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Blundersome: The Packaging Blunder and the Prom Dress

Before you dive into this blunder, I’ll give you the final word of advice in case you don’t get time to read the whole post: Hire a packaging designer/consultant.

 

 I did my own packaging.

I’m not a designer. I’ve tinkered with InDesign and Photoshop but that’s the extent of my design skills.

When I worked for an agency in NYC, I’d draw stick figures to try and show our Creative Director what visual I wanted. 1408401248300_wps_35_King_s_College_London_new.jpg

She’d stare at the piece of paper I’d gesture at and then up at me as I’d ramble on, “This guy is holding a can here but you can see by his face, he’s not happy” I’d point to the curved upside-down line that signaled a frown on the unclosed circle of his hairless head. She’d nod and pull the paper gently away from me saying she understood in hopes that I’d leave her desk so she could get to the actual designing.

But now I was starting my own brand. The only client who could get mad at me for the design was myself! And so I proceeded to make myself very, very angry. And very crazy…

The difficulty with bootstrapping is that you have very little money, very little time, and very little resources. You have to be careful to choose what you spend these on. Also, the money, time, and resources react to the rise and fall of each other.

Example, if I want to spend very little time on something, I need to hire someone, spending more money. So when time spent lowers, money spent rises. Now say I want to spend very little money, then I have to spend more time. But what about resources? I think of resources as anything that doesn’t fall into money or time, such as product, favors, or services. If I want to participate in an event but don’t want to spend money, I may need to spend resources by volunteering, giving product, or offering some sort of barter which causes my money spent to lower but resources (and time) to rise. They are all interconnected. But let’s get back to the Blunder at hand.

I didn’t want to spend money, so I spent time. Lots and Lots of time. I should have looked at spending resources if I didn’t have the money but instead, I spent time. And when it comes to something highly specialized like packaging design, it’s better to spend money unless you have the skills already.  

THE PROM DRESS

As a marketing and branding expert (uhh Specialist? Nah. Guru? No, no, no), I felt I could figure out what I wanted my brand to be and how I wanted it to look. I was used to this feeling of wanting to do it myself – when I was in high school I didn’t want any of the dresses I saw on the racks for prom. First, I knew my strict private school would make me alter it within an inch of its life anyway to make sure there was no cleavage (of which I had none) or bottom “cuppage” (seriously, it’s a term they used to describe the skirts that always managed to cling to my derriere). So instead I drew out what I wanted my dress to look like.

Sidenote: I have clearly become lazy in my art skills because I used to sketch fashions on very big-eyed cartoon girls (see below)...later in my 20s it became stick figures worse than a toddler could draw.

 

With sketch in hand, my mom and I found a local seamstress who was able to make the dress. We went and bought the fabric and she sewed it all together. It was perfect and beautiful and about as expensive as a regular dress with alterations. Now that was a good call.

It was an embroidered corset style that laced up back…perfect late 90s/early aughts style…Also this was not my date…Also, I look like a red-eyed demon ghost.

It was an embroidered corset style that laced up back…perfect late 90s/early aughts style…Also this was not my date…Also, I look like a red-eyed demon ghost.

I DID NOT FOLLOW THIS LOGIC WITH THE PACKAGING FOR CLOUD.

Instead I played around with online design tools for idiots (Canva, I love it) which is the 2019 version of my year 2000 prom dress sketch. This in itself is not a bad idea: Lay it out, get ideas, play with color and design.

But I got bold, I got arrogant.

Instead of finding the designer to carry out my packaging dreams as I did with the seamstress, I continued forging ahead on my own. If I had done this for prom, I would have worn a pale pink gunnysack with uneven armholes so tight, I had to keep my arms up all night. But that’s what I did…with my business. At 37 years old. Turns out I was smarter at 17.

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BACK TO THE CLOUD BRANDING

I discovered a ball-thing using Canva I liked. Yes, a striped ball-thing.

I wanted to allude to clouds without using an actual cloud which I thought looked childlike. I messed with circles, ovals, stripes, and oblong shapes. Then I found the striped ball…like abstract clouds, colorful striae in the waning sunset light.

Backtrack: I was inspired by the clouds at sunset, the deep orange, pinks, and purples…thus my colors and thus the stripe-ball-thing. Cloud got its name from “stepping on a cloud” and therefore led to #feetinthecloud.

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So now I have the stripe-ball (SB if you will). What if I made the SB different colors based on the different products? Grand idea! And so the variations of stripe ball emerged. So far so good! Now let’s plug into the label-sized background and pick the colors! Easy enough right?

SCOUT was obviously green. But should it be green and brown (like thin mints)? No, it’s looked muddy and murky. All green it was.

REEFR was going to be coral of course, but maybe a beautiful Bahama-water blue? Yes, I’d have both. I played with the color tool until my eyes went numb and crusted over in the face of the glaring laptop light at 2am.

DAY GLO (now HALCYON) was to be bright neon colors…I again played around with colors for hours until settling on a lime, tangerine, and purple mix.

KUSHON. Hmmm, my flagship product that took me the longest to research and develop was also the hardest to choose colors for. Pink made the most sense as it is made for women. And then the orange like the sunset-tinged clouds so I went with pink and orange.

And I ordered up my labels!

They actually turned out cute! A pretty decent first round.

But then I needed to look at adding boxes in order to get into bigger stores. Plus I got some feedback that the colors were a little “juvenile” and the labels weren’t doing the products they represented justice.

SO I WENT BACK IN.

  • SCOUT stayed pretty close to this iteration and throughout most of the process.

  • REEFR would also stay pretty close but I couldn’t afford the boxes and had to pick and choose products so shelved it until early 2020.

  • DAY GLO became HALCYON as I was worried about the trademark on the Day Glo name. The oil was golden-orange and HALCYON seemed perfect. I needed a label to match that wasn’t actually gold. It was near fall so I was inspired by that golden late-afternoon light that happens in fall making your skin look luminous and alive. That led to the typical fall colors of pumpkin, rust, and bronze. I fiddled with the colors again for hours late into the night, printing out test labels and holding them on the bottle in different lighting.  

  • KUSHON may have been the item that had a more juvenile look due to the pink/orange combo. Sidenote: There was another iteration here that I am blowing past of both a 100mg and 200mg version with both pink/orange and pink/slate that took out the stripe-ball….I missed the stripe ball but maybe it needed to go?

As I was starting to attract potential big box stores, I let others’ opinions sway me. “The colors were too much, make it a white base, add a shoe to KUSHON so you know what it’s for.” A subtle, unconscious nudge to LOOK LIKE OTHER BRANDS.

So I revamped them ALL. They became a deep more jewel-tone label in a white box with color accents that matched the label. See below.

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I WAS NOT HAPPY…BUT I ALREADY ORDERED THE LABELS AND THE KUSHON BOXES. IT WAS TOO LATE.

But I kept fixating on it. I started to hate the look. I had to even change the logo so it would make sense with the new look. I missed my stripe-ball. I started to hate myself.

My boyfriend knows me well enough that he said, “Change it. Just change it or you will keep obsessing over it.” So back to the stripe ball I went. Are you keeping up?

It was time to streamline: one main color with shades of that color, like SCOUT, my faithful SCOUT.

HACLYON was became a deep orange to goldenrod spectrum.

And my flagship, KUSHON went to deep fuschia - I found it both electric and elegant.

 

I FINALLY GOT THE LABELS DONE (AGAIN) AND ORDERED.

The SCOUT (not my faithful SCOUT!) came back muted and muddy (see photo). This happened again and I realized I’d need to get a Pantone color book to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

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After a lot of back and forth with the label makers trying to determine the translation of Pantone to CMYK, they sent samples of two options (which they again messed up) but I picked one, got it fixed, and finally got some decent labels!

NOW ON TO ORDERING THE BOXES.

Simultaneously, while ordering the labels, I was ordering the boxes.

The SCOUT box was beautiful and spot-on matching the Pantone book.

The KUSHON was a bit jarring but close to the colors.

The HALCYON was more goldenrod that I’d like and stripe-ball was not quite what I expected but by now I was exhausted and had orders that needed to get out. People seemed to like them so I decided I’m just an out-of-control perfectionist and need to accept them…at least for now.

The current collection!

The current collection!

All in, I wasted at least $600-700 on labels and boxes that got tossed out (at least they are all recyclable!) Even worse, I also wasted hours upon HOURS of my time (COUNTLESS HOURS - I imagine hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of hours): playing with colors, playing with designs, calling label companies, calling box companies, stressing out, printing out test labels, crying on the floor, stress-eating doughnuts, and drinking red wine.

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The next time I tweak the design, it will not be alone. I will hire a designer or consultant.

 

AVOID THIS BLUNDER:

DON’T SEW YOUR OWN PROM DRESS (UNLESS YOU’RE A SEAMSTRESS) AND DON’T DESIGN YOUR OWN PACKAGING (UNLESS YOU’RE A DESIGNER).