How Noise 13 Designed these Trendy & Feminine Pantone-Inspired Phone Accessories
Working with clients usually means detailed guidelines of what they’re looking for when you create their packaging or brand. But what if a client came to you and gave you almost completely free reign to develop it however you wanted? That’s exactly what happened when tech accessories company Amber & Ash approached Noise 13. Inspired by trendy and crisp Pantone chips, the design is the ultimate modern-meets-feminine. We spoke with Noise 13 to learn more about making a product stand out in a saturated industry, how to design when there is little direction from the client, working with a limited budget and time, and more.
How did you find an unfulfilled portion of the incredibly crowded cell phone accessories industry?
Noise 13: To successfully enter the $81.5 billion global tech accessories market, in which protective cases were the top growing category, we knew we would need to find a specific and unfulfilled niche. Yet with only months to go before the iPhone 7 release, there was simply not enough time to develop a product with innovative features or functions. Instead, the key to success would be to create a relevant brand for a specific audience and an unaddressed lifestyle need.
For this task, we utilized our extensive discovery and audit process, which led us to two key insights:
- Color is the most important factor for consumers when it comes to the design/aesthetics of cell phone cases.
- The ideal number of choices for consumers to not feel overwhelmed is between six and ten.
With the combination of these two insights, the core idea for the brand was born. Targeting an audience of women who appreciate style and design, we decided to offer a well-curated selection of beautifully-designed, protective tech accessories that showcase seasonal colors inspired by the runway.
The client gave you free reign on this project. What was that like?
Noise 13: Indeed, the client brief was essentially a blank slate: create a brand, from scratch, in the hyper-competitive market of cell phone accessories. The only parameters were to focus on women, sell solely online, and set a reasonable price point. We were tapped to lead a collaborative, cross-agency team from a strategic and design direction perspective. The multi-disciplinary group included members of the client team, who have extensive background in tech accessories and e-commerce sales, creative industrial design studio Dash Dot, and our team of designers, strategists, and researchers.
Since our team on this project also happened to be the target market, it was like designing a brand for ourselves. This full business view was incredibly fun and rewarding.
What were some of the most significant challenges you encountered due to not having any specific limitations outlined by the client?
Noise 13: When the client gives you this much freedom, some challenges naturally appear—in particular, self-discipline. Since they put so much trust in our experience and intuition, we had to carefully curate our ideas as we defined every aspect of the brand along the way. We had to make sure that, across our team, we maintained focus on consistently representing this developing brand, in everything from messaging to visuals (made extra challenging by the tight timeline). And while demanding internally, it was an incredible opportunity to develop the vision for our client’s “baby,” and we thoroughly enjoyed stepping into that role and involving them throughout the process.
What about the best things that came from not having any major guidelines?
Noise 13: One of the best things was having the chance to provide input at every level. As a strategy and design agency, we are very often involved in early business decisions and we provide advice to our clients on how to shape their businesses and ideas. But here, it was different. The client asked us to consider the future product and brand as our own. It gave us a unique opportunity to delve into new areas such as product design, marketing strategy, and much more.
Let’s talk about budget and time, both of which were limited for this project. How did you prioritize the client’s desires with also releasing this on time and staying under budget?
Noise 13: Our team is extremely detail-oriented, and we have high design standards—which take time. This project’s timeline definitely lit a fire beneath us, but ultimately helped us stay focused. While a bit more time would have been welcomed, we approached the project as a fun, unique challenge, and we made it happen as a team. Having a client that was readily available for weekly meetings, and approved things quickly, helped move the process along smoothly.
How did you design the packaging to emphasis the mission and values of the brand?
Noise 13: The packaging extends the brand’s qualities of simple, sophisticated elegance with the emphasis always remaining on color. The layout of the outer labels is clean and straightforward, the large block of color taking inspiration from Pantone chips—highlighting the most distinctive feature of the case and the concept behind the brand itself. The insert cards give customers more background on the color stories and case features, reiterating the pairings within each collection and encouraging collectability. The drawer format of the box was intentionally chosen because it encourages the user to store and protect their case when it’s not in use, just as they would any other high-quality fashion accessory. It also makes production sense—since the outer box elements are generic, the costs of per-SKU customization can stay low; the label, inner plastic tray (for different phone models), and insert cards are separate and interchangeable.