david turner of turner duckworth tells designboom his thoughts on
contemporary packaging design, branding and more…
DB: could you tell us briefly about the evolution of turner duckworth?
DT: it was founded in 1992 in london by myself and bruce duckworth
who I met while working in london at minale tattersfield.
I’m based in san francisco and bruce is based in london, all together we
have around 55 staff, which are evenly distributed between the two studios.
please could you tell us a bit about your design process?
brand identity and packaging projects are approached in a similar way.
a core team leads the project, while initial creative is explored by
a wider group of designers. the principle of ‘competitive collaboration’
encourages designers to work together within a studio and between
studios, but also acknowledges the idea of a ‘winning concept’ and
celebrates the authors of those concepts.
if a designer is successful and their concept is selected they typically
get to see the design through to completion. visual identity projects
tend to be less finite and involve larger teams working over extended periods.
each brand has a core team who know it and the client well; that includes
account, planning and design directors, and a lead designer.
we rotate other designers in and out of the team to keep the ideas fresh.
we use a process we call ‘distant crit’. creative teams or individuals in
the sister office review work in progress and provide input.
because they do not know who has done what work, and are able to assess
the work without the pressures of impending deadlines, client preferences,
budget issues etc. their input is highly objective and focuses entirely on
the quality of the creative. they also provide a different cultural perspective.
we have used this process for twenty years and believe it is a key reason
for the consistently high creative quality turner duckworth has achieved.
team USA coca-cola cans, 2012
diet coke fall 2011 can, 2011
levis brand update and applications of the new logo, 2011
D&AD award, 2011
‘in book’ projects receive the smallest slice of pencil, ‘nominated’ projects a slightly larger slice and winners receive the longstanding yellow pencil trophy.
american red cross brand identity, 2012
brand identity and packaging for metallica’s death magnetic album, 2008
are there any noticeable differences between the output of each studio?
clients come to us based on our portfolio and expect the same approach
whichever studio they engage with. we have always sought to create the
same standard and type of work in both studios. we have built teams that
value the same things and have the same goals in design.
we have a program where designers swap jobs with a counterpart in
the other studio, our planners and account staff regularly collaborate
and ultimately bruce and I have always seen eye-to-eye on what makes
great design and so the results are always of the same quality.
there is a lot of great packaging in your portfolio,
do you consider yourselves a specialist studio?
before we started turner duckworth, bruce and I had both worked
extensively in packaging and many of our early projects were
exclusively packaging. over the years our work has extended
out to designing complete visual identities for brands and working
on brands that have no packaging or for whom packaging is insignificant.
we believe that packaging is one of the most demanding design
disciplines because so much is expected of a package. it has to
do everything from physically protecting a product during transportation
to making a consumer fall in love with a brand, and all in a very
limited space, a highly competitive environment and a rigorously
controlled manufacturing budget. we believe that the discipline
we apply to packaging has influenced our approach to visual identities
in that we try to use the minimum number of visual components
to achieve the maximum effect. we have also found that there are
many packaging design studios, and many brand identity design studios,
but few who do both well. if we have a specialism, that would be it.
do you think it’s a good idea for a graphic designer to specialize or generalize?
when I moved to america, my old boss told me that I would be bored because
the market is so huge that everyone has to specialize to differentiate themselves.
he had designed everything from furniture to posters and loved the diversity.
to a certain extent he was right (about the specialization not the boredom!).
there is no doubt that if you carve out a unique niche, you have a very clear
offering to clients and limited competitors.
but I believe young designers should stay open minded and as diversified
as possible until they find something they really love. then put all their eggs
in that basket and try to become the best in the world. that doesn’t mean
becoming disconnected from other disciplines. no design discipline exists
in isolation, and all disciplines evolve, so remaining engaged in other areas
keeps your skill set relevant.
homebase paint packaging, 2007
waitrose honey packaging, 2006
waitrose jam packaging, 2006
amazon identity, 2000
turner duckworth, san francisco office portrait
in recent years there seems to have been a rise in the popularity
of packaging design, or at least the documentation of it,
why do you think that is?
there’s something very real about packaging.
it is marketing, but it also physically contains the product.
in these days of virtual experiences, there’s a yearning for reality.
the physical seems to have more value. it’s also the one communication
that’s guaranteed to actually be experienced by people buying your product.
since media has become so fragmented, it’s the best way to reach an audience.
do you think the popularity of online design resources has
heightened or lowered the quality of design being produced today?
most graphic design innovation is driven by technological innovation.
from the printing press to the latest version of photoshop, technology
has created the opportunities that are exploited by designers.
so from my point of view, bring it on!
the faster the technology moves, the more opportunities there are for creativity.
my guess is that the ratio of good design to bad design remains pretty constant,
but I would argue that there’s a lot more design going on now than twenty years ago.
to a certain extent, everyone’s a designer now. depending on which way
you view your half a glass of water, we’re either getting more bad design,
or more good design. as for reference points, now everyone has everything
as a reference point, which means it’s not about being, ‘in the know’
its all about what you do with the knowledge. I think this encourages originality,
which makes it harder to achieve. again, a good thing.
what are the most important points to consider
when designing a piece of packaging?
answer the brief.
make sure it works functionally.
make it as beautiful as possible.
besides design what do you have a passion for (and why)?
I’ve spent the last five years working with mark jensen
and the team at jensen architects to design and build my house.
I haven’t moved in yet, and until I do that takes up all my spare time!
I’ve learned a huge amount from that process by being on the
other side of the client/creative relationship.
what piece of advice should every designer remember?
quality is always in demand.
what piece of advice should every designer ignore?