Making the Incredibly Complex, Incredibly Simple – Private Brand?

This guest post comes from Tess Wickstead, Strategy Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher. Tess presents an enlightening perspective on simplifying the retail experience. The message is applicable to all aspects of the consumer retail experience from store design to Private Brand development and packaging. “Ultimately, information design for packaging and retail today comes down to making the incredibly complex, incredibly simple…”

How good are you at navigating?

Ease of navigation’ became a key consideration for brands and retailers when consumers first hit the world of websites and e-commerce – and this has become ever more prescient with all the social media marketing and retail devices now at our fingertips. For the retailer, QR codes, in particular, are a way of successfully marrying the newly desirable virtual world with the physical retail arena. But, essentially, QR codes are a conduit to product information and we still need to pay attention to just how this information is ultimately displayed. And this is where good information design – and its power to shape the future of retail – really comes to the fore.

In a digital world, traditional information design may, perhaps, be seen as dated or outmoded. But, actually, as we become a bigger social and global society, information design – with its ability to transcend, for example, language constraints – is vital to the successful communication of messages and ideas. The widely acclaimed Virtual Water project shows just how successfully information design for the modern world can work with a poster and iPhone App detailing how much fresh water is used to produce selected products.

Leveraging navigation in retail has always been a priority when it comes to the in-store environment – and while this remains key as part of the overall retail experience – primarily we now need to counter the choice overload faced by consumers and concentrate on getting it right at the key consumer touchpoint: the packaging. An integral part of design when working in what are seen as possibly contentious and Government controlled industries – such as food, alcohol, tobacco – is using design to problem solve and convey the legal messages in the best way possible. But as the stakes are raised even higher with more and more brands vying for space and more and more on-pack information required, designers now face a new challenge in terms of working out how to design a correct hierarchy of information to create the biggest impact and meet both the information needs and emotional desires of the consumer.

Food and pharma are both tightly controlled and very emotive sectors. Innocent Smoothies not only broke the mold when it came to product innovation but, in terms of packaging developed a friendly but pared down design language to show just what was necessary – and perfectly aligned it to the brand’s truth. And if we turn to the traditionally staid Pharma category, newcomer Help Remedies is a truly groundbreaking addition. The uniform white paper pulp based packs are boldly and simply differentiated with primary color coding and one simple but forthright ‘I have a …’ tagline. The embossed shape of the product is a clever tactile and visual reinforcement of what the product is and what it is for – and a great example of a brand considering all its key equities and what they stand for. On shelf together, as a range, there is a clear, consistent navigation to create an information system that builds and promotes this brand equity.

Ultimately, information design for packaging and retail today comes down to making the incredibly complex, incredibly simple – and, in turn, making the consumer feel enlightened, understood and happier in their choices.

Imagine, no more little boxed lists in the bottom right-hand corner that everyone needs but can’t be bothered to read.

Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher
Tess’s great talent is the instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As the creative force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, getting to the point fast and delivering strategy that’s both creative and cohesive. A longstanding Pearlfisher person, Tess was Strategy Director in London for ten years before relocating with her family for a brand new challenge in New York.

As a literature student at York, Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Tess was keen to become first a clown, then a teacher. However, it was her belief that good culture matters that finally led to a career in design and an ongoing commitment to creating powerful brands that contribute positively to the world. Short and sharp in all things, Tess balances refreshing bluntness with disarming humanity. Her presence on a project promises fireworks – and guarantees results.



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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.