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Eyes on the prize

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Mike Webster, 1HQ’s director of 3D Design, argues that far from being a ‘nice-to-have’, a brand design vision, linked to specific executional principles, can drive ongoing cost efficiencies

There are few who would argue that 3D product and packaging design is an important component in the branding mix. Whether it’s Coke’s iconic glass bottle, Lyle’s familiar Golden Syrup tin or Dorset Cereal’s category-breaking muesli box, the equity that accrues in signature structures can be hugely valuable.

But the reality is that structural design projects are typically time-consuming, complex and capital-intensive. Whatever the potential reward may be in developing a distinctive packaging asset, investment in this pursuit is not a decision to be taken lightly.

“There’s no doubt that brand teams understand the potential value,’ says Mike, ‘but the process of unlocking it is daunting.”

While there’s certainly an understanding amongst designers that ways to streamline and accelerate 3D projects are needed, Mike is convinced that when it comes to some tasks, there are no shortcuts. ‘It’s natural that people want to see tangible outputs as soon as possible – and it’s true that there’s nothing like a physical object to signal progress. But getting your strategic design vision established up-front is vital.’

It’s only by knowing the attributes you are seeking to encapsulate in design, and the practical principles that will guide your approach, that standards can be set against which to judge the work, he argues. “I’ve heard it said more than once that what matters is the pack that appears on shelf and not the vision. But it’s the vision that gives you the road-map for putting the right pack on-shelf.”

There are clear cost-efficiencies involved – and not just in the avoidance of fall-starts and blind alleys that can bedevil bespoke design projects. “Even if you’re looking for a stock-solution, having a clear vision for what you want changes the conversation. It puts you on the front-foot. You are no longer stuck having to ask suppliers what they’ve got – you are going to them to ask if they have something like this?”

Mike is keen to stress that getting the vision right doesn’t mean navel-gazing.

“As with all parts of the 3D process, we need to be working smarter and faster to define that design vision. Small teams of experienced people, working closely and collaboratively with their clients in a tightly planned programme, can deliver with speed, quality and cost-efficiency. When you truly embrace that ethos, it’s amazing what you can achieve.”


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