Oops I Became a Package Designer: Meet Alex Blake & Andy Kurtts of The Fresh Market
Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts come from a diverse background of fine art, print shops, POP retail design and photography to their current roles as in-house designers for The Fresh Market, a specialty grocery store with locations throughout the US. They currently are building the in-house creative team and working on a variety of projects for The Fresh Market including packaging design, in-store publications, catalogs, and environmental design. They also collaborate as Buttermilk Creative on outside projects for start-ups and non-profits. Working together for nearly seven years, the two have a very dynamic relationship and partnership that melds professionalism with fun.
We asked Alex and Andy a few questions about their careers and inspirations.
How did you begin your career?
I’ve always been a creator, an orchestrator and a problem solver. Even as a small child, when I was off from school during the summer months, I would spend entire days rearranging furniture; imagine a scrawny little 9 year old using her entire body weight to push large pieces of 1970’s furniture around a living room to find new perspectives. My mother is an artist and would spend her free time painting nature with watercolors. She taught me to look beyond the surface and interpret things in different ways. So, when choosing a career, I knew I needed to do something interpretive and fluid. Design is very subjective and interpretive and ever changing.
Who has inspired you through your career?
Obviously, my first inspiration was my mom. Today in my career, I’m most inspired by those folks who have a contagious passion for what they do and openly share their knowledge. Jessica Hiche is amazing. I love her down-to-earth personality and how open she is to sharing her struggles and successes. She’s always juggling projects, some of which are done “just for fun” (Daily Drop Cap) and her work is simply beautiful. Andy is a constant inspiration to me and keeps me inspired with his big ideas, his patience and his love of design.
Has there ever been a moment that made you re-think your career choice as a designer?
Daily! As a designer, you really put yourself out there. It’s easy for anyone and everyone to have an opinion about what you do and how you create it. Being a designer has helped me develop a tough skin for criticism and accepting feedback for what it really is – an opportunity to grow.
If there is one lesson you’ve learned in your entire career, what was it?
To look beyond the obvious. Think about what the most expected solution would be and then do the opposite! Specifically when designing packaging, it’s a good idea to find inspiration outside the category. If you’re working on coffee packaging, don’t just look at coffee…. Look at art supplies, soap, ice cream, mustache wax, vintage furniture… you’d be surprised what might trigger that next big idea.
What was your favorite project you worked on?
I love working on projects that have a great story and allow me to create with my hands before creating digitally. A couple of years ago, Andy and I talked at the Dieline Conference about The Fresh Market’s Italian Chocolate Bars and explained how we created hand-marbled paper to use in the design. In addition to that one, we’ve also created hand-carved potato stamps and painted watercolor fruits for other projects that were especially fun.
Check out some of their recently designed packaging projects:
Please visit Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts' recent opinion series contribution: Making It Pop - A Private Brand Perspecitve
Building from their experience as accidental packaging designers, Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts will walk you through the past seven years they've spent building the look of the private label packaging design for The Fresh Market. From hideous designs they never wanted to see the light of day to huge successes, they'll share the ups and the downs as well as techniques they've developed over the years to become successful designers in their field.
3 Main Take-Aways:
- Become inspired to take on new challenges and make thoughtful changes to your work.
- Get tips on how to communicate with corporate executives to better explain or defend your designs.
- Everyone makes mistakes... we will offer advice on how to learn and grow from them.