Businesses underestimate the strategic importance of design for the business
Among the nominees for this year's Slovenian Oscars for packaging is also industrial designer Andreja Pogačar with her cardboard transport packaging. This year she has already received the Prešeren Prize for ALUO 2016 students. She says that namely people still buy with their eyes, but that the function and quality of the packaging that protects the product, are becoming more and more important. When she’s comparing the design position in our country and abroad, she draws attention to the market development. Indeed, managers still do not take into account the importance of design for the business, but at start-up ideas, a new practice is already beginning to show. The design is becoming a part of the business strategy.
The traditional design gave preference to functionality and aesthetic features of design solutions for packaging. To this day designers often point out that people buy with their eyes. Is this still true? To what extent do contractors and the market dictate new standards in finding the best solutions in packaging design, especially in industrial design, for which you are specialized?
Of course, we people are still buying with our eyes. Essentially this is good for our industry because otherwise, the industry of packaging and graphic imaging would not have much work to do. By all means, besides the appearance, the function and quality of the content are also important, which the packaging protects. Perhaps we often get convinced in the first purchase of less valuable products, by mere aesthetic packaging. But if the content doesn’t convince us, the repurchase is highly questionable. Because of great competition, the manufacturer or broker must take into account key “touch points”. Which of them are more important to him, he sees through his sales chain and the way he attracts the final customer. All this is in interdependence, with the message that the consumer wishes to provide to the consumer with the packaging.
And the final consumer?
The final consumer, the market in any case constantly dictates new standards. It strives for more efficient solutions and the use of materials dictated by current trends. Current trends add to the growing importance of sustainability, the transparency of the supply chain, new coating technologies (especially in the field of cardboard packaging), the weight and functionality of the packaging; I mean less weight, less cost in the entire supply chain and a smaller carbon footprint, and a packaging that does not cause frustration. Think about the opening and closing of certain packaging types.
In product design, the designer's role begins with the outline concept of the product. What is your design practice showing? By the conceptualization of the product, do contractors in Slovenia take sufficient consideration in the selection of materials, technological solutions, usability, and, above all, what happens with the product after it’s been used? So, eco-design and LCA?
In theory, all contractors strive to make an informed choice of materials and technological solutions. In practice, this situation is slightly different. Abroad, the situation is slightly better, but the decision makers are usually very similar to both at home and across the border. The difference is that the trends in foreign countries are more aggressive. On the basis of greater choice and probably better awareness, the consumers are much more demanding. Therefore, manufacturers or brokers need to focus more on the market requirements as they do with us, but this is also slowly changing. It must be borne in mind that the Slovenian market is much smaller. Contractors who launch their product only on the Slovene market do not have sufficient resources to devote more of them to their packaging. On the Slovenian market, we also have foreign multinationals, who are prepared to spend more money on thoughtful packaging, but they are negligible for their orders.
Unfortunately, the practice is such that for the packaging inadequately to little time is usually taken. Even though a thoughtful solution would save many dilemmas and unnecessary future costs. For most contractors, the cost of production is decisive at the very beginning, and most often the deadlines for its development are extremely short. Of course, each client wants to get the ideal solution for a minimum input.
What materials motivate you the most in design and why? Do any requirements for dematerialization of packaging among contractors still prevail?
I am most motivated by materials that I do not know well yet and represent to me a special challenge. I still carry out most of my projects with to myself and also to the most commonly used home materials. That’s with paper, cardboard. The cardboard has many positive properties in terms of weight, protection, recycling possibilities. It can represent an application of graphic messaging and has a low final cost for the contractor. Currently, the cardboard is still a bit controversial due to some factors, mainly due to the use of additional lamination, the use of toxic colors and inappropriate adhesives. But also in this area, drastic changes are happening that are already on the market. But their price is still a bit higher.
With respect to the dematerialization, I would reply with yes and no. Depending on the purpose of the packaging and the needs of the client. On one side we have gift packaging, which represents a complete waste of packaging material. On the other hand, we need to optimize the transport packaging, to adequately insure the product. In addition, it must represent the smallest weight and volume that affects all subsequent transport costs and, of course, the final cost of both the seller and the final buyer.
How much of a creative challenge there is when you have to design a product for batch production or for a unique product?
For the serial product, we must pay particular attention to the fact that the material consumption is minimal and the product protection is maximized. This means that the assembly of packaging is as simple as possible, takes a little time, and the final price of the packaging and the packaging workforce are as low as possible. This is important because of several aspects. In the first place, it is definitely the financial one, but of course, an ecological aspect is also important, which dictates the minimal use of material and has several consequences, such as carbon footprint, transport costs, etc. In serial production, we can also play with various special prints, since the final price can easily put up with that, which is not the case with a unique product.
With a unique product, we can take more freedom with complicated assembly, gluing; not only the economy, but also the lightness of assembly is at the forefront. Of course, much of this depends on what the customer wants. In any case, the packaging is adapted to the needs of the product. However, the development of only one piece of packaging can be as demanding as the development of packaging for batch production, which is usually not accepted by contracting authorities as the most understandable.
At the last exhibition of the Month of Design, critical writings about the creative power of product design in Slovenia mentioned that more innovation, boldness, more 3D technology were expected from Slovene designers. Which of our products would you highlight after the design invention and what is in your opinion lacking the product design in Slovenia? Is it underdeveloped and underappreciated?
The development of design itself is conditioned by the development of the market on which we designers work. This is also affected by the complexity of the consumer, which dictates the trends in the market. In any case, there are still many companies in Slovenia that are not yet aware of the strategic importance of design for business, if included in the company as one of the key strategies. Unfortunately, the reality is that many companies, contractors, often save exactly on the design work. Rather than opting for a team of professional designers who would work inside the company, they prefer to hire an outdoor studio or an individual and recruit him for one-time tasks. In the ascent, however, are more and more startup companies, where the situation is often different. There are many successful examples that took design as part of their strategy. On the market, this appears to be a great move.