Interview with Todd Simmons of Wolff Olins: The Proof is in the Packaging
How does one create a product that achieves major success before it's even launched? A product that becomes the first of its kind to receive Allure’s Beauty Breakthrough Award before it even hits the shelves? A product that completely sells out with each appearance on QVC and becomes the first brand to ever launch nationwide in Sephora, where orders tripled in just two months. In short, how does one create the success story that is Living Proof's No Frizz?
Combine a groundbreaking product with groundbreaking packaging and you have No Frizz, a product with a deceptively simple look. We previously featured No Frizz in February. Recently, we decided to delve a little deeper into the process and talked to Todd Simmons, Executive Creative Director of Wolff Olins New York, about the process and story behind the wildly successful Living Proof brand.
In case you haven't heard the backstory, here's a little recap:
Living Proof was founded in 2004 by a group of people (including leading scientists and beauty veterans) with the common goal of tackling tough everyday beauty problems. The company is led by President and CEO Rob Robillard, formerly Worldwide General Manager of Kiehl’s and Senior Vice President of Marketing of L’Oreal Paris. After one year of dedicated research, the team of scientists discovered the PolyfluoroEster molecule, the first new anti-frizz technology in over 30 years. The new molecule is smaller than traditional frizz-fighting ingredients and instantly fills in gaps and blocks each strand’s cuticle, preventing moisture from penetrating the hair shaft.
Through his previous work with Keihl's, Simmons knew some of the folks working on Living Proof. Wolff Olins went up against and won out over several other big name agencies. Simmons attributes the win to Wolff Olins' strategy of focusing on the brand first instead of the product.
Wolff Olins started from the ground up with the naming process. Once they narrowed down the names, they immediately dove into the packaging, "When we were in the naming stages, we used design and packaging to inform where we'd net out with the names," creating, as Simmons says, "lots, and lots and lots and lots of concepts." Simmons says that frequent and honest communication was key in the process: "We began with a strong basis of trust and a strong instinct of the process. We involved everyone early in the process and we were lucky that everyone was alike in ambition. It was a very, very good project for Wolff Olins because we employed almost every single capability we had for a client and we did it in such a short time." The clients were based nearby, so they all got together for face-to-face weekly meetings that Simmons said were immensely helpful in keeping the process flowing quickly by common standards and sometimes quickly even for anyone's standards. From start to finish, the project took nine months. "We had to fall in love quickly, and we did," Simmons says. The packaging had to come about quickly because it was so integral to defining the future of Living Proof. Though cost was certainly an issue, they pretty quickly determined that the brand positioning truly created a need for a custom package.
"We explored some extremely radical options and did a ton of different things," Simmons says. But ultimately the solution was one of their early sketches and was universally liked by the client and the designers. Simmons says the actual bottle design was informed by dutch products and ceramics, the designers' research into the science of the brand and visits to the Living Proof labs. They ended up with a custom bottle that was a combination of "high gloss and soft touch." Though in production they had to compromise some on angles, curves and stability (for example, Simmons wishes the top cap of the No Frizz spray could be a bit thicker), for the most part he says the product looks like the sketches. "We knew through time we'd nip, tuck and tweak—not in a way that would be visible to consumers, but in a way that's in line with the our pursuit of perfection." The most challenging aspect of production, Simmons says, was getting the color of the bottom portion of the bottle just right and then matching it across the products. Because the product has been selling so well, it's gone back to press for many iterations and the preliminary challenges have been smoothed out. Apparently they got the color just right. So right in fact that Simmons says "we hear Benjamin Moore's been getting a lot of calls requesting a paint that matches the color of the No Frizz bottles." In addition, Simmons notes that the packaging and logo design have gotten a lot of press, both in design and consumer arenas, "It's always referred to, which is nice because you don't often get consumers talking about packaging"
Part of the brand strategy for Living Proof is to let each product determine a unique packaging solution, so that while the essence of the brand will be captured, no two product lines will look the same. "You won't see [the No Frizz design] on a future packages," Simmons says, "Every new package will be solution specific as this one was. Every package has to be as distinct as the project, so the design language will morph and adapt to each solution." That brings up the issue of continuity within the brand. Simmons says cohesiveness will be maintained through the use of materials: that hard, glossy look in conjunction with the matte, soft touch. The curves and lines of the No Frizz packaging set the stage for future products. Simmons says the colors will remain in a similar palette, as well, though the palette will be expanded. Each product mark will maintain the line through like No Frizz.
Which Brings us to the much-buzzed-about logo:
In a world where everything is about the logo, Simmons had this fresh perspective on Wolff Olins' logo solution for No Frizz. "We created the logo [for No Frizz] and we almost didn't care what consumers called it. They could call it whatever they wanted, but the fact of the matter was is that the product worked and did what it was supposed to, so our approach was a super clear communication on the shelf."
On the client:
"They were an amazing client. We don't often have clients that push us, we usually have to push them, but these people were active and excited. There was collaboration, but certainly no committee and we all really drew the best out of each other."
Keep your eyes peeled for the shampoo and conditioner line, another haircare product and Living Proof's debut into skincare.
After we got though talking about the No Frizz packaging, I asked Simmons what his thoughts were on the current state of packaging in the United States. He had some delightfully candid answers:
On the state of packaging in the U.S.
"I think a lot of packaging in America is just really bad," Simmons says, "I think people need to take liberties with packaging. There are so many elements to play with. I think packaging shouldn't be tested as much as it is; consumers aren't always the best judge of something new because they can only make comparisons. If you look at food packaging in Europe, where food is celebrated, it's reflected in the packaging. Food packaging here looks like Nascar.
I think people have always been paying attention to packaging, I just don't think they've always been given the best packaging choices in America. The backlash against Tropicana was a prime example of consumers paying attention to packaging."
And so yes, he has an opinion on the Tropicana debacle:
"You know that saying 'if it ain't broke don't fix it?' Tropicana wasn't broke."
Before & After: Caribou Coffee
"When approaching the logo redesign, we didn’t want to lose the important equities of the previous logo, so the new logo still includes a leaping caribou, a shield and the words “Caribou Coffee.” What has changed, however, is the look: from a Northern lodge theme to a fresh variation of the same elements, now rooted in natural textures and fluid graphics.
“Because coffee is the heart and soul of our company, the body of the caribou is formed out of a coffee bean. In addition, the caribou’s antlers now form the shape of the letter ‘C’.” Another significant change in the logo is the direction of the caribou’s leap. While the Caribou in the previous logo was leaping left, the caribou now leaps right, signifying the direction the company is heading — into the future.
“The shield element has been updated to resemble the shape of traditional national park signage. This is a nod to our founders’ hike in Alaska’s Denali National Park, where they were inspired to start the company,” said Alfredo Martel, senior vice president of marketing for Caribou Coffee."
See the previous identity and packaging after the jump, and share your thoughts on the new look after the jump.
Behind the Design: Redesigning the Tazo Brand
It all started when I first spotted the stark, stunning new Tazo packaging sitting on the shelf next to the suddenly old design. My first reaction was a bit of shock, in a delightful, surprising, and exciting way. It was not only a drastic change, but also a true leap forward into a new generation.
I have very fond memories of Tazo growing up; it was a breakthrough product of my generation. It is one of the brands that I credit for really getting me interested in package design as a possible career. Tazo first launched in the mid 90s with its mythical, Zen, new age, almost ethereal look, with Shamans and all. The brand really represented the times; it invoked a sense of humor and wit into the then boring tea category. It was a pure packaging story, and consumers fell in love with the brand. Tazo joined the Starbucks empire in 1999 as its leading tea brand.
Fast forward to 2012, the Tazo branding had been largely untouched since it first launched. After Starbucks finalized the redesign of the Starbucks brand itself, it was ready to take on Tazo. The challenge was to bring the brand into the 21st century, without losing its soul.
The task to update Tazo was given to an incredibly talented team of designers from Starbucks Global Creative, arguably one of Seattle’s best design firms. They are the in-house creative team behind Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Evolution Fresh, Hear Music, La Boulange Bakery, Tazo, and now Teavana. They graciously invited me up to Seattle for a behind the scenes look at the new brand, the packaging, positioning, and the new Tazo retail concept.
When Starbucks Goes Red: Introducing Starbucks Holiday 2013
“The red cups have taken on almost a cultural role, at least in the US, and now in a lot of other markets around the world as well. When the cups turns red at Starbucks, that’s one of the first cues that the holidays are upon us. The emotional connection that our store partners (employees) have when they open that first box of the red cups and start using them that first day, and the emotional connection they see from their customers, that’s what we strive for. They see that surprise and excitement: ‘Oh, the red cups are at Starbucks!’ It’s really special and all of us in the studio feel privileged to do the work that can create such an emotional moment and connection in our stores between our partners and our customers.”
– Terry Davenport, Senior Vice President, Global Brand and Creative Studios at Starbucks
It is engrained in our culture: It’s not Christmas until the Starbucks red cups arrive.
Here in Los Angeles, we have very few identifiers of the upcoming winter season. It never snows here, and “cold” is considered anything less than 70 degrees. For us, and for many people across the country and around the world, the iconic Starbucks red cups signal that winter has begun and the holiday season is upon us.