Monday, March 30, 2009

Packaging design-Holly Koons O'Leary

Designer, graphic artist and cake-baking maven Holly Koons O'Leary has created package designs for prominent local brands of food and consumer products including Bob's Redmill, The Oregon Dairy Council and Oregon Scientific. She has recently turned her attention to coffee packaging. Her craft beer expertise developed from consumption, an honest approach.

1. Describe the process for developing a good package design. What steps do you take with a client and in what order?

Define the following, not necessarily in this order:
How do we want the consumer to feel?
Direct competitors, if any.
Distribution (retail markets, geographic areas)
Price point
Rebrand or Re-Fresh?
Personality of the product.

2. How do you incorporate existing brand identity, i.e. logos, color, typography, into a package or label design?

That depends on how a client defines the points I listed in no. 1.

3. Do you treat package design differently than you would an overall brand and identity scheme for a client?

Not really. Some technical, logistical considerations are necessary though.

4. What considerations, other than legal requirements, do you see as unique for beverage package design, and in particular, beer package design?

Flavor profile. In other words, how the packaging scheme looks sitting on the shelf. This is not just for beer packaging but for food and beverage in general. I like to recommend a contrasting profile to what others are doing so the products don't get lost amongst other brands. Although, sometimes a clients intentions are to directly appear similar to a competing brand in order to lure a potential customer. Folks like when beer looks like beer. To me, a successful example would be Rembrandt Toothpaste. No, not a beer. But a lovely, sophisticated package design in a sea of glittered plastic, holographic logos and promises of the virtues of a well-brushed mouth. Which brings me back to "intention" and "competition" which I listed initially. I imagine the Rembrandt folks intended to elevate their paste to top shelf, which is where it resides. Elevation is not always the goal, of course. But a contrast in flavor profile (whatever the product) can also achieve increased visibility, causing consumers to gravitate to your product.

5. What impact does the package as a physical entity have on the overall design? For example, when do you recommend a special bottle or can vs. a graphical treatment of a standard bottle?

Hmmm...good question. And one I'm not sure of the answer. What I've experienced though is the use of unique form factors or "new" designs in cases of innovative products, brand elevation and special limited edition items. This is tricky and should be well thought out for many reasons. Use of specialty packaging may successfully convince consumers that a product is truly unique, enticing them to make a purchase or appear as a desperate and frivolous gimmick that only increases the cost of a product and not its value or benefits. Cost is a huge factor when special packaging is being considered. Not only is the cost of producing the actual package typically higher, but many increased costs are associated with such a change on a production line as a product is being packaged or bottled. It's essential to communicate EARLY with the production team to examine the need for additional equipment, machinery adjustments or increased man power that might be required to get a product to market in a timely and affordable manner. Shipping weight and space, as well as storage of a package prior to bottling/producing, must be considered.

6. For you, what makes a great package and/or label for a beverage? What do you want to see on the shelf?

If a package captures my attention and makes me want to eat, drink, rub something on my skin, look, smell or feel a certain way, then the package is good. That doesn't mean the product is great. If I purchase the product, then the package is even better. But, if I've purchased a product and it IS great and lives up to the promise of it's package, then I consider the package exceptional! I think packaging appeals to consumers on an emotional, gut level. So, that is how I like to design packaging...with my gut (and a whole bunch of other considerations listed in no. 1).

7. For some brewers, making the step from draft beer to packaged beer is a big one involving significant investments. What weight, in terms of time and budget, should a brewer put on the package and/or label design?

Perhaps go back to number 1 and really look at...
Direct competitors, if any.
Distribution (retail markets, geographic areas)
Price point
Then, hire a GREAT designer to create a solid design for you. No need for a snooty ad agency but this is also not a job for your nephew right out of design school either. There are plenty of fantastic designers out there who are affordable. Have a conversation with them and please be willing to pay for this expertise too. Designers are thinkers who can offer great solutions to make your product a success. Shop around. Get some estimates. Approve the one that works best for you. It's not necessary to break the bank but be prepared to spend SOME money. Otherwise, it will be painfully apparent that you were a cheapskate. If your package is well designed, consumers will see that you take pride in what you produce. That is important in the retail arena as you begin to develop a relationship between the consumer and your product.

8. When do you know it’s time for a new design?

Pay attention to trends. Better yet, be ahead of the trends. Or, go back and recapture/redefine something that has become a cliche. People like that. For example, I have BIG plans for the starburst! Really I do!!

9. In your opinion, what are three particularly interesting package or label designs?

Sophisticated, reliable, high-end but worth the price...
Rembrandt Whitening
Honest, real, straight-forward...
Vintage Beer Packages
Fun, unique...
Japanese Fruit Drink

To reach Holly, go to Holly O'Leary Design.