Private Brand: Help: I Need Design, Not Another Designer

A nice guest post courtesy of the package design blog The Dieline, this post features Jonathan Fisher of the branding agency Pearlfisher. His thoughts are particularly relevant as retailers struggle to build brands and become branders.

Help: I Need Design, Not Another Designer.

A lot has happened since I started out in the design business. In the 80’s I had an amazing experience working at the highly influential Michael Peters & Partners just as packaging design became big business and brands realized they needed to get smart by design. Being with these talented people – in such a creative environment – had a huge formative influence on me as they created timeless packaging design classics like Windsor & Newton inks and Joseph perfume, to name just two.  In those days we put our designs together literally by hand and, in fact, I met my current business partners there as we worked slooowly through the night because of the intense craft, skill and passion for design needed to produce brilliant creative ideas and solutions. Global packaging design, and the business of it today, can trace its modern day influence to some of the designs and people that worked there.

Then in 1990 I went to New York to work for the newly established Michael Peters New York Studio. Within a year I watched that recession destroy a company that had grown too big, too fast, too poorly advised, but which somehow had never lost its creative focus. In its time Michael Peters was like a Bauhaus of modern design and it inspired a generation of new design agencies to start up, and the design market started to expand, with the likes of Lewis Moberly in the UK and Joe Duffy in the USA, each with their own aesthetic which in turn inspired more design companies. And so on.

But then came the age of the new and digital. The AppleMac was born, technology sped things up on an exponential upward curve, and along with my two partners Pearlfisher was born 18 years ago to this month in 1992. During the ever-changing and volatile years since we have somehow gone from being 3 partners with no clients to a good looking 18 year old design team. One thing that is central to what we do today, and when I stumbled out of Art school is.. Design. And, it’s been intimate.

But no more. Nowadays anyone can be a designer whizzing through work at the speed of light in a galaxy of bright stars called the design industry. In the UK and USA something like 95% of all design businesses are 5 people and under and only 3% are 30 people and over. There are hundreds of thousands of us working globally like creative ferrets on our ever speedier Mac pads with ever speedier deadlines with ever speedier solutions, for ever speedier clients, who change jobs at an ever increasing speedier rate and can get in touch with us even faster, from anywhere in the world. The design industry is an ever expanding universe of in-house design teams, breakaways, start ups, virtual agencies, partnerships, mergers, hybrids, collectives…whatever you name it, it’s out there – and happening faster.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.