July 15, 2013

What Makes You So Special?

What Makes You So Special?

What makes us truly spectacular? Well, our humble attitude certainly contributes to our overall wonderfulness, as does our ability to recognize our own flaws [few] and listen to the opinions of our peers, no matter how stupid they may be.

We kid; we jest. But seriously, what qualities must a package designer have in order to be great? We’ll explore the different characteristics that not only make a package designer’s overall quality of work excellent, but also encourage clients to hold him/her dear to their hearts.

A broad Range of Styles

Until a design company reaches the pinnacle of success (and we’re talking being mentioned in the same sentence as Andy Warhol and the Louvre level of success), no client wants a design that immediately calls to mind the work of that particular designer. Even though it is nearly impossible for a designer to have an equal passion for all design and artistic variables, it is nonetheless important to be able to recognize the value of a whole host of styles and ideas. The ability to embrace an entire spectrum of design concepts is critical to being able to serve clients effectively and understand the aesthetic the client wants.

Practical Thinking

Package designers aren’t just artists. In fact, package designers spend less time on artistry than they do on dimensions, labeling regulations, thermal analysis, tamper resistance, ease of shipment, marketing, sales and displays. Even though a package designer’s original concept might have been drafted in a sketch pad in a fit of creative rapture, that concept must eventually be engineered into a sturdy, efficient and effective package.


Why do people value naked honesty? Does anyone want to be told exactly what is wrong with them in dispassionate and graphic detail? Certainly not! We want to feel as though our ideas have merit, no matter how wrong we are.

This is why it is important for package designers (and anyone working with clients, for that matter) to negotiate honest communication of their opinions with the ability to communicate those opinions in a way that will move the client over to the designer’s way of thinking. If the client feels insulted, the client won’t be happy. If the client isn’t happy, the client will never return and moreover will voice his/her displeasure on forums and Facebook pages like an offended demon. However, if the graphic designer is able to work with his/her clients effectively, then the designer and the client will end up with a result that fills both parties with pride.

If you disagree with your client wholeheartedly, do not voice your disagreement based purely on gut instinct or personal taste; make sure you use hard data, statistics and expertise in your argument. If the client feels you are basing your disagreement on facts rather than a desire to flex design muscle, you’re more likely to get him/her to yield.

Of course, there are times when the client’s ideas are etched in stone and reason simply will not win. In those instances, a designer must work within the parameters outlined by the client in order to make him/her happy. Just take the money and leave that particular package design off of your wall of fame.


This may be painful to hear, but you’re probably not the greatest package designer who’s ever lived. Oh, you have skills – mad skills, it could be argued – but there are other designers out there with talent, time and serious hunger, and clients will be just as happy to consult with them if they think your attitude is going to be a challenge. If you are the sort of person that flings his/her portfolio down in disgust and stomps from the room at the slightest criticism, you are not only alienating people that will potentially give you money, you are also a truly horrible person to be around. Just sayin’.

As difficult as it might be, sometimes pride must be swallowed. No one is saying that you can’t draft an informed counter-argument when someone disagrees with your work, but if you let your feelings interfere with your ability to get the job done, you are only hurting yourself and preventing the world from seeing your true genius, since no one will ever hire you after enough outraged outbursts.

So, what have we learned today? We’ve learned to broaden our style horizons. We’ve learned that if you think that your fancy-free, bongo drum-beating artistic temperament is the most important quality a package designer can have, you’ll spend most of your design career weeping in a fit of industrial engineering and research and development despair. Finally, we learned that honest communication is important, but so long as it’s done in a way that doesn’t make the client kick you in the shins.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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