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."
Bols Genever Gift Box
"Manufactured in a limited quantity is what allowed us to create this hand-assembled wood gift box for Bols Genever. The typographic pattern was silkscreened on thin sheets of aged plywood. The plywood was then cut into small, uniform strips. Each box is unique, as the strips where selected randomly during the assembly. A letter pressed label acts as a seal and holds the top in place."
Packlab Partners Christmas Packaging
"Kanniston Leipomo Bakery asked the help of Packlab Partners to redefine Scandinavian premium gingerbread for Christmas. The brief was to design packaging for simply the best Gingerbread cookies in Finland.
Packlab Partners created a unique experience that exploited joined-up-thinking with integral product and packaging development. Packlab Partners looked into the stakeholders behaviour within the bakery, distribution chain, retail environments and explored Scandinavian seasonal home experiences. These observations lead to a marriage of old Scandinavian tradition of three pieces of gingerbread bringing good luck and heart-shaped pieces emphasising the affectionate characteristics of the season which were widely introduced both in the product. This was also communicated graphically through 5 different, yet similar variants of packaging."
Stitch Design Co. created the logo and packaging for this line of all-natural soy wax candles poured into discarded wine bottles:
"They have a family of intoxicating scents which are all designed to mimic flavors and aromas you find in your favorite varietals of wines. [The client] came to us looking to enhance his current packaging. We redesigned his logo using hand-drawn type and redesigned his kraft paper labels with simple typography and a layered labeling system. Each candle has a 'vintage and producer' label, allowing each candle to be signed and dated by the candle maker. A wood veneer wax topper sits on top of the candle to keep them clean and free of dust before use. We also developed a color system using wax seals to color code each varietal scent and finished off the packaging with a small green sticker reminding each purchaser to please recycle again. To top it all off, each label was letterpressed (by Sideshow Press) and hand applied making these candles truly unique and handcrafted.
More after the jump.