Interview with Bill Goodwin, Founder of Goodwin Design Group

Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting

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Tell us about Goodwin Design Group. How does it differentiate itself?

At Goodwin we have an exclusive focus on kids and families. We are dedicated to our goal: “Make better things. Make things better.” Throughout the past 17 years, we have provided our clients with unique expertise and insights with a total focus on design for kids and families. We have helped launch new brands, extend many others and generate billions of dollars in revenue for our clients as a result.

From the start, our primary focus has been brand-packaging design. We started in the toy industry and have evolved to candy, food and beverage, personal care and nearly every category of consumer products in between. We have applied our expertise in a range of industries and services beyond CPG, including health care and financial literacy. During our 17 years, client initiatives, requests and projects have extended our brand packaging services to a wide range of capabilities. Our core focus remains design and innovation, which extends beyond branding and packaging to include product innovation, marketing and most user touchpoints, such as POP, print and digital ad campaigns, websites, games and apps.

We apply our expertise and insights with a total focus on the relationship between brands and the families they serve. Our insights come from investigation, discovery, visualization and articulation of communications for brands that feed, inspire, educate and entertain. Our process is fun and collaborative and draws on our natural curiosity, creativity and experience to help us reach what’s best for kids, families and our clients.

Since 1996, we have been partners with global branding leaders — and others who aim to be — including Campbell’s, Colgate-Palmolive, Crayola, Dial, Disney, Elmer’s, Franklin, General Mills, Gerber, Hain-Celestial Group, Hasbro, Hooked on Phonics, Johnson & Johnson, Ian's Natural Foods, Mattel, Nickelodeon, NUK, Kimberly-Clark, Sara Lee, SC Johnson and Topps among many others.The pursuit of a higher purpose in everything we do is essential to our success. We believe the brands that will matter most in the future will stand for products that are good for people and the planet.

What are some differences between doing packaging design for kids and packaging design for an older demographic?

Packaging design for kids is much different than other consumer demographics. Communication is unique and must evolve by age and stage. It must take into consideration basic communication skills and capabilities as well as dexterity in use. Packaging must do all of this while communicating effectively and meeting the needs of moms as well as other caregivers. This reality is unique by category, product and even brand. Kids influence up to 80 percent of household purchase decisions. As a general rule, moms choose the category; kids choose the brand. Communication, perception, understanding, function and usability are critical to the success of brand packaging for kids and families. Effective packaging must meet the unique functional and emotional/expressive desires of both kids and those who care for them.

Where do you find inspiration to design clever and innovative packaging for kids and families?

Like most designers, we observe the world around us, constantly exploring what’s new and unique. We do lots of looking at things. We shop and perform visual retail audits. We read and follow related consumer and trade media, both in print and online.

We also work with kids and moms routinely and involve them in our process. We have spent decades doing this, and as a result, we have developed unique expertise and insights over that time.

But every project is unique, and change — the new and what’s next — is essential for kids. We apply design thinking and user-centric design. We start with a comprehensive and immersive discover phase, explore widely in our design phases and are diligent in our refinement and development phase. In the end, we aim to meet the needs and desires of our clients and the kids and families they serve. By nature, every one of these challenges is different. There are standards, and to some degree, this can be formulaic, as in the case of child development and kids at various ages and stages. Other than those, everything is on the table and in the mix.

How has today’s rampant technological innovation affected the packaging industry and consumers’ expectations for packaging?

In the age of rampant technological innovation, we have all come to expect what’s next. Social networks have accelerated our ability and desire to discover and share anything new. Today’s kids were born into this, have personal digital devices at earlier and earlier ages and have spent their entire lives anticipating the next version of nearly everything.

At the same time, packaging and other technologies are gaining unprecedented momentum and efficiency. As a result, packaging updates, evolutions and revolutions will continue to be an essential part of the marketing mix. The convergence of technology and media will lead to more encompassing interactive experiences, such as augmented reality. Kids have come to expect content on packages and on their devices. The final step to true integration is next.

What are some ways you design packaging to invite kids to engage with a particular product or brand?

Effective packaging for kids must present the proper character, tone and story via visual messaging to deliver on what we call the five E’s: engage, emote, entice, enhance and endure. Packaging must also balance communication considering the role of moms and caregivers, as well as gift givers at times. This often requires what we call bimodal messaging to properly communicate certain messages to kids while effectively communicating another to moms.

We live in an era of sharing. Today’s kids and families share nearly everything. As part of this trend, today’s kids share things with their friends more than in the past. Yet, everyone has come to expect products to be specifically tailored to him or her. Recognizing opportunities to meet these convergent needs is at the heart of future brand success. Doing so will require unprecedented insight, consumer understanding and empathy.

What are two to three of your favorite projects you have worked on?

Dial Kids

Dial called on us to introduce kids’ body wash and shampoo to its category-leading portfolio of products. Going to the source, we worked with families to determine what would most appeal to and serve their needs both in store and at home. We explored branding, communication, character and structure solutions to meet these objectives. The result was brand packaging that communicates trust and efficacy to mom in cleaning her child’s perfect skin and pure fun for kids.

DIAL_1 Bazooka Relaunch

Topps brought us on board to breathe life back into the Bazooka Brand, a category creator that had spiraled into obscurity. Bazooka had a rich history and brand recall with kids, but it had little social currency and nearly no retail presence. We helped Topps evolve its strategy and develop breakthrough brand packaging, reigniting Bazooka’s relevance, generating buzz and regaining coveted placement at nearly every major retailer nationwide.

You may have seen our work in The New York Times or on CBS Sunday Morning.

BAZOOKA_PACKS

Gerber Packaging

Gerber is one of the most trusted brands in feeding and caring for babies and toddlers. Having partnered with NUK on its own brand packaging redesign, NUK trusted us with the redesign of their Gerber First Essentials line of products. Moms helped us understand what was most important to them about the category, the Gerber brand and products, which include specific features and benefits. Our solutions contemporized the brand while maintaining its heritage and equities and effectively communicating what matters most to moms.

GERBER_FIRSTESSENTIALS_PACKAGING

What qualities do kids and parents look for in brands today? What type of values will successful brands of the future have?

At every age and developmental stage, products must meet the basic functional needs and personal expressive desires of kids — and those who care for them. At the same time, kids care deeply about their world. They care about their families, friends and the planet. The brands that will matter most in the future will stand for products that are good for people and good for the planet. They’ll help make a healthy future possible. But if they aren’t appealing, alluring and exciting, that future will never exist. If they aren’t fun, no one will want them.

What trends in the packaging industry do you find most exciting?

There are many convergent trends that make this both an exciting and challenging time. As I’ve pointed out earlier, technological advances alone are having quite an impact. We have been engaging in co-creation and user-centric design since our inception, and it is exciting that the approach is being applied more widely of late.

With digital devices and social media, everyone has a voice and wants, even expects, to be heard. And, it is also easier and cheaper than ever to do. Leading brands are responding by seeking the opinions of their audience for a wide range of initiatives, including packaging design preferences. These preferences are often aesthetic or even superficial, but at best apply to brand packaging and include form and function. Kids have become used to, and are largely over, the “many-will-enter-few-will-win” promotional disclaimer. By rewarding kids who engage with the brand to improve their favorite products, everybody wins.

One reason you
love what you do: Most people, and especially kids, think I have the best job ever. When I step back and look at the work we’ve done over the last two decades, I am proud and grateful. I love that our work has been successful for our clients and has improved the lives of kids and moms — including my wife and our kids — in the process. I love the flexibility we are afforded and our ability to be selective of the work and projects we do. I am looking at the next stage of our work with an eye to doing good — to make things better and make better things.

Must-read book: I recommend “Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World,” by David B. Berman. A good friend sent me the book, as it appeals to my concerns and my intention to design for the greater good.

Earlier I shared what I love about what I do. The flipside is the reality that much of what we do becomes trash in the end. Our current social and economic model is simply not sustainable. If the rising BRIC nations consume at half the rate of us here in the U.S., we will need 4.5 planets to sustain it. David Berman’s book speaks to this challenge and my hope to be part of the solution.

This is from the book:

Design matters. As it never has before. Design creates so much of what we see, what we use and what we experience. In a time of unprecedented environmental, social and economic crises, designers must now choose what their young profession will be about: deploying weapons of mass deception — or helping repair the world.

“Do Good Design” is a call to action: This book alerts us to the role design plays in persuading global audiences to fulfill invented needs. The book then outlines a sustainable approach to both the practice and the consumption of design. All professionals will be inspired by the message of how we can feel better and do better while holding onto our principles.

Connect with Bill on Twitter @billgoodwin1 or LinkedIn.

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