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A New Golden Age of Packaging Design

Graham Shearsby is responsible for maintaining Design Bridge’s creative quality and reputation across three studios in London, Amsterdam and Singapore. 

In the article, Graham divulges how Design Bridge reached their level of success and how the best packaging design examples are causing a worldwide revolution in the creative industry. Read on for award winning packaging design inspirations and some vital advice from one of the industry's greats. As a former Foreman of the Packaging Design Jury and an award winner in his own right, Shearsby really knows what he's talking about. 

Graham Shearsby Design Bridge D&AD Packaging Design
Design Bridge at the D&AD Awards 2015

It’s a fact, the chubby wooden pencil is for the Design industry, the equivalent of the filmmaker’s Oscar figurine. There are now so many diverse award schemes to be lured into, but Design and Art Direction is the Daddy – founded the year I was born, and the only one to embrace the new blood of up and coming graduates alongside professional practitioners.

I was fortunate enough to win a Yellow Pencil back in the Eighties for my youthful typographic contribution to John Blackburn’s concept for Cockburn’s Port, and this year Design Bridge managed to scoop the inaugural ‘Most Awarded Design Agency’ gold Pencil. The memory of our whole table piling on to the stage to receive a pencil from a beaming Mark Bonner will remain with us all forever. The fact that this award was for our agency as a whole, is a testament to our teamwork, collaboration and shared creative aim. A proud culmination of an awful lot of hard work and passion, as we enterd our 30th year!

Take a Look at the Work That Gave Design Bridge Their 'Most Awarded' Title

We have also had a fantastic reaction from our clients and we even helped Diageo pick up the ‘Most Awarded Client’ award, which they were thrilled about. The chubby pencils really do matter.

The six Pencils in total we picked up were actually for three projects for two clients. The two clients are also probably the oldest brands we have ever worked on. Fortnum & Mason was founded in 1707 and Charles Tanqueray started distilling Gin in 1830.

The projects also had the shared problem of an amazing product, but with packaging that failed to reflect that quality or tell the story behind the brand. The other common link is the timeless simplicity of the packaging substrate – glass and cardboard, in fact, little difference to when originally packaged 200 years ago. Our resulting creative work now means empty chocolate boxes can now house treasured jewellery and trinkets, and candles glow from beautiful empty green Gin bottles in Clerkenwell and Brooklyn bar windows.

Tanqueray Design Bridge D&AD
Design Bridge's Tanqueray won two Graphite Pencils in Packaging Design at D&AD 2015.

For me, this is the simple power of great packaging design, often the ultimate physical expression of a brand, which has the ability to create desire and transport you emotionally to a different space – the Chanel No.5 bottle, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes and the Heinz Ketchup bottle are classic and enduring examples.

I do believe we are in a new golden age of great packaging design. The Global recession back in 2008 kicked off massive changes in attitudes and forced limits to consumer spending. Staying in was the new going out. There was a nostalgic comfort in looking back to past times, with a renewed interest in locally sourced products which contributed to shoe-string start-up’s that fuelled the boom in craft brewing, proto-distilling, obsessive coffee shops and street food. Once niche, these have now filtered through to the mainstream. Our choices are now abundant and mind-boggling, and the small batch challenger brands, beautifully packaged with real passion, have changed the face of bars and supermarkets globally. 

OlssonBarbieri, Hellstrøm Juleaquavit D&AD Pencil Packaging Design
Hellstrøm Juleaquavit design by OlssonBarbieri won a Wood Pencil in Packaging Design at D&AD 2015

This onset of ‘craft’ hitting the mainstream has also forced many brand owners to wake-up and realise they also need to put craft, substance and love back into what has often slipped into cost engineered generic packaging. Today, this new landscape offers great opportunities for practitioners in the art of pack design. The over reliance of photo-shopped effects and mannerisms are thankfully on the wane and we are now seeing beautifully hand-crafted ideas-focussed packaging once again.

So, for the D&AD Awards, I’m looking for entries that really make me sit-up and take notice. Work which has warmth, wit, charm and tactility, with fresh-thinking and brave ideas, that challenge category codes. I’m also looking for an innovative use of sustainable materials and a seamless integration of unique 2D and 3D design. How the overall pack can be used for rich brand storytelling and how can it reveal hidden stories which can be used to entertain and inform. Limited editions are a fabulous way to create desire and talkability, brands can play with the dressing-up box for a while, before reverting to their normal clothes.

My last word of advice is that some really memorable past work has come from the most unusual and unexpected categories – Michael Peters’ Windsor & Newton ink pots and WMH’s Hovis sliced white bread are brilliant examples.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.

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