Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Packaging-Dean Lindsay

Dean Lindsay, Dean Lindsay Design, provided these answers to the questionnaire posted earlier. This is the first installment.

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

First, let me say that there are different kinds of package design: specifically, structural design and graphic design. Second, although the design process is similar for both disciplines, the deliverables are quite different, as are the unique creative steps in creating a package structure compared to a label design. The big difference is the inclusion of technical understanding and engineering within the design process.

In my case, I built a packaging biz around the structural design of the primary package. In the beer category, that is the bottle (glass & plastic), the closure (yes, there are alternatives to the metal crown) and sometimes, secondary packing like the basket carrier, multipack or carrying rings or straps for both cans & bottles. At one point in the 90’s, I even explored redesigning the metal can (remember Coke’s curvy can?).

I'll agree that package design usually means label design. Brand graphics should be an integral part of creating a new package innovation but graphic design usually follows along its own path once the structure and technical requirements for package manufacturing, handling, labeling, etc are developed.

Having said that, I think the basic design process steps are pretty much the same for any new package, whether it's structure or brand graphics: understand marketing goals & the target consumers; determine the technical constraints (including packaging costs & margins); agree on criteria for evaluating designs; allow time to create and develop a range of top designs; & test these designs with consumers; and finally, bravely commit resources to the new package roll-out.

These process steps may sound like a good plan but we all know how easy it is to make a list; and how important the maturity, experience and personalities of the various team members in different packaging disciplines can make (or break) a smooth project. And then there's just plain good luck.

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

First, there's the marketing rule that a new package needs to protect its brand equity, which includes all of your design elements. I’ve come to believe that this is code for 'its always been this way so present it that way' (and call it innovation?). Then there's the designer’s hope that with any new package design, there's an opportunity to improve the design presentation of the brand, and in turn, the consumer's experience with the package and the product. I call this intersection of hopeful design thinking the 'sweet spot'. I try to inject that sweet spot into any new package whenever I can—sometimes below the surface of the package—literally.

For example, think about an embossed logo on a glass bottle, or subtle label finishes, colors and materials that consumers can touch, feel and see while they are consuming the product. If its done right, the result can be a memorable, emotional connection with the package—that’s the ‘sweet spot’. And dont forget the other package structurals: think how the shape of the package, or the cut of the label, or the way bottle looks in the basket carrier, or even the way the package closure is opened---each of these design elements can enhance the brand identity (or in the case of Coke, Grolsch, Perrier, et al, how the package shape can become the brand identity).

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

For consumer products in general and for beer especially, packaging at the point of purchase IS the brand identity. In fact, on shelf, package design has a laser-like quality in its ability to entice a consumer to purchase the product in a matter of seconds. Concurrently, if the package design is weak compared to a competitor, consumers will always go for the more engaging design. There's no room for egocentric design fantasies or marketing mistakes. Package design isn't about the designer or the marketing manager; it's about meeting the consumers’ expectations through appropriate communication decisions that differentiate the brand.

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

For beverage packaging in general, it seems to be about the bottle design and the label. Sorry, but bottled water tastes like water to me, whether the bottle is round or square. I remember designing the first Gatorade sport bottle in the early 90’s. We used the same push-pull closure that was used on floor wax, because it was available, it was novel and it seemed to be a more convenient way to dispense the product. In those days, who knew? In the last decade, there is an ever-increasing need to differentiate beverage brands on shelf since the category is huge (again, who knew?). New filling technologies, package materials, closure systems, molding techniques, label styles and design savvy have opened wide packaging opportunities. There are a lot of cool bottles out there.

Beer package design is a little different, and is an integral part of the consumer’s experience with the product. Whether at the tavern bar, the restaurant table or at the supermarket, the package presentation of the beverage at each venue is usually different, and requires design support for a unique market positioning. Think about your feelings while imbibing a chilled brew at a favorite restaurant or bar, compared to sipping a cup at the ball game. On-premise, the icy bottle is placed in front of you for your inspection; the relationship with the package and the brand has started. Sound like romance? You bet. Don't miss an opportunity to enhance the experience through design when expectations are high, as they are with niche and craft beer products.

Dean Lindsay – BIOGRAPHY (3/2009)

Dean Lindsay is currently a design consultant specializing in structural packaging design innovation and brand development. Dean offers over 30 years of strategic creative design experience.

Dean is the founder of Dean Lindsay Design, Inc., a Chicago industrial design firm specializing in package innovation and development. Dean’s company lead major design initiatives for clients in various product categories including Pepsi-Cola, Kraft Foods, Gerber Products, Miller Brewing, ConAgra, Unilever and Bristol Meyers Squibb. Previous to starting Dean Lindsay in 2003, Dean was co-founder and Principal at Kornick Lindsay for 22 years.

Dean has directed the design and development of product and package innovations that significantly contributed to his clients’ sales and profits. Dean holds over 50 patents for structural package designs and has worked on global brands in Europe and Asia.

Dean started his design career with Container Corporation of America in Chicago. He holds a graduate degree in Industrial Design and an undergraduate degree in Medical Illustration from The Ohio State University.

Dean Lindsay Design, Inc.
808 Chestnut Avenue
Wilmette, Illinois 60091
dean at deanlindsaydesign dot com