Spend time around Charles Biondo and you are going to hear a design story or two. For the most part they are centered on the topic of Packaging Design. Admitting freely that “my life is my business” one can appreciate how much time and effort he has dedicated to the specialty of Packaging Design.

In a freewheeling talk this past week, Charlie shared some thoughts regarding the firm’s work, specifically in regards to “testing”. Out of the conversation, I snagged a few insightful tidbits to share.

As background, over the past year we’ve been involved in projects, large and small, where consumer testing was an important piece of a client program. In a few of these instances, research was conducted, objectives were formulated, design work was developed and tested – only to find out that something was amiss.

We’d followed the insights that research offered, we made the modifications and revisions that were needed to bring our work into alignment with the research POV – but the consumer didn’t react as intended. The programs didn’t take off.

Biondo was not alone. Peers who serve the same client had similar things happen. It was frustrating for all involved. It’s not the first time that research, the consumer and design all haven’t been in perfect alignment in context of a packaging design project, but it was the latest example and it sparked conversations aplenty.

The action got Charlie talking – and from that short talk, I caught three observations that we’d all do well to heed.

“Designing for a brand and designing for testing are often two different things”

While this is not a new observation or consideration for packaging designers or clients, it is important to keep it in mind. Designing for the consumer is what is important and although testing is often valuable for gathering directional information and big picture considerations – it is still a human, with a need who stops at POS and selects a product to purchase and bring home – that’s who we should be working to serve.

“ Everyone gets hung up on something…”

Each of us has our own aesthetic sense. Packaging Design is an easy area for nearly any person to get involved; it is largely subjective, wholly visual and in most instances, not grounded in quantitative science. Opinions are often what make or break programs – and this is why it is important to have someone experienced and senior on a development team, who is able to pull a group back so they can see the bigger picture.

“Too many people get involved, ideas get fuzzy and there is no singular focus. Someone needs to drive”

We all want to make our mark, to leave our impression on the world. For Product Marketing management, changing the product’s package appearance is a great way to do that. The challenge therein lies that to accomplish that work in most organizations require a number of approvals and decision makers. The more people that get involved, the more complex a task becomes, the less distinct the vision becomes and so we are left with a solution that is created by consensus. Rarely are those types of solutions inspired.