Leland Maschmeyer on the Future of Package Design
by Jessica Deseo on 08/12/2014 | 6 Minute Read
The Dieline Summit is setting out to create a different kind of package design conference and to prepare the next generation of designers.
We are excited to properly introduce all of our speakers for The Dieline Summit with a series of questions that represent the theme and overarching question:
Our first speaker interview is with Leland Machmeyer, he is the executive creative director and founding partner of Collins. His work focuses on accelerating brand growth through story-driven design.
LM: I grew up in a small town in Georgia. I was always fascinated by design—though I didn’t know to call it design. I would redesign the logos for MLB teams, reimagine music CD covers, and invent new typography gestures on the front of my notebooks. I called it “drawing.” Years later, I began my professional career in an advertising agency. It was a valuable experience because it exposed me to the business of creativity and developed in me a fluency for brands and brand building. I later co-founded Collins with my business partner Brian Collins as a brand agency that uses design thinking to accelerate brands.
LM: The discussion about packaging’s future is really a discussion about retail’s future. The design of packaging, in many ways, is a strategic reaction to the retail environment and how consumers navigate it. With coming retail advancements like “endless aisles,” increased mobile shopping, internet-of-things connections, new product subscription models, iBeacon, Amazon Dash, grocery home delivery, personal assistant AI and many more will elicit entirely new shopping behaviors that will force new success criteria on packaging. In turn, those new success criteria will drive the innovative of packaging’s future.
LM: There’s a whole host of reasons to love Design. Personally, I love to think of Design as a tradition of inquiry just like the Sciences and Humanities. The Sciences seek to answer, “What is true?” The Humanities seek to answer, “What matters?” Design—or as we should really call it, the Designs—seek to answer, “What is desirable?” I think we as humans often feel our lives to be incomplete—even handicapped. Life is the struggle for wholeness—spiritually, psychologically, socially, economically, and physically. Desire, then, is the understanding of and need for what we are missing. So we act. Or better, we design. We consider the aesthetics (what we want), ethics (what ought to be) and reason (what needs to be) to create was is desirable: new relationships, new forms and new realities. In short, Design is the human will in motion.
As it relates to packaging design, I’m fascinated by the notion that design’s domain-specific purpose is to create attraction. Attraction is the spark that occurs when desire meets the manifestation of the desired. In other words, attraction is the recognition of the missing piece in one’s life. It’s why we use the term “object of desire” to describe those things that give us a sense of balance, completeness, comfort—a.k.a., wholeness. It’s also why, when we see things to which we are attracted, we say, “I have to have that.” In essence, we are saying, “I need that object to complete my incomplete life.” When obtained, the results can be transformative on the person.
LM: Though visual styles will and do evolve, I don’t think the fundamentals of communication design will change. Communication design has always specialized in compressing complex ideas into simple expressions. Clarity, meaning and beauty have always been—and always will be—the discipline’s value proposition. The increased degree of complexity doesn’t change that proposition. It only increases its value.
LM: As you mentioned in the previous question, complexity is the name of the game going forward. It’s the big problem impeding progress across all sectors of our world: the environment, government, business, educational system, healthcare system, food system, energy system, financial system, etc. As intimidating as that sounds, I believe the next generation of designers will play a significant role in conquering complexity because they will have a superior aptitude for navigating and deciphering systems of complexity than most designers today. On one hand, the next generation is growing up in a complex world and will develop an intuitive understanding of it. On the other hand, their desire and ability to make a difference in the world will bring them into direct confrontation with seemingly impenetrable complexity. As such, they will bootstrap their own means for wrangling it. As a educator, I so strongly believe in the importance of designers developing complexity fluency that, in my graduate course at the School of Visual Arts, I teach design students how to map, understand, and intervene in complex problems. Though it may sound like an academic pursuit, these methods are very practical because they reveal:
1. Where the root problem is2. Why a problem is the root problem3. How to solve that problem4. What positive cascading impact the solution will have and how to measure that impact
LM: I’m very intrigued by the possibilities of what the Internet of things will do for product and packaging design. When a package design can talk to my mobile device, my shopping experience changes—as do the questions, boundaries, and success criteria of the design challenge.
LM: I’ve always loved how heavily design is informed by its history. At our office, specifically, we regularly reference and debate the actors and movements in design, art and photography to inform our work. The work and ideas of Erik Neitzche, Alexey Brodovitch, Diana Vreeland, Josef Albers, Max Bill, Otl Aicher, Emilio Pucci, Design Research and Armin Hoffman have each had direct influence on our work.
LM: I just hope my talk is packed with a meaty idea or two that they remember and reference long after the talk.