Talking Packaging Design with Bryan Pickens

image source: Buzzfeed

Earlier this summer, our creative team began to explore new packaging design as a part of their creative exercises, and it’s become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for new client work this fall. We’ve since designed packaging for cupcakes, ginger ale, ice cream and more in just the last few months. Below, Bryan (BP) talks to me (AM) about what he’s working on and where he finds inspiration.


AM: What makes good packaging design? 

BP: The bottom line is that you need to sell the product. The packaging needs to be attractive to the buyer and easy to read from the shelf, as well as legible on all sides of the product. It should create impact. Does it stand out from competitors? Will the shopper touch and interact with it? I tend to like products with simplified packaging, “less is more” thinking.
AM: Where do you look to for inspiration? 

BP: The first thing I do is look at stores where the product is or where it might be sold in the future. I go guerrilla-style with my iPhone and snap photos from my hip so clerks don’t notice. The other day, I was walking through the aisles of BevMo, taking pics, getting a panoramic view (shh!).

Next, I do research online. There’s a website called the dieline that I like to scroll through, along with Packaging of the World and Lovely Package. It’s nice to see what’s being done internationally. You have to find a balance of not copying what’s already being done and being original. I usually look to magazines and blogs for inspiration, and then pull in elements I like to make it my own.

Bryan Pickens - Vicken
AM: What have you been working on lately?

BP: We’re working on packaging for for a Mexican ice cream brand. After seven or eight years, they’re ready to update the look and feel of their logo and brand. They came to us to design something new and fresh but still showcases their brand loyalty. We created a safe design of the ice cream quart, a middle-ground option, and then something more outside the norm. For the third piece, we incorporated a custom-illustration feel that pushed the brand pretty far. For the middle-ground option, we created took a few design chances but still held close to Mexican tradition by incorporating an Aztec calendar that emphasized the longevity of the brand. I’m anxious to see what the client decides on.

We’re also creating ways to package a new product that involves ice cream inside the shells of real fruit (like coconuts, pineapple, etc.). One of our designers, Allison, is really into Japanese culture, so we’re looking at what’s happening in Japan right now in fruit packaging. In Japan, fruit is often given as specialty gifts, and the packaging is pretty minimalistic. This is a realm where food art is an experience, more than just something you eat. So, we’re trying to incorporate that mentality while showing the actual product.

AM: If a start-up company is trying to create a cool product with inexpensive packaging design, what advice would you give them?

BP: There are a lot of things you can do right now with screen printing. For example, you could do a 2-color print job and turn it into a third by overlapping the colors (like yellow over blue to make it a green). Budget-wise, you obviously want to think about your materials. With clean design, you don’t need to over think the piece. Just keep it nice and simple. You don’t have to worry about expensive printing techniques like metallics, foils, die cuts to make it work. It the design is good enough, it should stand on its own.

For design inspiration from JP, follow us on Pinterest.