Design Management & Production

Design Management & Production

The Design Management & Production module is intended to help students develop their ability to interact with clients and work professionally and productively in the creative world of design.

This post has no images or detailed design concepts and does not reference details of the client to protect their confidentiality and intentions in a competitive market.

Session 1.  The Clients brief:

We start this module by being introduced to our client. Based in the North West, they are a relatively young, small award winning company who specialise in high end chocolates and patisseries.  Although successful at local food fairs and farmers markets, their intention is to develop their business and become recognised in the high end market.

To help them achieve this, they feel they need a new, stronger brand identity to launch their products nationally.

They have sourced high quality, black and white packaging for their chocolates and want this customised into a range of products which look like they belong together. Due to cost restraints the customisation is to be done mainly through stickers, tags and sleeves.

  • They want their packaging to convey quality, luxury and artisanal production.
  • to stand out on the shelf.
  • Style: Sleek, luxurious, elegant, stylish, chic, modern, contemporary, timeless, roots in tradition
  • Target Millennials, young professionals, food enthusiasts, affluent and rising affluent, lavish lifestyle.
  • Branding needs to be easily adapted to new products and packaging.


In their presentation they show their competitors and a list of brand styles, pointing out what they do and don’t like about the look. They have chosen a French name as it fits with their concept of high fashion Parisian chic, however they want to be recognised as a British company.


Initial thoughts:

At the beginning of the brief this seemed as if it may be a strait forward rebrand but as their presentations unfolded, what they wanted became increasingly unclear. Most of the students came to the conclusion that they were fare from sure of who they were and what they wanted. This is a good example of what we as designers can expect from clients and it is part of our job to help them gain clarity and direction.


Session 2.

Between the client’s presentation and our next group session I spent my time going back over their brief and presentation and my own notes, attempting to clarify and highlight what they are trying to communicate and what they are expecting from us as designers.

I then looked more closely at their business, present packaging design, web presence and social media. The social media helps me develop a clearer understanding of them as individuals and what they do.

I also looked at their competitors to gain insight into their business presence and success along with what kind of packaging they have adopted.

I broadened my research to patisseries in general and packaging from comparative industries such as perfumes and gift items.

I collated the main points of this research and presented them back to the group in the following session along with my initial thoughts and possible direction. Most other students presented a similar line of research although it was usefull to see the differences in research, opinion and interpretation of the brief.

There was a lot of healthy debate and feedback during this session and as a result the session ran over by a considerable amount of time. I appreciate the amount of enthusiasm being expressed in this group.


Session 3. Looking for inspiration

To help inspire concepts I took a journey back to the origins of chocolate:

For 4000 years Chocolate has been used for medicinal cures, ritual drinks and holiday celebrations. The obroma cacao (cocoa tree) translates into ‘Food of the Gods’. Chocolate dates back to 1900BC when it was consumed as a beverage. The Aztecs used chocolate for special royal and religious events. They would offer cocoa beans to the gods and serve chocolate drinks at sacred ceremonies.

Today nearly all of the world’s cocoa is grown within 20° of the Equator. Wide spread cultivation of the cocoa bean began in Eastern Ghana in 1879 when Tetteh Quarshie began farming by planting the beans from coca pods. Other farmers bought his cocoa pods and the farming of the cocoa bean grew. It’s now estimated there are over 720,000 small cocoa farms in this region alone.

I looked at the cocoa tree, flower and cocoa pod and the process of extracting, fermenting, drying and marketing of the cocoa bean.

I recognised the ethical goals of the farming process. To: Eradicate child labour and protect children from harm; Promote learning and education; Promote children’s rights and develop their individual responsibility; Improve health; Give them control over their own future; Improve pay (fair trade); Give farmers control and direction over their business; Improve working and living conditions; Growth, sustainability and equality of business; Fresh water supply and sanitation for all; Developing skills for the woman.

I researched the process of turning the cocoa been into chocolate by means of:

Cleaning and sorting the bean, removing any broken, shrivelled or bad looking beans along with any other unwanted debris.

Roasting the beans at temperatures and times according to the individual type of bean and the experienced and judgment of the oven operator.

Winnowing; cracking the outer shell and vigorous shaking to separate the shell from the cocoa bean meat or “nibs,”

Grinding the nibs are ground using granite rollers on top of a granite slab. This reduces the nibs to a thick oily paste.

Cocoa butter pressing to separate the paste into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. These two ingredients are the main constituents of chocolate recipes.

I have explored different ways of expressing the companies name and initial concepts.

Again my research and concept mock ups were presented back to the group. The general feedback was to follow concepts around Art Deco and Pop Art.


Observational thoughts:
It is always helpful to offer and receive feedback within the group. My main observation of this process is to be honest whilst being aware of the language used. To use language that expresses my thoughts whilst recognising these are my own views. To be constructive and supportive when giving feedback.
Importantly not to take what other people say personally and to be mindful their intention is to help and hopefully to show my appreciation of their input.
Whilst presenting to a group is unfamiliar and nerve racking, it is a useful skill and process to develop. It was interesting to see others student’s ideas and concepts, which can help me develop or change my own.


Session 4. U turn in direction

Having presented my initial concept ideas of Art Deco and Pop Art to the group, I was giving thought to the Pop Art concept and found it difficult to imagine what kind of images I should Pop Art and how to take this concept forward. I also felt that others were further in their concept and idea development and there was also a breadth of ideas.

I continued to sketch and play with representing the company name when I had what I felt was a major breakthrough. This meant dropping the Pop Art and taking forward a more organic concept based on the growing elements of the cocoa ingredients and its natural organic form and nature. Having researched the process in detail, this had been playing in the back of my mind and I immediately felt much more confident with it.

The idea developed into a natural looking form of a logo. I also sketched out a typeface that I felt was clean and would complement this design. The typeface is a nod towards Art Deco and is clean and crisp. I pushed the logo through Illustrator to clean up the idea and followed this with creating the typeface. The nearest typeface to my sketches is Century Gothic, so I took this type and made the required changes. Century Gothic would become the complimentary typeface used for labelling such things as ingredients.

I now had what I perceived to be a strong base for a design. I embellished the logo shape with sketches of leaves, pods and cocoa flower.  I then began mock up packaging with these designs. This included how it would look with cut outs so the customer can get a glimpse of the delights inside. I included a wax looking seal, bevelled logo and changed the colours to represent different flavours.  This was followed by patterning the black background with a design that also reflected the flavour. I played with how the logo itself looks as a repeat pattern.

Genuinely pleased with this, I presented my change in direction and design to the group. There was some harsh feedback from the tutor and I felt somewhat confused. It took me some time to unpick what the issue was. On reflection it became clear that there were two distinctly different tasks in hand and I had not previously separated them out.

  1. design a rebrand for the company
  2. Present the rebrand to client in a presentation package that sells the concept

So far I had been presenting to the group as if I was in a design studio with the tutor playing the role of artistic director. This means I would avoid repeating details that I had explained previously. However I need to package the presentation in a way that demonstrates the rational and story behind the design concept so that the client can grasp the depth of the design and feels that I, as a designer, have a good understanding of them. In other words I have to pitch my idea to them in a bid to win a contract.

The tutor wears more than one hat. The confusion has been that sometimes I would address the tutor as if he was the Artistic Director and he would respond as the client. Sometimes I would address him as a client and he would respond as an Artistic Director. Now I have deciphered these two characters, it helps me put the feedback into context.

In preparation for the following session I have developed the concept on different packaging and prepared to sell the concept to the client.


Session 5. Pushing the design further

An interesting component of the feedback was that people felt it was difficult to see the connection between the design of the chocolate bars and the design on the chocolate selection boxes. There was also a distinct preference for the box design. In response to this feedback I have pushed the design further. The design on the bars has changed dramatically and is now more in line with the box design.

When the feedback is first received, it is easy to feel a little downhearted with all the time and effort involved in the design. However on reflection the feedback is not only valid but significantly useful. Taking the preferred elements that are working and having a rethink has pushed the design and the improvements are clear.

I also experimented with placing the refreshed design concepts on other product items.

Other feedback was about the presentation itself. It was overly littered with text and, in an attempt to demonstrate I had researched and understood their company, I was repeating back too many aspects about them they obviously already know. So a pair back and reformat would be beneficial.


Session 6. Pushing the design further still

This session is used very much as a practice session as if presenting our concepts to the client. Up first, in the same familiar environment with the same student audience and although I’ve done my research, gone over my material and prepared well, I stumbled over my words as they eluded me. What was different I cannot fathom but my performance was well below par. So feedback suggests reminder cards, something I will definitely invest some time in. There is the usual debate over the need for some of the content. In particular I raise the issue of ethics and fair trade in the chocolate industry as a point for deliberation. Following the presentation, I air the view that if a client demonstrates they would chose profit over child labour and welfare, then they are unlikely to be the client for me. However I see that an ethical approach can be communicated to promote the clients products.

I note I struggle with certain students who turn up late, if at all, have little work of their own to show and yet air much opinion and criticism of others. Constructive feedback and debate from respected conscientious peers is valid, from others it unappreciated noise, especially when they talk down elements of my presentation based on my research and fact. When this comes from certain quarters I do not respond well. It is abundantly clear that there are students who appear very much on track and others who are lagging somewhere behind.

So to prepare for the next session with further reform to my presentation, I rehearse the message I want to put across, create reminder cards and worked on the stationary design, checking I am able to export the PDF in the correct format and with all required print marks.


Session 7. Mock presentation.

During this session we practice in our individual presentations as if we were presenting to the client.  Although this is a mock presentation with two tutors present, nerves still appear to get the better of me, but I muddle through. The feedback is positive with some general notes for improvement. over the coming week I make some minor changes to the presentation along with my prompting notes. I have rehearsed and practiced this to the extent that I feel I am as prepared as I can be. There is nothing more that I can do. But wait in anticipation for the final show.


Session 8. The final performance.

Our individual group have combined our presentations and checked for any discrepancies. We are armed with two copied held by two separate people as a backup.  Ready and in early, we load our presentation onto the MAC that will be used to present the brief to the client. The room is prepared and we await our slot.

Our time arrives and as we enter, we introduce ourselves to the client. There is a brief moment to compose and settle ourselves before we take our turn to present our concepts. Each member of the group seemed to perform well and each presentation went a smooth as we could have hoped. It seemed to be well received and now it is a matter of waiting for their feedback.

It’s a busy day for the clients with who enthusiastically sit through every student’s concept presentation. They will need time to evaluate all the ideas that have been put forward.


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