Advice from the Pros: Peter Clarke, Product Ventures

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When I entered the
field of packaging design some 20 years ago there were few, if any,
examples of packaging like the ones we see today.  The small number
of iconic packages at the time existed in low-volume, high-margin categories
such as beauty care and spirits. Within food and beverage, personal
care and fabric & home care, packaging was viewed as an expense
and not as a value-added brand ambassador.  Though packaging’s
importance to the brand has made great strides, the struggle over cost
continues, as unrealistic timelines and naïve expectations are driven
by the short tenure of marketing leadership and lack of long term strategic
packaging vision. 


Early on in
my career as an industrial designer, I saw the potential for packaging
to make a significant contribution to brands and to the people that
use them.  I clamored for the opportunity to apply my training
in styling, ergonomics, and materials & processes to turn the mundane
into the iconic, annoyance into pleasure, and the useless into the essential. 
This led to the founding of my company, Product Ventures 15 years ago,
with the goal of turning labeled containers into value-added delivery
systems.  Since then I have continually been honored to help many
notable companies with their best known brands.  


 Product Ventures’
design for the Duracell® Easy Tab™ package empowered people to change
their own hearing batteries, enabling them to wear their hearing aids
without worrying about the batteries failing.  We were able to
assist Procter and Gamble with its moment in historyMain as Folgers® forever
relinquished the coffee user of the burden of can openers by providing
a blow-molded canister with a value-added handle.  For Heinz®
we brought back the heritage of the Heinz® glass ketchup bottle facets
to an optimally proportioned large volume ketchup bottle that best fits
people’s hands and the fridge.  The Fridge-Fit™ packaged increased
consumption, penetration and now Heinz® is selling more ketchup and
less packaging which is good for the business and the environment. 
Our redesign of the International Delight ® coffee creamer package
is a great example of the impact that packaging can make for the business,
the consumer and the environment.  By addressing the multitude
of manufacturing, consumer experience and brand communication factors,
the new creamer package now visually fits the International Delight
® promise— is functionally superior to the competition, maximizes
shelf pack out for the retailer, surmounts major production challenges,
and netted savings in production costs and environmental savings equivalent
to taking roughly 2500 cars off the road nationwide per year.  


The typical
packaging challenge can be fraught with conflicting needs.  To
be successful, you must have a proven process that is user driven and
business aligned.  Often the business objectives of low cost and
efficiency may be at odds with the brand’s objectives to stand out
on the shelf and enhance the usage experience.  The integration
of consumer learning early in the process is key and must continue often
through the discovery, design and development of packaging solutions. 
Another important factor is to conduct a thorough assessment of manufacturing
capabilities to identify the inherent opportunities and restrictions
within the reality of cost-effective manufacturing systems.  Too
often clients withhold this information for fear of hampering creativity. 
It has been my philosophy that “true” creativity happens within
constraints.  Without “real world” constraints you’re left
with “pie in the sky” nonsense that will never enhance people’s
lives because it doesn’t hit the sweet spot between what a consumer
desires and can afford and the business can make for a profit. 


Today’s most
talented package designers are able to navigate these complex issues
and offer a range of possibilities to aid business in doing the right
thing.  To make a positive contribution requires careful consideration,
analysis and resolution of many complex factors within manufacturing
& distribution, product containment & protection, brand communication
& shelf impact,  the usage experience, and environmental impact. 
When evaluating what constitutes good package design, it is important
to look beyond the label and appearance and consider its purpose. 
Did it achieve what it was meant to do?  Is it an effective tool
for people and the business? The true art of packaging design may very
well be in the systematic processing of the myriad of details along
with the high stake challenges that go into creating the perfect package. 

Peter Clarke is a visionary entrepreneur who founded Product
Ventures
15 years ago to create the ultimate strategic creative agency for the
research, design and development of manufactured goods. His passion for
excellence and dedication to helping shape products and packaging to enhance
consumers’ lives have garnered Clarke enormous recognition throughout the
industry. As CEO of his company, Peter has been honored throughout the
years to help many notable clients  change the course of their business
and to ultimately achieve enormous success including Procter and Gamble, Nestle
and Novartis, among many others. Peter Clarke is frequently
profiled in the media, as well as a sought-after thought leader and industry
commentator. 

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