Process: A Case Study on SOG Knives Part II

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As part of The Dieline’s new process series, United Design gave us an exclusive look into the process of creating a total re-brand for SOG knives - the true authority in military tactical knives and tools. In Part I of this series we looked at United's team immersion into SOG's brand - talking to ther client, learning the history of the brand and understanding the market and their consumers. 

This week we are going to look at PART 2 of the case study, focusing on what United presented to SOG, thier feedback and of course more details on the final production of SOG Knives Brand and Package design. 

These guys are awesome, they do a fuck of a lot. They brought us some really spectacular ideas, well beyond what we were expecting. They are really easy and enjoyable to work with.

Chris Cashbaugh – Senior Marketing Manager SOG Knives & Gear

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PHASE 3. THE PRESENTATION

How did United Design divvy up the workload amongst ‘the troops’? Do you break up smaller teams to 

come up with different directions? How does United Design manage a project this size?

We define the team that is going to work on a project like this by several criteria: first, the level of excitement and interest from the designer, and second, by level of experience. We want to ensure that the project team has a good balance of experience throughout. 

After undergoing the deep dive session with the client, we gather the team together and give everyone a detailed debrief on everything we have learned, so that all involved are completely up to speed with all aspects of the client and the specific project at hand. Each designer, irrespective of experience, has the same brief. We develop strategic thinking and concepts in a multiple of different ways: on site and off site brain storming sessions, brainstorming sessions interacting with the product, and literally using it so you're learning about it first hand. More importantly, the individual designers are given the freedom to approach the project in their own different ways and styles; we do not have a set formula or dictate. We then all come together and share everyone’s ideas, discuss and build on them, and refine with the goal of defining several unique concepts that address the challenge at hand.

What was your approach going in to present the different directions? How did it come down to ‘ok, these are the ones we’re showing SOG’? 

Having conducted the deep dive into the company, with real in-depth knowledge and knowing what SOG’s ultimate goal was, we are able to define exactly which concepts we wanted to share with the client. There is also an innate ability to know what is right and what is going to work to take the brand to where the client needs to go. You only learn this by spending time with the client, really understanding them as individuals and as part of a larger organization. 

DIRECTION 1

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DIRECTION 2

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DIRECTION 3 

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THE CHOSEN DIRECTION

What was SOG’s initial reaction to the presentation? Was this the direction they immediately gravitated towards? Were there any convincing to do on your end?

With no exaggeration, SOG was absolutely blown away by the work. They were incredibly impressed by the strategic thinking, the quality of the work, the breadth of thinking and to be honest, how fucking awesome everything looked. The final direction was one of three that the client felt answered the brief perfectly. It was actually quite a tough process to define which was the concept that we would move forward with, as we all loved them all.

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GOING BEYOND THE PACK.......

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PHASE 3: REFINEMENT 

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FEATURE ICONS FOR SIDE PANELS

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PHASE 4: EXECUTION 

What was the process behind choosing or creating photography for SOG?

SOG makes products that are used by some of the world’s most elite special operations teams, top hunters in the country and in some of the toughest construction site situations. The subjects in the photography had to be completely legitimate: in the right apparel, with the right equipment in the right situation. For example, the shot we took for the Tactical line of products is a real life SWAT team that was conducting a training program in which we had permission to shoot as they trained. There is definitely a lot involved with organizing 6 unique on location shoots but you have to have it right.

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THE EVOLUTION OF THE MACV-SOG SKULL

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THE PACKAGING 

You created a custom die line for SOG. How was that process like? This is obviously not just one box fit all. There are several products in the line with different sizes and requirements. Can you tell us more about the structure and material chosen for the box? Were there any rules and regulations you simply MUST follow?

When we work with our clients, our focus is in creating unique brands that relates to all aspects of the brand, product packaging guidelines being one of those areas. SOG has a really strong infrastructure behind them, so the process was incredibly easy. United would develop the concept, share it with the SOG team, and together we would discuss and refine the concept. We would then send it off to their packaging manufacturer, who would quickly turn round full size structural comps for us to review. The key thing that has to be taken into consideration is structural integrity, to ensure that the packs are going to withstand the wear and tear of the retail environment and constant handling by the consumer.

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BRAND GUIDELINES

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What was the experience working with SOG as a client?

At United, we are quite selective about the clients we work with. It’s not just about what the company makes and the project at hand, it’s about the people, their personalities, the way they think and act. Are they wanting to make change, are they seriously looking to innovate and develop brands that are unique in their own right and stand apart? We are looking to build strong relationships that will continue for years to come. SOG is exactly one of those clients. They are an amazing group of people that really want to take the SOG brand to another level. They have vision, are incredibly passionate about what they do, and we have formed a strong and long-term relationship. 

What was the take away for United Design (or your designers) from this project? 

Believe in what you do.

Never hold back.

If you’re truly enjoying what you’re working on, it will show in the work.

Working closely with your client will always produce the best result.

THE TROOPS  

Client: SOG Knives, WA

Agency: United Design, New York / San Francisco 

Nando Zucchi, VP of Marketing &Sales  – SOG

Chirs Cashbaugh, Senior Marketing Manager  – SOG

Lawrence Haggerty, Partner  – United

Andy Johnson, Partner  – United

Akira Yasuda, Design Director –  United

Diana Luistro, Senior Designer –  United

Noah Love, Designer – United

Kelli Garnett, Production Director  – United