How Sweet It Was

If you weren’t at HOW Design Live in Chicago, here’s what you missed.

What a whirlwind. As I travel home by train from the HOW Conference in Chicago, I’m exhausted, inspired, and energized by what I saw and heard. For a conference that’s now in its 25th year, it isn’t tired or trite. In fact, it’s one of the best HOW Conferences I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a LOT of them in the last 15 years). So, without further ado, here are some of the highlights.

Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, talked about the importance of being vulnerable and letting people see and know the real you. It’s difficult to be vulnerable—to open yourself to criticism, shame, or guilt— she reminds us, but doing so allows people to know what you’re thinking and how your feeling, fundamental facets of creative expression.

By the end of conference, I think everyone finally realized that I, Emily Potts, am just a shy, gentle, reserved design journalist with a boundless capacity to see the best in everyone I meet. Well, I’m working on it, okay? Back off! Read the rest here.

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Here’s artist Molly Z, signing her beautiful posters at the Neenah Paper booth.

Anagrama: Beautifying Mexico One Boutique Brand at a Time

Although branding firm Anagrama has been around for only five years, it’s already made a remarkable impact in the design world as well as in its local community. Its three founders, Sebastian Padilla, Mike Herrera and Gustavo Muñoz, started the business while working out of Muñoz’s house in 2009, but the firm now boasts more than 40 graphic designers, architects and programmers based in two offices—Monterrey and Mexico City—as well as another partner, Roberto Treviño, who heads the architecture department.
“We create the perfect balance between a design boutique and a business consultancy, from focusing on the development of creative pieces with the utmost attention to details, to providing solutions based on the analysis of tangible data,” says Padilla, who works out of the Monterrey office as creative director and client liaison. By breaking the traditional agency scheme with its multidisciplinary approach, Anagrama has consistently created unique branding environments for its clients. They don’t just design packaging or logos—they build brands (quite literally) from the ground up. This floor-to-ceiling process requires all the skill sets within the firm—architects and interior designers working hand-in-hand with graphic designers and programmers to execute the strategy across the full branding spectrum. Read the rest of the article here.
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Perfectly Imperfect: Human Connection

Although letterpress printing is a traditional, laborious process, and flies in the face of modern technology, it’s never been more popular. People crave the beautiful imperfections and sensory experience of this timeless media, and designers value the handiwork and intrinsic qualities it adds to their creative output. In this feature post, we show the designs of Felix Sockwell, Gary Rozanc and Chad Michael, plus the printing talent John Selikoff (Vote for Letterpress Press, South Orange, NJ), the craftsmen and women at Studio on Fire (MPLS), and Gary Rozanc himself. Read the article here.

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NPR poster detail by Felix Sockwell.