THE BRANDING AND PACKAGING DESIGN PROCESS
STEP BY STEP
A good design partner will help you clarify your brand vision, and then bring it into tangible form. Unfortunately, few startup distillers have experience finding a design partner and managing the design process. An understanding of the branding process will help you research and evaluate design professionals to find the right fit, and help ensure that you enter the market with a strong, strategically sound brand design.
SELECTING A PRO
Selecting the right branding and design team involves more than looking at portfolios. Whether you choose to work with a solo freelance designer or an established design firm, make sure they are experienced in branding and packaging design, and make sure that their approach to design is based on a sound strategic development process.
There are many designers with attractive portfolios full of engaging design work. Brand owners are often seduced by style, and although this is one important consideration, it’s at least as important that you like the way they think and solve problems. This is hard to assess simply by looking at their work.
Talk with designers you are considering, and listen to how they describe their process. How and why did they arrive at each design solution they show you? They should talk about communicating the key messages to the target audience, and how the design they developed does this. Hearing how they think, looking at the work, and making sure they understand your vision are the three keys to making a good choice.
WORKING THROUGH THE PROCESS
Good design develops over phases. The initial phase should be focused on understanding the brand’s essence, its key messages, the motivation of the target audience and the visual solutions that will engage them emotionally. This is what we call design strategy. A strategic approach to branding delivers design that not only looks great, but also does its intended job well—selling your brand even when you are not there to tell your story.
PHASE 1: DISCOVER Y AND ANALYSIS
This first phase begins with information gathering. The goal is to develop a deep understanding of a brand owner’s objectives. The design team immerses themselves in the brand’s competitive set, consumers, retail environment and vision. This critical knowledge forms the foundation of a comprehensive design exploration.
PHASE 2: DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
From this foundation, a range of visual design ideas is developed. These design concepts are presented for evaluation along with the rationale for each. The number of options varies greatly by firm. At the end of Phase 2, one or more designs should be selected for refinement.
PHASES 3 & 4: DESIGN REFINEMENT AND COMPREHENSIVES
The selected design(s) are refined. Back panel design is completed, and all elements are presented for approval. If budget allows, a mock-up or tight comprehensive, showing all the elements in 3D form may be provided for final approval.
PHASE 5: PRODUCTION & IMPLEMENTATION:
Proper execution of the design is essential. Your design firm should meet with the printers and fabricators to establish specifications that maximize your production budget and deliver the best appearance on the shelf. They will then prepare the design for final reproduction. The final files, with specifications, will be provided to you for proofing and approval—make sure you take the time to review carefully. Your design team should also provide production management for the finished project, including attending a press check during the print runs of the various packaging components.
With the right creative team, a clear process and good communication, the development of your brand identity can be one of the most exciting and rewarding steps in launching your product. Most people have the mistaken notion that great design comes from talent or a stroke of inspiration. In reality, great design is the result of a clear strategy and a well-managed process. Only with these two things in place can we focus our creativity on designing a compelling package that grabs the eye of consumers and captures their hearts, turning a curious prospect into a loyal fan and champion for your brand.