Staying Positive: being a creative firm in a contentious world

We’ve seen a few Companies as of late tout their “no a*holes” policies, addressing hiring practices and new client engagements. In what has turned out to be a pretty darn contentious season, we are sensitive to things like this, and so our attention was piqued.

Why publicize a “no a*holes” policy?

We can only guess at what is driving this salty talk. Could it be a desire to differentiate themselves and their “philosophies” from their peer set and to be viewed as edgy and sharp?

It feels negative. It makes us uncomfortable. What does one look like?
Who of us is in a position to judge or identify someone as being one?
And if you don’t get the job or a call-back…well… have you been judged to be one?

As marketers we are all for differentiation and positioning, its what drives our work. We like sassy and salty – but we also like smart, and empathic – and we really like nice. We demonstrate through our work and process that we value our clients and relationships.

The marketing professionals that come through our door (or Inbox, as is more likely the case) are also met with respect and empathy. We’ve all been there: waiting for the opportunity to present our case.

In the 50 years we’ve been in business, we haven’t needed one of these policies.

The Biondo Group is positively charged and we’ve found that like attracts like, and so the clients and talent we’ve attracted share much of what interests and drives us forward – a passion for the work: great design and strategic marketing.

So when you work with the Biondo Group you will team up with some talented, passionate, strategic designers: good people, who work hard, stay positive and are in touch with consumer trends.

The Biondo Group team ascribes to what Frank Burns (from the “back-in-the-day” TV show MASH) said:
“It’s nice to be nice to the nice”.

Rethinking Packaging Design Methodology

In this read we begin to take a look at the manner in which packaging design firms work.

Important considerations for a Client company looking for a packaging design firm are work style and process.

Design for business is a creative pursuit; it’s an iterative, process driven activity. One of the challenges every Design firm faces is in parsing its services into neat, clear, billable units. Design for business can be by its very “collaborative” nature – messy, with design and production activities, decisions, strategy, budget and thinking, all bleeding into one another.Read More

3 Keys to Design Success: Orientation & Analysis

It’s a good idea to start a design program like you want to finish: informed and strong.

Starting a packaging design program with a proper orientation and analysis phase of activity is a smart, but often glossed over and a wee bit dismissed step in the development of a successful design project.

Kicking-off a project is a critical moment and it’s important that all of the excitement and good vibes from an “approval” are leveraged to get events, actions and people all headed in the best direction possible – at the outset.

  • Do the prep work, get out in the field, dig in….

Before a kick-off meeting, if it’s a consumer good/supermarket product, its smart to not only have store audits, but also to send the design team out into the “channels of distribution” to get a first hand view of what’s happening at POS. This can be tough to schedule for a variety of reasons, but it’s a smart thing to do. It’s just too easy to be jaded, take the easy way out and rely on store audit images themselves to develop a POV.

By not getting out in the market, the nuance and context that helps a designer achieve a deeper understanding of a design challenge is given short shrift. There is also something to be said for standing in front of a shelf, in a store and talking to your fellow teammate about what is in front of you.

Yes, we surreptitiously capture store audits and do a hard edit before sharing them with our client during our orientation meeting: but really the Audits are for our benefit, the Client has spent far more time in front of the shelf, studying this category than we do. While we are in store, we purchase leading competitive products to study them more closely in our studio, thereby avoiding further stares from shoppers and supermarket staff.

  • Meet as a team to conduct an Analysis.

Once back in the studio, the team meets to review and conduct an analysis of what we saw in the field, the images that were captured and the competitive products. At this time we also review the proposal and client brief, making the internal orientation meeting a working meeting, necessitating we provide lunch – thereby insuring timely attendance.

After this internal working meeting we are ready to meet with our client and get their POV as well as “their side of the story” in terms of what the design team saw and came away with opinion-wise.

We can hold this meeting at either client or Biondo offices. But we encourage the meeting be held at the Biondo offices due to the fact we can have more of our team present and meet the client. It’s important to have faces that go along with the names and this is the opportunity to make that connection.

  • Craft a solid, meaningful agenda for the client Orientation meeting.

The agenda for this meeting includes client debriefing: state of category, business and marketing strategy, competitive analysis, concerns, caveats, mandatories and other information. From the Biondo side, we share our analysis, POV and observations. The meeting is catered (the food thing again) and as a team we break bread and get to know each other. Getting the people at the table to recognize themselves as a unified team is part of the goal.

After this meeting both Client and the internal Biondo design team have clear expectations regarding process and timing and know what to expect. This activity prepares the entire team for the next Phase of development, the Creative Exploration.

Opportunity lost?

Many Biondo Group clients have in-house design departments, or, at the very least a hands-on designer. These creative professionals often have a wide range of responsibilities: from web design and maintenance, developing collateral and trade materials, packaging design to branding. It’s tough to be a master of more than one or two of these areas of specialty, and its not too long until even a seasoned designer bumps against the limits of their experience and ability.

Design for business has gotten wide, very wide. No longer simply graphic and appearance driven, design affects and drives the interactions of every single brand and product touch point. Design is multi-sensory, multichannel and environmental, its: digital, print, product, visual, tactile, etc. It’s almost as if design has no boundaries, and so it is nearly impossible for a designer to be facile in all aspects of “design in business”.

So what happens when help is needed for a specific project or challenge that is outside the scope of “in-house” expertise – something as specific as “Packaging Design”? Generally, help is sought from the outside world of freelancers and single lane specialists. And this is often where things go awry. In many instances the selection of an outside design consultant falls to the Marketing or Product group to accomplish and not an in-house Creative Group or Designer. Unless the in-house group is directly involved in a project they usually have nothing to do with any part of it, including selection of a creative resource.

That’s a lost opportunity and a possible setup for disappointment for the Marketing group. What’s the lost opportunity you might ask? Well, not having the in-house designer/ creative team in on the selection and vetting process for a creative resource or design firm is an opportunity lost. It is almost certain that a designer can contribute to, and improve an SOW that an outside firm is responding to.

Think on it, who better to assess and critique the work of a designer, who better to prepare them for success, than a fellow designer?

An in-house designer will be interested in learning about process, team composition, deliverables, dates, milestones, methods of presentation and core expertise – all of which are important to get a true read of what working day to day with a design firm will be like.

So our advice is, if you have them, to involve your in-house designer(s) in the selection of a creative resource, they bring a lot to a project, as well as the relationship you will have with your outside design partners.