Research is no solution package

A group of designers, researchers, and brand managers has voted in favour of the motion “This house believes that packaging design is stifled by research”.

A GROUP of designers, researchers, and brand managers has voted in favour of the motion “This house believes that packaging design is stifled by research”.

A 170-strong audience heard leading designers and researchers arguing the topic at a meeting of the Packaging Solutions Advice Group in London last week.

The debate pitted Blackburn’s creative director John Blackburn and Design Bridge head of planning Simon Sholl in direct opposition to Link strategic research managing director Louise Southcott and Nestlé consumer research manager Gavin Emsden.

Blackburn believes that brands are now “deadly dull. The more you analyse the creativity, the faster it disappears.”

Researchers advised him not to use blue glass for the packaging of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry – advice he believes was wrong. “They told me that blue was not appropriate to sherry… If I’d followed that advice four years ago, the brand would have gone down the tubes and the company with it.” Sales for the sherry subsequently increased 16 per cent, he says.

Southcott acknowledges that “the difference between good and bad research is the same as good and bad design”. But she believes that research can encourage and support creativity.

“If researchers are involved at the beginning, they can help craft the brief and set a context in which the design must function,” she says.

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