Packaging Design Project: GravityX

The Biondo Group works with clients as large as international enterprise sized packaged goods corporations, and in sharp contrast, independent startups.

In the instance of GravityX, we worked with an American inventor who had developed an innovative automotive cell phone mount called the GravityX. We supported the KickStarter product launch with packaging design for the single SKU.

Gravity X explains their product:
We approached the mounting of a device from a new innovative angle. Instead of relying on mechanical arms that spread with gears and springs, we took a much simpler approach using the natural laws of physics and utilized the simple weight of the phone…

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The packaging graphics were specifically created for Amazon, where it can be conveniently purchased (and it’s a Prime product too).

We wish the GravityX team heartfelt success with their product launch and look forward to developing line extensions.

RFP’s & Spec: Hiring a Packaging Design Firm

The Biondo Group has a lot of design experience under its belt. We’ve got a good reputation, earned over time. We are regularly invited to take part in processes and “contests” to get new client work.

Clients have choices of design and marketing resources. As with a 50 page menu in a restaurant there is a downside to having too many choices.

If you’ve ever placed a help wanted ad in craigslist, you’ll know what we mean by “too much”.

With all these choices, we don’t envy the client’s job of looking for a design firm to partner with. It’s mind numbing to filter through website after website and locate the diamond. At the end of this activity the client team selects a number of firms based on specific criteria and issues an RFI.

If the selected firms cross the first hurdle, an RFP is issued next. RFP’s for the most part are fill in the blank .xls sheets that have the personality of a brick. We’d not want to have to rely on these documents to help select the creative firm driving design work.

During 2016 the Biondo Group participated in a RFP contest that had speculative work baked into its process. The prospective client was enterprise size, domestic and the project smack dab in the center of the Biondo Groups sweet spot: food packaging.

The project was a perfect fit and the timing couldn’t have been better.

The nature of this opportunity required we conduct an extensive speculative concept exploration, what we call a Phase 1 Design Exploration. Surprisingly the terms dictated that even if we were not selected, the Client would own all the work we’d have produced for free. In the event the client found favor with one of the concept’s we’d developed, they’d be able to finish our work independently.

In the event we were assigned this project, we’d be starting development at what we call Phase 2 – Design Refinements. We would not have the opportunity to re-do or get paid for a Phase 1 Concept Exploration. Finally, there was no guarantee that the firm awarded the project would get “all” the work. There would be no “design firm of record” opportunity.

What to do? Do we agree to the terms and produce the work for free in the hopes we’ll get the larger body of (paying work). Amortizing the upfront investment in spec work is the pivot for the green/red light call. We know based on experience that it rarely works out that we’re made whole for the investment in up front spec work. We can’t afford to fool ourselves, nor can we work for free, so we took a pass.

Bowing out is a heart breaker, it makes us unhappy. We are about doing work, not turning it away.

But we understand what is driving the Clients request for spec work. How does a Client know if a firm can meet the challenge if they don’t see the work? They don’t want to gamble that a firm can deliver the goods, so they ask for spec work. But since so many firms refuse to enter spec work arrangements, at the outset, the Client is not getting a full cross section of firms to compare.

Most busy, successful firms have clear no spec work policies; rarely do they have the time or team to dedicate to speculative work.

But there is a better way for a Client to select a packaging design firm partner. Do the online research necessary to identify the firms that fit the challenge. These criteria should include: category familiarity, design aesthetic, workstyle and culture. Geography might play a part of the decision; so only include firms that are in the geo area you are considering.

Select 6 qualified firms, schedule (15-30min tops) Skype calls/WebEx virtual meetings. Get face time with the teams you’d be working with. Have an agenda for these calls, make them count.

After reviewing portfolios and meeting the various design firm teams you will have a sense of who you’d like to work with.

At this point the field of contenders should come down to no more than two qualified firms. If there are more firms in your set, find criteria that allows you to trim. Focusing your efforts is important. We’d suggest a second in-person (or Skype/WebEx) meeting. This 2nd call is for discussing the project with the two contender firms. After this call, make your selection and deliver the news to both firms within a week.

There are alternatives to this process that pull design work into the process. Maybe ask the two contender firms to conduct a “paid for” design exploration. After a review meeting, one firm would carry on with the work they’d started. There are other creative ways of managing the selection process, that we’d be happy to share.

If you respect a design firms time, talent, experience, commitment and process; you will be well on your way to enjoying an important, productive, win-win working relationship.

To continue the conversation and learn more about the criteria that you might want to consider in selecting a design firm, please contact us at:  info@biondogroup.com

To view an amusing video on the subject of Speculative Work click below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=essNmNOrQto&feature=youtu.be

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.