Designers are probably the most versatile professionals in the world. There’s always going to be some client asking you for something you’ve never done before, and the worst thing you can do to your career is say, “Sorry I don’t do those things.”
Take for instance the above image, which is part of a project I undertook a couple of years ago when someone contacted me and asked if I was interested in helping them out with a new ice cream company they were putting together. Now, as I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I was formally trained as an industrial designer with a focus in architectural interiors and furniture –who has a chair fetish? This guy!– yet as of late I’ve been trying to ‘reinvent’ myself as a digital illustrator and graphic designer; I have created several logos, including the one for Robbie Graham’s August Night Press, and I’ve also designed the covers for various books.
But here the client were asking me to not only design their company logo, but also the look of the containers as they would be sold on supermarkets and convenience stores. Package Design is a VERY complicated and technical field onto itself, so the task felt pretty daunting. I was level with the clients –one of whom was someone I was friends with– about my inexperience, but I also told them I was willing to give it a try all the same.
One of the first steps in any design project is the ‘market study’: you have to analyze existing products that will compete with yours and look for their strength and weaknesses. You also need to ask yourself, “WHO is my demographic target? i.e. who are you planning to sell your product. In the ice cream world, for example, there is a vast difference between brands targeting a younger audience (kids) than a more mature demographic which might be willing to pay more for a ‘premium’ product.
I asked my clients, “Who are you selling this ice cream to?” and we ended up agreeing that due to the nature of their product (French style ice cream with custard) that it was going to appeal more to young professionals looking to enjoy a pint while they are watching Netflix than say, grade-school kids having a Sunday snack during their summer holiday.
With this in mind I proceeded to create a style to the product that would communicate a certain of sophistication (without being too exclusive). Limitations often play a role into the design process, and since my clients weren’t able to pay for high-quality photos –like the ones showing how the ice cream you’re buying is supposed to look like– and at the time I wasn’t still confident enough in my illustration skills to paint realistic-looking ice cream, I opted for a different route in which the ‘flavor’ would be identified purely through graphic means; in other words, I would create a ‘color palette’ that would characterize each ice cream flavor, all based on a stylized pattern.
I also took inspiration of Art Decó artistic styles as a way to convey the international sophistication I was looking for –let’s call it ‘panache’– and distinguish our product from the rest of the brands offered at sales points.
As per the name of the company itself (100 French Style Ice Cream) I asked my clients why they have chosen such a unusual name for their brand. They said it had occurred to them when they gave their first ice cream samples to the son of one of them for tasting, and when they asked what he thought of it the kid just kept saying “it’s 100!” as a reference to the emoji used in social media.
Personally I thought the name would confuse some clients into thinking the brand was offering one hundred different flavors, but since they had already registered the name and were adamant of keeping it, I simply opted from finding a design that would still be concordant to the aesthetic I was looking for (and yes, I know the Eiffel tower is cliched AF but there’s a reason why it’s such a reliable graphic gimmick).
After I created the logo and design elements that would be incorporated into the container (several logos were presented for consideration) I proceeded to create 3d models so I could make photorealistic renderings of the product so my clients could see how they would look like in real life –this is when my AutoCAD and 3DMax skills came very handy.
Once the French Vanilla flavor design was approved, I then proceeded to create similar design schemes for the other flavors my clients were intended to launch: Cookie Dough, Cookies & Cream, and Salted Caramel. Into the product image design was incorporated a transparent rim intended to keep the lid of the container sealed were added a little slogan I came up with: “It’s ice cream but “meilleur”” (‘meilleur’ is ‘better’ in French). Pretentious? You betcha! That was the point.
As time went by, the client kept asking me for more material: business cards, brochures, the design for another flavor (Chocolate) and even the image design for a vending machine they planned to buy. All that I happily did for them, hoping that one day my designs would be inside the refrigerators of American supermarkets.
There’s a lot more material I could share from this project that I won’t as a sign of respect to my client. Whether they managed to successfully launch their ice cream brand or not I do not know. The point of this post was simply to show how, as a Designer, I rarely back down from a project –even if it involves something completely new to me.
So keep me in mind if you have some crazy idea brewing in your head, okay? I might not be able to pull it off, but you never know –and I always strive to make my designs ‘100’ 😎