The Dieline Package Design Conference, Chicago – Day 3

Published:  July 4, 2011
Lee Barnsley
The Dieline Package Design Conference, Chicago – Day 3

Read Lee’s blogs from Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference.

I never really pictured Chicago as a destination for arty types, but it turns out that it’s somewhat of a hive of activity for art lovers from all over the world. The Art Institute of Chicago has a stunning collection of works by Andy Warhol. It’s this passion for art and design that seems to transcend and resonate through many parts of the city, and this was no more evident than in the SAX Hotel, where I and other conference attendees spent the previous evening enjoying one too many tequila cocktails courtesy of The Dieline and Espolon.

SAX Hotel, Chicago

The third and final day of The Dieline Package Design conference featured sessions with experts such as Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands, stunning typographic work by Louise Fili and the world renowned design agency Turner Duckworth.

Using Public Relations to position your design firm beyond the price wars
First up today was Judy Kalvin of Kalvin Public Relations Inc, NY. Judy gave an interesting talk on how design firms can get their message out to a wider audience and hopefully then stop competing on price alone. If an agency can build visibility and enhance their reputation, that means they have the opportunity to share thought leadership. As Judy put it: “Facts tell, stories sell.” So what about social media? Well Judy explains that with a clearly outlined social media calender it’s possible to increase your readership or followers very easily.

People respond to information more than self-promotion, so you should ideally be tweeting or posting five to seven times a day, with every tenth tweet or post being one of self-promotion. You should also ideally be including multimedia in tweets to grab attention.

If this seems like too much hard work, then hire a PR firm to do it for you. They will know great ways to keep the design community engaged and will more than likely be able to dedicate the man hours required to keep your agency at the front of mind.

Custom Type for speciality food packaging
Louise Fili was up next. Louise is an illustrator who specialises in creating custom logos and typography for speciality food packaging and restaurants. She really is a very talented lady.

Now you may not have heard of Louise Fili, but you should have heard of her husband. She was giving a brief background about herself which went something like this…”When I was growing up, there weren’t many design books to read, as my husband Steven Heller hadn’t written them yet.” Funny, but probably very true.

Louise showcased an selection of works that were completed for smaller bespoke clients, a principal she says she intends to keep as it gives her greater creative freedom.

Louise also told a charming little story about how she still likes to go holidaying in Italy and tries to visit a different town each time, just so that she can takes pictures of the shop signage, which she stores in folders and documents in folders at home. This is really evident as an influence on a great deal of her work.

Louise’s work becomes all the more stunning when you realise that she does all of this type work by hand. No fonts here.

This cool little project below, that she showcased, was actually a book cover…

Louise also came out with probably one of my favourite quotes of the conference… “Somebody once asked me, what’s the difference between a brand and a logo? I replied about $500,000″

Brand thinking and other noble pursuits
Debbie Millman who is featured in The Line-Up section of July’s Desktop magazine, was next up. Debbie is currently President of Design at Sterling Brands, New York, and gave an interesting talk on what brand leaders think about the world of brand.

Debbie has in the last 20 years interviewed some of the world’s most brilliant and provocative brand leaders. People such as Malcolm Gladwell, Wally Ollins, Karim Rashid, Alex Bogusky and Dan Formosa have all been interview by Debbie, and she shared some very interesting quotes, including one from Michael Porter – “strategy is choosing to perform an activity differently or to perform a distinctly different activity than rivals.” I’d recommend getting your hands on a copy of Debbie’s book.

Package Design – 4 winning projects
The next talk was a very interesting one. I thought it would be from Michael Osborne, owner of Michael Osborne Design, San Fransisco and the man responsible for the designs of Kettle Chips and Targets Archer Farms private label brand in the US…

But what he actually did was showcase four projects from students that he teaches in his course at The Acadamy of Art University, San Fransisco.

Now I was very skeptical, like most designers on the table around me, after he introduced their work by showing a slide that explained “the following work was going be a result of a 15 week project.” “15 weeks?! You can make anything look good in 15 weeks,” were some of the things I was thinking. But then we started to see the work. When I say the things shown were incredible, that would be an understatement. Let me put it into context… They had invented a brand, created brand positioning, designed a logo (of which they showed at least 12 pages of sketches with 12 logos on each page), and created a mini style guide. All for three different concepts. But it didn’t stop there… they then took those brands and designed an entire range of packaging for that brand. Not just one or two pieces… over 140 SKU’s in total, with full visuals, mockups and even individual on-pack illustrations done for each piece.

It’s seeing work of this standard that makes me really question the skill level of students in Australia, and raises quite a few questions as to why it’s so hard to find good student talent these days. But that’s a whole other subject on which I’m sure plenty of people would love to have their thoughts heard.

The final talk from the conference came courtesy of Turner Duckworth, and yes it really was entitled ‘?’. Turner Duckworth are a company at the forefront of packaging design and are responsible for the recent multi-award winning Coca-Cola redesign, as well as the Grammy Award winning album cover for Metallica’s Death Magnetic.

Coca-Cola redesign by Turner Duckworth

Metallica - Death Magnetic cover by Turner Duckworth

Metallica - Death Magnetic by Turner Duckworth

For this talk they threw the subject out to everyone and encouraged people a few months earlier to submit questions via The Dieline website in the form of a video, with only a select few being chosen and answered at the conference. One of the questions asked revolved around their re-design for Amazon and if they thought it was a little phallic? To be honest I’d never looked at it in that way, so maybe it was just that person’s warped mind? They did however share a funny bit of information regarding their logo redesign and the reaction it received from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos…

Another question selected was actually from me! I’d submitted the question a few weeks earlier in the form of an email, and was lucky enough to find out a day before the conference that my question had been selected. All I had to do was record the question in the form a video. So as soon as I landed in Chicago I setup my laptop in the hotel room and recorded my question…”In a world of constant visual bombardment, how do you convince clients that less is more?”

Turner Duckworth went on to explain that feeling every designer gets when you’re asked to stick a promotional message on a piece of packaging, frustration. It ends up with so many messages on it, it’s hard for consumers to know where to look…

Too many messages?

But Turner Duckworth sees these as real opportunities for brands to be more creative in their execution and it’s up to us as designers to be more creative in our approach.

Coca-Cola Summer Promotional Cans by Turner Duckworth

Limited Edition Winter Coca-Cola by Turner Duckworth

The Dieline Awards 2011
The conference was rounded off with an awards ceremony that comprised of entries from all over the world. The ‘Best of Show’ went to Fuse Projects design for Puma’s ‘Clever Little Bag’.

For a complete list of the winners and a gallery where you can view them in more detail click here.

And that was it. All-in-all it has been a really interesting conference with some really insightful thoughts and learning shared. I’m sure as the conference takes on a life of it’s own a gets bigger then it will become an important part of design culture. From my point of view it was really great to see packaging design being recognised on a global scale, and not just seen as the poor cousin to the advertising world.

Roll on Boston 2012.

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