What are the First Steps for Working with a Design Agency?

Package design is one of the most important parts of a new CPG product launch. Packaging is how you represent your product to the world, and is your tool for communicating its qualities and benefits to shoppers. The main elements that would be included on the package are the visuals (logo, images) and messaging (taglines, claims). They are part of the overall brand, which extends to any other products that you will release.

Although all projects will be different – whether it involves designing a new SKU in an existing line, redesigning current packaging, or starting a whole new brand completely from scratch – the foundation for any project needs to be built on clear communication between the client and agency. No matter where you are in the design process, if you work with a creative agency on a package design project, they will have several questions that only you as the brand expert will be able to answer.

You might not know the exact answer to all of these questions in the beginning, and the agency can work with that. However, in order to work with you to successfully meet your vision and goals, the agency will need as many details as you are able to provide.

 

  • What is the Project?

 

This probably sounds simple enough, but details can make all the difference. Is this a new product? Is it a new variety to an existing line? Is this the start of a new brand? Sub-brand?

For example, in designing packaging for a new product launch, the agency will want to know about its relationship to other products in the brand. The more details that you can give the agency up-front about the project, its background, and what it means for the future of the brand, the better the agency can be at developing initial concepts that are thoughtful and in line with your specific needs.

 

  • What is the Brand?

 

The most successful brands are very clear about their “brand promise” – the value or experience that the brand promises to deliver to the consumer, every single time. An agency working with a new client needs to understand the brand’s promise, as well as its mission, positioning, and personality.

 

  • What are the Goals?

 

What do you intend to get out of this project? What do you want to be the shopper’s immediate takeaway when they see your product? Every project will have different goals, and it’s important for designers to know what end they are working towards. Are you trying to appeal to buyers at a trade show, compete in a trendy new category, or educate consumers on a new kind of product? If this is an existing brand and you are introducing a new design, what did you like/dislike about the old design?

 

  • What are the Deliverables?

 

What are all of the individual deliverables that you will need the agency to supply for this project? Is there existing photography for the agency to use, or do you want them to shoot something new? Is there a brand name, or do you want the agency to explore options? What about taglines and messaging? The agency will have to get granular in breaking down the tasks of a project, so that they can assign work to individual designers and plan timelines accordingly.

The number of deliverables involved is also the factor that has the biggest impact on pricing, so it’s important for the client and the agency to be on the same page early on.

 

  • Who is the Product for?

 

In a perfect world, everyone on Earth would love your brand and purchase it regularly. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic, and it’s helpful for designers to have a clear picture of who might want to engage with your brand (as well as who is currently buying). For example, in designing packaging for a granola bar brand, an agency’s concepts targeting athletes would look completely different from concepts for a product aimed at children as an after-school snack.

When a client has a specific target market, the design team is able to immerse themselves in the consumer’s lifestyle, needs, and habits to determine the best way to appeal to them.

 

  • What are the Technical Production Factors?

 

Do you know what kind of specific packaging that you need, such as a cardboard box or a plastic bag? Do you have dielines? Do you have a printer that you are planning on working with? What kind of process do they use? What is their production lead time in relation to your deadlines?

All of these questions could have an impact on the way that the design team approaches a project.

 

  • What are the “Must-Haves”?

 

If a client knows that there are specific things that they need to see in their project (claims, FDA certifications, information hierarchy, logo size), then it’s better for the design team to know this early on, so that they are reflected in all initial concepts.

 

  • Who are Your Competitors?

 

The design team does a visual audit before coming up with initial concepts, both within the brand’s main category and cross-category as well. This is key in understanding current style trends, communication strategies, and overall inspiration.

Additionally, within the initial design phases, the team will place the new product within its relevant environment – whether it’s in a mass retailer, alternative channel, or club store environment. This enables the team to assess how to make sure that your brand stands apart and communicates its own unique selling proposition.

Together, these questions support the big-picture issue that the agency and client need to address: what is the single most important idea? With only so much space to work with on any given package, and with so many positive qualities that make the product unique, it’s very important to build hierarchy in a strategic way. When a shopper walks by your product, what is the number one message that we can get across in just a few seconds that will hook them?

The agency can only communicate the single most important idea by really understanding the product, the brand, and the target consumer. When you talk through all of these questions with the agency, you get them much closer to reaching that point of understanding. From there, the team is ready to work with you to achieve your project goals.

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