I was privileged to be involved in a recent debate on the notion that “This house believes that packaging designers are scared of innovation”, which brought me to evaluate the state of the industry.
With reference to Patrick Argent’s letter (DW 23 October), although I concede that designers must build up relationships with their clients as consultants and not service agencies, they set their own standards of product values and communication.
Disillusionment begins when clients won’t listen, treating the designer like a supplier, playing safe, or not trusting the designer. We must become more strategic and get involved in developing the brief. Then the work can become exciting again.
Although packaging designers are bound by constraints imposed by today’s wiser consumers, and are therefore forced to uphold brand values, innovation is simply being displayed in alternative formats, such as colour, shape and technical advances.
Working with our clients, we find the need to assess whether a product’s look must be entirely innovative, or up-dated to provide on-going appeal. From the drinks trade perspective, Bombay Sapphire acted out its desire for change by producing gin in blue bottles, changing its look, but upholding the trends of time.
Some companies have elected to update packaging through its structure. Polo mints, having established the brand as the mint with the hole, were then able to innovate through not only marketing the hole, but then moving on to create miniature Polos.
Innovation can be seen throughout countless aspects of every industry, despite the fact it may no longer be as garish and noticeable as it may have been in the past. This does not make design comparable to a modern-day version of the Emperor’s New Clothes as suggested by Argent. It is intelligent and, in many cases, highly humourous.
I spend some of my time teaching. I have witnessed some of the most exciting new ideas and designs I have ever seen, and feel safe in the knowledge that such innovation will continue long after I, like John Gorham, feel that my work is done.