| What Start-ups Should Look for When Choosing a Design Agency | Jackdaw Design London
Jackdaw's Amanda Jackson talks to the Female Foodpreneur Collective about what start-ups should look for when choosing a design agency
Start-ups, Design, Agency, Jackdaw, London
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What Start-ups Should Look for When Choosing a Design Agency: An interview with Female Foodpreneur Collective. Part 2

Part 1: The Importance of Branding for Food and Drink Products

 

Ashanti:

One of the things I’m always interested in is from the other side of the table. So you, as the designer, what advice would you give to a new brand with no experience? Because a lot of people coming in to this business, they have no experience of packaging design etc. What should they look out for? How should they be approaching the process of choosing a designer before they invest that money with them? What should they look for in that designer?

 

Amanda:

I think that’s a really good question. My advice would be to look for designers that specialise in the type of challenge you have identified and that you need to resolve.

 

What I mean by this is: if you think you need to resolve issues with your packaging then look for designers who specialise in packaging, rather than a generalist designer. I think the easiest way to do this is to look at their portfolio online. If the work examples are mainly packaging projects then it’s probably safe to assume that they specialise in packaging design, as opposed to seeing a selection of graphic design projects with just a few packaging examples.

 

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I would say other considerations to think about: have they worked on similar sized projects to yours? Or have they got similar types of client to you? Do they work in your sector? Have they worked with any of your competitors? I think that’s always a good one to look out for. Or do they have a range of outputs that are somehow similar? Think about what sort of experience they have. You know there are a lot of new design companies coming up, as well as the bigger really established ones, and just because they may be a new company doesn’t mean the owners or the senior designers don’t have vast experience. Often those people have had years in the industry before setting up on their own.

 

And then just kind of logical things: Do you like what they do? Do you like the style of their work, or the effectiveness? And is there any information available on their website? Can you get a feel for who they are? And can you get more information if you need to? Give them a call. One really good thing that I’ll add in here is look to see if they are a member of an organisation or some kind of body. I don’t know if many people know or have heard of the DBA. The DBA is the Design Business Association, and a lot of good agencies are on the register. You have to meet quite strict criteria to get on the DBA register. And they have a whole website where you search by criteria. So when I mentioned earlier, for example, say you needed help with web design, you can go on the DBA register, type in ‘I’m looking for web designers’ and it’ll give you a shortlist. So that’s quite useful and at least that way you know that you’re getting good quality service, and all those agencies have met the criteria.

 

Ashanti:

I love that little tip there! And also when you mentioned before about the fact they might be a new company but the individuals may actually have years of experience, that’s a really good point.

 

Amanda:

Yes, Jackdaw is one of those companies. We’re up and coming and looking to work with new clients, on interesting projects. My company is five now but I’ve actually been working in the industry for twelve years.

 

Ashanti:

The other thing I wanted to touch upon is because you talked about it previously, is that it’s difficult if a designer comes with several options, or three commonly, and then how do you choose which way to go? As you say, design is difficult to judge to some extent, and it can be quite difficult to convey your vision for your brand to another person. And they go away after you’ve done a lot of the discussions and the process, you could have high expectations and then possibly feel disappointed. Or you could not really expect very much and be actually be surprised by another angle on your brand. I mean what do you think in terms of the customer service element because I know most of these packages come with maybe a set amount of revision options, for example. It’s a very interesting area for me.

 

Amanda:

First of all, I often think about it from the other side of the table as well, and buying design is scary! I think it’s scary for a lot of people because you don’t know what your designer is going to come up with or what you’re going to get at the end of the process. Will I like it? Will I not? Will they hit the mark? And design is a back and forth process. I don’t know anyone that really would create one design and hit the mark first time. So often you explore quite a few options and I would say that when you work with a designer it’s a collaboration, and it is a bit of trial and error and it might be three revisions before you get to the design that you want.

 

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But you should be honest with your designer as well, so if you’re disappointed tell them what it is that’s not working for you and your designer will tweak it and get you to a place where it does work. But a good, experienced, designer will guide you through the journey. We believe at Jackdaw that close collaboration with our clients is the best recipe for success.

 

Ashanti:

So you’re helping them with their branding, packaging and web presence as well. So apart from the quality of the product itself, what do you think is the most important factor in the success of a food and drink brand?

 

Amanda:

We live in a visual culture and you can have the best product in the world or the best service, but your product can live or die in the execution. And I see this time and time again. So I would say, that if we are talking about food and drink, that packaging is the most important factor. And why do I say that? It’s because in nearly all cases, the product packaging is the first point of connection between consumers and brands. So in essence, the packaging has become the advertising. I think one of the challenges of start-ups is turning your dream into a reality on a really tight budget. And at the very beginning often people don’t have a massive marketing budget, so your packaging really becomes your marketing vehicle. So I think packaging is probably the most important factor in the success of a food and drink brand.

 

Ashanti:

You’ve got some great examples that you’ve used, I know you’ve talked about Innocent Drinks for example.

 

Amanda:

There’s a great story that I think I’ve told you before, that when Innocent drinks first launched in the orange juice sector, they were de-listed by supermarkets because the juice only reached a turnover of £4 million in its second year. However, when they relaunched orange juice three years later in the carafe-shaped bottle we know now, rather than a carton design, the product reached a turnover of £80 million in its second year. And this success came about without any change to the juice, or to the price, or to the distribution, or to the brand. So this is a really good example of how actually just changing the physical shape of the packaging container rocketed their sales from a turnover of £4 million to £80 million. That’s an amazing story. It really shows how packaging design can alter the perception of your product. I think the guy at Innocent, Richard Reed, said they put it in a posh container, they called it a carafe to sound posh and premium, and it really worked and it flew off the shelves.

 

I think the way to think about packaging is to think about a chef preparing a meal and if you look at how much a chef puts into the presentation, they labour over it and they get grilled for any errors, if you watch MasterChef or something like that. It’s true to say that we generally use all of our senses when consuming food, and sight is such a huge part of this. So when you’re marketing your food on the shelves of the supermarket, when you can’t plate it up, how do we make it appealing? That’s when packaging design comes into play and it’s so so important. So I say it’s worth remembering the saying: ‘the first bite is taken with the eye’.

 

Ashanti:

What lessons can you share from your clients in this industry? I mean, I love the Claudi & Fin story, I can’t stop talking about that one! It’s all about getting into strategy and practical tips to help other women grow their business in this space. So what practical lessons have some of your clients learnt or have you learnt from working with your clients, for someone who’s new who’s about to embark on this stage in their branding journey?

 

Amanda:

So lessons and advice. I think Lucy Woodhouse from Claudi & Fin – she won’t mind me saying this – she said to me once that they really regret trying to do too much themselves at the beginning. You can get really stuck in the trenches during the early days that you become overly focused on keeping lean and so you fail to bring in the right people into your business as a result. And her advice really was to do your research and tap into a really talented pool of people. And that could be anyone from food technologists, to graphic designers, photographers etc.

 

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Ashanti:

I totally agree with that about tapping into other people and networks of people who have already done it or who are doing it. I think that’s so crucial and key, and that’s why I talk a lot about networking. And I think networking as a word can put people off. But really what we mean is just being a real human being and going out there and talking, introducing yourself to other human beings – and that’s a mix of online networking and in person networking. It’s really important, I feel, for your development and progress.

 

Amanda:

I couldn’t agree more.

 

Ashanti:

I actually really want to thank you for coming on and sharing these kind of thoughts with me. Design as you say is quite a specific area, it can be scary, but your practical tips I know will help many who are listening and who are about to either embark on it or who are looking to refresh an existing brand.

 

Amanda:

I hope it’s been useful!

 

Ashanti:

It definitely has Amanda!