As senior graphic designer at Brown-Forman, Kate Stites has been very busy with package redesigns, lately redesigning gift boxes for the entire line of the Jack Daniel’s products, and most recently heading up the new design of Chambord bottle and its holiday gift box. The award-winning package debuted for the 2015 holiday season, and will make its second appearance this fall. We talked to Stites about the process of designing gift boxes for premium brands, and her approach to the new Chambord holiday package.
The first inspiration point Stites starts with is the primary package. The bottles and labels are meant to stand on their own, so her approach to design relies heavily on brand strategy and maintaining the essence and heritage of the brand. This presents a message of consistency in the product for brand loyalists, and an iconic symbol of a premium brand that attracts new customers.
“Designing boxes, what we refer to as secondary packaging, is a bit different than designing the primary packaging,” says Stites. When it comes to the gift box design, she shifts to a different design perspective — that of retailers. “Gift boxes are really important to retailers, they know what works on their shelves. It’s important for the package to addresses their needs; a strong presence on shelf, a premium design that appeals to brand lovers, and a look that attracts sales.”
In addition to designing something to maximize shelf presence, Stites also sees the gift box design as an opportunity to reward consumers for their purchase, “We want to make them feel good about the brand when they get the box home and open it, so we build in design elements to be revealed during the un-boxing process. A gift box allows for not only a deeper brand experience and premium feel but also creates flexible brand opportunities.”
With the Chambord packaging, Stites said they looked to the brand’s flavor cues. “Chambord is the only liqueur in the Brown-Forman product line, and it’s very distinct — its bottle, its color and its flavor. I wanted to bring that richness of flavor and luxurious color to the forefront with packaging cues. We have a gorgeous bottle and the intent is to highlight it, not hide it,” said Stites.
Stites first changed the material. The previous design was created with a metallized polyester; Stites says part of the goal for the new design was to move towards something more sustainable. “We work very hard at Brown-Forman to create keepsakes, not disposable items,” said Stites. Her recyclable solution was Neenah® Folding Board, Matte, Duplex, the same board she has now selected for all of the Jack Daniel’s gift boxes.
Starting with considering the paper as the base of the design, Stites says, allows her to simplify what she needs to do with the physical elements. “I liken it to fashion design, if you have this magnificent dress, you don’t want to hide it with a wrap or clutter it up with bangles. It can stand on its own. This paper is perfect for us and lends to a great feel and luxury experience with our products,” said Stites. She worked with Neenah Packaging to create custom colors — a deep, rich purple for the outside, and a glowing pink inside — which are now exclusive to Brown-Forman. Because there are cut outs on both the front and back of the box, the light hits the pink inside the box and makes the bottle appear to glow.
Eliminating the standard plastic window coverings was another deliberate design element, which she says served two purposes: An added environmental impact since removing the plastic makes the package more sustainable, and it eliminates the barrier between product and consumer. “Plastic reflects a store’s lighting, making it difficult to see what is inside of a box. By removing the covering we’ve added an extra layer of dimension, and introduced that highly valued touch factor. The added touch of pink draws the eye inward to the bottle itself,” said Stites.
Though the physical elements are limited, the production techniques are lush, with debossing, a gloss UV varnish, a silkscreen, and a gold foil stamp. Stites and her team worked with Chattanooga-based Textile Printing Company (TPC) and Neenah Packaging to perfect the production, “We sent Neenah several Pantone® chips and they made us test sheets so quickly that TPC was able to run print tests, it was a fantastic and valuable process.”
A challenge Stites says is associated with every alcohol gift box is the structure. The packing engineers at Brown-Forman played a significant role in the collaborative effort. She says the partnering with TPC and Neenah bred success in a great design, “Engineering is particularly important when it involves packages that hold heavy, fragile items. We require a minimum 26pt board to ensure the strength of the box. Neenah’s ability to send us test sheets so fast allowed us to test the structure. TPC created a box we are confident in, even with front and back cut outs, that bottle is solidly in there. This box is super strong.”
“For Brown-Forman brands, we think of the gift box as one more opportunity to honor the brand and reinforce its premium craft heritage. We design the packaging to represent our products, to be well thought out, well-crafted, and premium,” said Stites.