Interview: “The packaging design has the mission to tell people what they should pay and especially how much”


Interviu Costin Oane pentru revista Pack Romania
Costin Oane offers an interview in number 2, November 2018 of the magazine Pack Romania , one of the most prestigious magazines in the packaging and print industry in Romania. The interview was realized by Radu Mihai, one of those who set the foundation of this magazine.

What is the story behind your proposal from the current edition of TATB?

It was a teamwork, although I signed up the work with my name, as the competition required. Honestly, I don’t think the “Ground Zero” brief can be solved and continued by a freelancer. The challenge of the “briefing” was not about delivering a “cute design”, but finding a flexible solution for a portfolio of 8-10 beers. From the very beginning, I set out with my colleagues from BroHouse to offer a strategic change of the brand picture that does not disturb the preferences of the current loyal consumers.

Probably the most difficult aspect of the project, which is the main success factor of the registered design direction, is the ability to bring together all the beer sub-categories under a unitary concept. In this way, we have ensured that the brand “Ground Zero” remains faithful to the strategic direction that was established in the category and which it retains its recognition for consumers. In order to successfully achieve this objective, we have developed a sufficiently generous graphic concept that can support the entire current and potential “Ground Zero” product portfolio.

The obtained result, after many variants and tests, manages to differentiate the brand in relation to the competition and differentiates the products in the portfolio from each other, and very important preserves the spirit and personality of the brand, the emotional connections with the consumer.

How many design variants did you try until you stopped at the one you entered in the contest?

From the brief, it turned out that “Ground Zero” did not want to receive a graphic solution completely different from the current solution. Somehow the visual direction and personality of the current label had to remain in the written solution and “prove” that it can be continued throughout the product portfolio. Currently, the only distinct elements that differentiate one beer from another beer in the Ground Zero portfolio are the colors and names of the beer. Even though the portfolio of beers has expanded, their communication and individualization have remained somewhat stagnant “at the 3-star beers”: Morning Glory, Easy Ride, and Imperial Fuck.

We tried several alternatives until we make sure we had a concept. After I agreed on the concept, the rest was just execution and great attention to detail.   Regardless of the winner of this competition, the project remains open and incomplete. If the customer really wants to implement the solution, the project must be completed on the entire portfolio of beers and not just for the 3 beers registered in the brief of the competition. The big win of this competition is running the project. If that doesn’t happen, it was just a useless design exercise that may have generated a little ‘buzz’ in the marketing.

From the design perspective, it remains to be seen and lived, but I am very curious if the winning solution will be implemented and how many interventions will the successful solution suffer after having access to the customer.

How much do you consider, before creating a package, the limitations that its manufacturing technology can bring?

It’s a complicated question. There are several scenarios.

The first scenario. You can start with the graphics, wait for the design confirmation from the customer and then find print production solutions. If this order is maintained, many surprises will come cost, implementation, failure to comply with the agreed concept, etc. If you are a customer, it’s a crap. The customer must understand that not everything that is seen on the designer’s screen will look like this. Even if the customer does not know this, a professional designer would first check out the graphic concepts with the print production options he has in the market. Therefore “what you see, is what you get”. 

The second scenario. It is a less common and more idealistic, but the correct variant. At the beginning of each project, it is very healthy to understand the project, its complexity and its cost to participate in the main actors of the project: consultant, designer, production, etc. Each of them should know what each one does. Usually, this scenario is happening in the old agencies, which have encountered similar challenges or projects, and the work plan is known and understood from past collaborations. From the customer’s perspective, it is possible to interpret the entire organization from the “start” of the project which is a waste of time and a delay of the project. 

What is the packaging that surprised you most about the ones you see on the Romanian market? Why?

One package that caught my eye was Nutella Unique. The production in editions of millions of packages and there are no two identical, is one of the most attractive trends in the field. It’s a unique way to convey a strong message and build a strong and unique positioning. The packages are special, and by extrapolation, if we choose them, we prove that we are also special. I am convinced that we will see more and more such unique solutions at the big brands.  

A different category is heavily invested in the perfume industry. It’s already a tradition to collect perfume bottles, even though they are empty. Although the liquid is consumed, the value of the product continues to “live” through the packaging design. I do not think that any product has been found to enjoy such respect for the packaging design, such as the perfume category. Something similar I noticed at the wine bottles.  

One thing is for sure. The packaging is a major contributor to the purchase decision, especially among undocumented consumers, which is prevalent in all “consumer behavior” studies.  

Do you feel closer to a product that comes from a space associated with an independent spirit, or can you approach the creation of products that have more conditioning related to corporate policy?

I have no preferences. Branding is a job. Solve problems. Creation is valuable when it’s done well, properly thought out and works on the goals set when meeting with the customer.

Unfortunately, the design and branding market treats any project only in one criteria: aesthetics. Whether it looks good or “cool” is enough. Many design projects or contests are just showing that always reward only the visible parts (graphic style) and ignore the most important parts: interaction, experience, analysis, functionality, etc. Many design projects in Romania are perfectly aligned with the myth that industrial design refers primarily to style and this brilliant style leads to market success.   

Do you think there is a strong impact of the packaging of a product that is not generated by the graphics of the packaging and, if so, what are those aspects that influence this impact?

There is only one scenario in which the graphics of a packaging that do not generate impact: when “over-promising”. That is, the packaging design promises more than the product can offer. In short, you try to trick the consumer. Such a tactical mistake will give the impression of a false origin that casts doubt on the values ​​and honesty of the product.   

Many graphics & packaging solutions are headed for the “wow” factor – they are designing something that might make you feel like “wow”, but there are many situations when they miss the project or product goals. Design is a creative personalization process that is driven by purpose, planning, and intent.

What is your opinion on the packaging design in Romania? How do you think this specialization will evolve?

Packaging design which is made “good” or “bad”, has the mission to tell people what they should pay and especially how much. In Romania, sales are pursued at all costs, this being characteristic of any faulty management, who understands the importance of packaging in the decision process. As a result, the investment in the solid construction of brands is left in the background, which is why we have cheap products that question the values ​​and honesty of the product.

All managers try to adjust prices to match potential customers. It is a reality that often leads to bankruptcy. We must constantly improve the design, enough to make consumers want to buy your product. And not for how much it costs. “Cheap” is a “cancer” in building a strong relationship with your audience because it fails due to a lack of credibility. And loyalty to a brand is gained based on trust. Without credibility, the products would not be sold, and marriages would be made only by a prenuptial contract.

The future of brands is for those who are fighting for milestones and values. Those brands will conquer hearts and will not stand in solidarity with an urgent and transient need of the consumer.