For 2021, a big business goal was to create a community space for designers and other creatives to connect, share, and collaborate and from this Quill Collective was born. Hosted on a platform called Circle which is essentially the hipper child of Slack and Facebook, Quill Collective now boasts nearly 300 members and it’s been deeply rewarding so far. Beyond these conversations happening on the platform, we envisioned hosting an array of talented guest speakers for the Collective Members to learn from and hear their personal stories with entrepreneurship. Oh, and did I mention, it’s totally free to join.
That idea came to life last week with our first incredible guest speaker, Lauren of Elby Creative. Lauren came on to chat all things packaging design, a niche of design that oftentimes can feel daunting to other designers with little experience in it. We had a fun and casual conversation about her beginnings in the design field, what makes her passionate about packaging design specifically, and ideas for other designers who want to dive into packaging but haven’t done so before.
We loved the interview so much that it only felt fitting to turn it into a blogpost to recap some of the highlights and favorite questions. You can also catch the full replay by joining Quill Collective today! Let’s dive in:
Q: Share more about your career and what led you to work for yourself?
A: I worked for a small design agency for about three years, but sort of always knew that I wanted to work for myself and run my own show. After learning so much at the agency, I started my own business, Elby Creative, in the fall of 2019 and haven’t looked back since. Elby Creative is a branding, web design, and packaging design studio with a focus on product-based business in the wellness space.
My love for packaging design came from that agency experience, where on my first day on the job I was tasked with a packaging design project and had zero experience. It was a bit scary and honestly intimidating but I learned a lot quickly and had so much fun with that particular sect of design. It became the majority of my workload at the agency and definitely shaped me as a designer when I was ready to do my own thing.
Q: What is it about packaging design in particular that gets you most excited?
A: I love the tactile nature of packaging design. With digital branding design and web design, we spend so much time on our screens and through packaging design we get to bring back some of the hands-on work.
There’s also truly something special about seeing your designs out in the wild in real life! This made me fall in love even more with packaging design. Packaging is essentially a whole, real-life embodiment of a brand and conveys so much information about its values and vibe. I’ve also always been the type of person to pick products based on the packaging design, and so if I can have any influence over that part of the process for other people’s businesses it feels like a dream.
Q: Can you walk us through an overview of your branding design process?
A: My process on packaging has changed over time when it comes to packaging design. Most agencies do branding first, and packaging last once they’ve established all the fonts, colors, patterns, and logos. I’ve come to realize that this doesn’t always work well to create the best packaging. I might design a logo that I love on its own, but it misses the mark when on the packaging.
I always start with brand strategy, in order to better realize their larger business goals and how packaging would impact that or play a role. What’s changed is that I’ve started to add in building mock-ups into the brand design phase. While these mock-ups may not even reflect the final packaging design or be seen by the client, they help the process tremendously. By doing some sort of mock-ups concurrently with the brand design phase, it’s easier to see all the pieces coming together by knowing the end goals for the packaging at the beginning of the project.
Q: What’s a misconception about packaging design that other designers might have?
A: Designers assume they need to do it all. And while it’s great to constantly be learning and deepening your knowledge, we ultimately have a choice around the services we offer as small business owners. We can do what fits best for our business and go from there. If offering packaging sourcing intimidates you or isn’t something you love, it’s okay not to offer it! The important part is to be very clear and direct with the client about what you do and do not offer and stick to that.
I think there’s also a misconception about needing to do everything by ourselves and always be the expert. Get in touch with your local printers and create relationships with them! You don’t need to know all the things and you can sometimes serve your clients better by developing these relationships.
Q: What’s something you’ve learned from offering packaging design to clients?
A: Packaging is a very involved process and you really need to understand the scope in order to best serve them. If you’re just starting, you will likely spend way more time on the project than you anticipate. I would recommend overestimating the amount of time it will actually take and also price your services accordingly.
Q: Where do you look for packaging design inspiration?
A: I love to actually experience packaging IRL and go into stores. Pre-Covid, I loved to go to the wellness section in Target and just touch things! I love that the in-person experience with packaging brings to life details that you might not catch if you are just looking online. It’s hard to catch the textures and true essences of the packaging purely from a digital format.
Another resource that’s great is The Package Design Book. This book encourages me to try those “out-there” ideas and that proposing the simplest idea can be a limiting mindset. Part of the joy of packaging design is to try new, sometimes crazy ideas and this book is a great reminder of that.
Q: What are some suggestions you would have for designers looking to get into packaging?
A: Mock-up projects are my go-to suggestion! You can learn so much from doing a mock-up project — from what parts of packaging you like to do and what is challenging, to learning the things you didn’t know you needed to know, and just experimenting with your overall style! It’s a great way to practice but also potentially share it in your portfolio to start to attract more packaging clients.
Q: Where can everyone find you and can you share with us more about your packaging design course?
A: You can find me at Elby Creative on Instagram and also on my website! My course, Packaging Design Master, is open to designers of all skill levels – from beginners to experts. In the course though 7 modules plus a bonus module, you’ll go through my entire approach to packaging design from start to finish!
To watch the full replay and catch upcoming guest expert interviews, join Quill Collective, a free community for designers. Lauren has also been gracious enough to extend a discount to anyone catching the replay of $50 off of her course. Just use the code “QUILLANDCO” at checkout.