You Have to Start Somewhere
Jonnie Vigar—co-founder of Australia-based company Container—came up with the idea for the company shortly after meeting his business partner, Brenan Liston, formerly a design director, at a pitch meeting with hair-care brand Kevin Murphy. "I thought it would be nice not just to do a logo for this new brand, but to actually come up with a package as well," Vigar says. The two joined design forces to create the Kevin Murphy logo and packaging—and, upon realizing they'd stumbled upon a fruitful collaboration, decided to launch Container.
In a real-life tale of started-from-the-bottom-now-we're-here, Container went from managing a one-client roster to handling multiple accounts, and quickly built a tiny empire—one that grew so big it now merits its own production site in Shanghai.
This Isn't Just About Looks
Sure, pretty jars, tubes, and bottles are nice to look at, but the concepts behind the design involve a whole lot of consideration when it comes to functionality. "For us," explains Vigar, "the best design is both visually engaging and also helps improve the way the package is used."
"With the Kevin Murphy bottle, it works so that the liquid is always sitting at the bottom where the spout is, which means the bottle is always charged and ready to go for use," he says, noting that a small detail like that is one of many that come up in the concepting phase.
But It's Also All About the Looks
"In terms of design, we have a conversation with the client that includes mood boards with anything from cars to fashion to nature," Vigar says. "It's for us to hopefully translate those images into a visual, three-dimensional form that reflects the brand and gives them something unique to put on shelves."
If Snapchat and other social media platforms have taught us anything, it's that on looks alone, a product can sell big-time. "For us, rather than spending money on the more traditional marketing and PR route, just showing off a package that's unique and visually appealing is a huge benefit and draw for customers."
There's a Quality Check for Everything
Every single detail of a package is tested by strict standards, down to the type of plastics that can be used. "There's this thing called 'compatibility testing' during which you test the various types of plastics for different materials," Vigar says (materials meaning the liquids and creams inside of the containers). "With essential oils or alcohol-rich products, there can be issues—that's why we need to make sure that the formula doesn't have any sort of reaction."
But when a mistake occurs, it's quite the sight to see. "When a bad reaction does happen, a package can just sheer off—you'll twist the cap and the whole thing will come off in your hand," he says.
"For natural products, you need to keep packages as airtight as possible, as it will reduce the amount of preservatives and chemicals that have to go into the product."
It's the Perfect Arena for Beauty Making
After helping other companies develop their products for more than a decade, Container decided to create their own line of products called Leif, which includes body cleansers, moisturizers, and hair-care products. "We designed the bottle first, then went on a journey to work out what to put inside it, which is a bit back-to-front," Vigar notes.
"We wanted it to be very Australian in terms of the content, formulations, and the make of the extract for users; we wanted it to be modern and international in terms of its look and feel."
The Three Skills You Need for This Industry
Vigar gave us the three things he feels one must master in order to ace package creation.
Be a Good Problem Solver: "You've got to have an understanding of how things are manufactured, otherwise you're going to lead the client down a dead end path," he says.
Be Persistent: "Clients and factories would rather keep things simple and not do anything new, but you need to show the engineering department why innovation is a good thing. You have to find good factories and partners who have similar ideas as you do, and that's not always easy to find," he says.
Think Outside of the Box: "You've got to continually try and look at it from a different angle and see if there are opportunities to do something different," he says.
What would your dream packaging design look like?