Thought Leadership

WORKING FROM HOME AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTOTYPING

Gary Chiappetta
CEO & Partner
October 29, 2020
According to a recent article by Adam Gorlick from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy, 42% of the US labor force in our country is working remotely while 26% of essential workers work on premise. A similar breakdown is reflected at Kaleidoscope with 30% of our team safely working in the studio; another 50% working remotely; and the remaining 20% balancing between office time and working remotely. Currently, our Realization teams (prototyping and production) are working on premise while Strategy, Design and Implementation teams are able to work remotely. Marketing, operations and HR have been balancing their time between working remotely and coming into the studio for collaboration, reviews and support. To maintain workflow and communication, we have adapted to sharing text, video and images shared over Zoom, Teams, or email. While we’ve certainly adjusted to this style of workflow, we are still missing out on some level of physical contact between people and products when sharing design ideas between team members and our clients. Relying on technology alone for communicating project parameters (like a creative brief) works great, but communicating packaging design intent in this manner leaves too much room for interpretation, misconception and misrepresentation. To solve for this, developing and sharing physical packaging prototypes has become the defining difference between expectations and
meeting objectives.

Kaleidoscope recognizes the need for our remote staff to be able to interact in a hybrid style of creative review that does not compromise feedback and results prior to “design lock” and production. Working closely with the on-site realization staff, our designers leverage in-house expertise to interpret and ensure design intent can be modeled in a real-world environment. Designers use several of our tools and methodologies for proving out color and form to physically see, touch and evaluate packaging design ideas at the design level. They must be able to think and work in multiple dimensions and
color gamut.

Packaging designers are typically working on calibrated monitors in an RGB color world and use digital printing to interpolate color intent as physical output. And with the many varied color output devices (and diversity of color accuracy) of clients working from home, results will differ widely from monitor to monitor and printer to printer. What can designers do, for example, to test and share color translucency on a foil stock or explore color options and special effects outside the viewing restrictions of a monitor or home printer? At Kaleidoscope, we have a team of color experts that can test and evaluate “ink on paper” that is specific to designers’ requests. The Realization team can prove out color “theories” in a real-world environment bridging the gap between design intent and print specification in a production environment. Our color imaging capabilities utilize both digital and traditional methods such as ink drawdowns to match, prove out and explore options that are critical to the brand and design intent. Results can be shared with clients by sending swatches and examples to their homes so the teams can effectively collaborate on a video conference call. The benefit is speed to market and eliminating potential bottlenecks so our clients can stay on track for manufacturing and
distribution schedules.

Earlier this year, we were working on a shelf stable beverage project where the client teams could not agree on color because it was challenging to visualize the intent. There were also issues regarding how the shrink wrap on the plastic bottle could affect the color and typography in production. While the virtual renderings looked great, not everyone was convinced. To reach a consensus, the Kaleidoscope Realization team was able to explore color variations in context to the final design, printed and shrink wrapped around two different size bottles (12oz and 32 oz). Three sets of the bottles, each set containing color variance options, were sent to clients’ and designers’ homes for a very effective virtual meeting. The prototypes took less than two days to produce and saved our teams time at a critical juncture in the project initiative.

In another example, we worked on a project that required in-home research testing on a new packaging design. While covid-19 impacted Focus Groups, we still needed to live test (using real prototypes) how consumers perceived the new packaging design and the overall experience with opening, using, resealing and storing. As a result, our model shop was able to produce physical lookalikes to ensure research participants were interacting with something real versus an image on their screen. After the imaging and mock-up teams prepared the final structural and graphic packaging, prototypes were sent home to our designers, clients, the moderator and research participants. Using Microsoft Teams, the moderator was able to have highly interactive and insightful dialog with consumers that resulted in slight modifications and reducing our time-to-market without compromise. With prototypes, we were able to ensure our research findings could be as accurate as possible while integrating iterative feedback throughout each phase.

3D in a 2D world

Packaging lives in a 3D world at shelf or in a consumer’s hands, which means dimensionality plays a major role in the brand experience. As a result, our designers think through the package’s intended form such as bags, boxes, labels, pouches, shrink wraps as well as production capabilities on the client side. To ensure design intent is met, our designers leverage two specific levels of prototyping—virtual renderings and physical prototypes—as part of their packaging tool box. While they have varying levels of fidelity, both solutions help us fully understand the dimensionality of a package during our designing phase (versus after) which keeps project timelines on track.

Virtual package renderings are a cost-effective solution to evaluate how design intent lives in as a dimensional form, especially early on in the design phase. Kaleidoscope’s Realization team has developed a toolbox of three different levels of fidelity (low, medium and high) that can be shared and reviewed online in a virtual conference room. Low and medium fidelity renderings have less detail and are primarily used for initial evaluations or iterative perspectives. These renderings can showcase one product form or may include wider shelf sets. Competitors can also be added to these shelf sets to determine how a particular design will perform in a retail setting. In special circumstances, our design team may want to convey the experience of opening or resealing a package, or depict surface and substrate qualities that reflect or reveal. In these instances, the highest level of rendering is employed because it helps capture light as well as movement. All of these examples can be shared across any digital platform for clients to review at
home offices.

IT’S NOT REAL UNTIL YOU HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND

As the work-from-home culture of our industry evolves, so does our need to better communicate design thinking and design intent beyond sharing computer-generated images. Physical packaging prototypes create a visceral reaction when it can be held with some natural interaction. At this level, it’s easy to get a sense of scale and impact when the prototype also depicts color and graphics. Representation of substrate, materials and color are true to form and allow for more meaningful feedback from team members, marketing and consumers. Utilizing packaging prototypes for consumer research has proved to be a valuable tool to improve and optimize packaging communication as well as understanding purchase decision making. These “appearance model” prototypes are a great way to test consumer perception, understand frame of reference and look for cues that motivate beyond purchase intent. Brands rely heavily on the power of packaging to differentiate and communicate, it’s the last step (and goal) of every advertising and marketing campaign to make sure consumers put it in the cart. Get the packaging wrong and all the other efforts to advertise, market and promote will fall flat.

At Kaleidoscope, we understand our clients need to lead fast and react even faster. The markets are quickly changing and so are consumers’ behaviors and habits. Brand marketers need partners that they can depend on to help their WFH teams perform their best without sacrificing the physical connections needed to ensure process and methodologies can be tested. Our hybrid model of working will allow our strategy, design and realization teams to be able to communicate and prove out intent while meeting or exceeding marketing goals and timelines.

 

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