Hierarchy of Information: Why it’s Important for Packaging Design.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We’re following the instructions on a cleaning product package, and everything is going smoothly. Apply thoroughly in a circular motion? Check. Let stand for five minutes? Check. Make sure to check small inconspicuous area before widespread use? AARRGGHHHH. Sure enough, the entire area you were cleaning is now dull and discolored. Sigh.

You would think that the “warning” would be listed first, before the cleaning process is even started. I’m not going to get into the art of technical/how-to writing, but there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here that can be applied to all information on a package: Make sure the consumer knows the most important facts first. Getting the hierarchy of information correct could be the difference between getting a sale or losing it to a competitor. You’d be amazed at how many products we come across where this simple guideline isn’t properly executed.

Say you’re at The Home Depot® shopping for windows. Sure, you need to know things such as which ones offer Low-E glass, if screens are included, etc. But the four most important facts that should be displayed most prominently on the packaging are Use (new construction or replacement), Type (double-hung, casement, etc.), Size and Material (vinyl, wood, etc.). Use should probably be the most prominent thing shown/listed, but the hierarchy of the remaining three could vary depending on how the store’s millwork department is organized/laid out. Just keep in mind that the overall goal is to give the consumer clear and concise direction so they make the correct purchase the first time.

So next time you’re in a store, any store, take a look at some packages and see if they successfully tell you what you need to know. I think you’ll discover that while there’s no doubt that eye-catching graphics ignite the sale, it’s the information and how it’s presented that closes the deal.

What’s the Value of an Honest Day’s Work

There’s truth to the saying, “You can have it fast, cheap or good, but you can’t have all three.” As a business owner, I recognize that fast and cheap are values that clients relate to. But as a designer, I value doing great work that I can be proud of. As an owner of a creative agency for over 16 years, I see the benefits of both sides.

Before any project even starts, the best approach is to have open, honest communication with your client to understand what they value most. If they need a package mock-up ASAP, they’ll place a higher value on availability. If they want to re-brand their company, they’ll value quality and creativity. Once these details are discussed, you’ll need to create a proper estimate/statement of work, usually around one of these parameters:

  • Hours Used – The exact amount of time being put into the project.
  • Whole Project – The cost of the entire project from start to finish.
  • Monthly Retainer – A monthly cost based on the number of people and/or approximate number of hours that will be spent on the account.

It all comes down to quality versus quantity and finding the right balance between solving a client’s problem, doing work you’re proud of and ensuring a profitable business. Now that’s a day’s work that you can be proud of.

How do you value your work?

Navigating the Pitfalls of Creative Management

A sensitive topic that’s a huge struggle in our industry is how to give employees direct and honest creative feedback. Creativity is so subjective that this is sometimes very difficult, especially if the one giving the feedback and the one doing the work aren’t on the same page. Setting overall expectations is great, but how you break down those expectations and how often you check in on those expectations involves more process management than people management.

I believe many creative managers try to develop another’s skills by managing the person and not the process. This is what they get wrong most of the time, which leads to a lot of frustration and high turnover rate. Instead, they should create a well-defined process for building the creative, including frequent check-ins to ensure team unity and less one-on-one management.

Below are five steps we use to make sure our team stays on track. Before, during and after each step is an informal review within the team and a more formal review with the client. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect going forward.

  1. Discovery: Review what the client did in the past to see what did and didn’t work
  2. Research: Search online, visit stores, etc. and do a creative brief to guide the team
  3. Concept: Start working on ideas – words/phrases, sketches and loose compositions
  4. Build: When the overall concepts are approved by the client, move on to building all of the necessary elements
  5. Production: Once the elements are approved by the client, prepare files for delivery

If agency owners, creative directors, art directors and traffic managers understand they need to check in with their creative teams at each of these steps, time spent managing will be reduced.

Do you have a certain process you follow?