• Transform magazine
  • October 24, 2019


Five minutes with Ron Cregan

Ron Cregan.jpeg

The growing number of packaging regulations in the food and drink sectors often stifle designers’ creativity. Ron Cregan, founder of Endangered Species, a membership organisation working across multiple categories under threat from overzealous regulators and policymakers in design and packaging, talks about the restrictive nature of packaging regulations and the future of packaging ahead of a design hackathon he’s spearheading to address some of these issues.

What inspired the establishment of Endangered Species?

I was having a glass of wine with the chef Richard Corrigan and we were discussing the impact of proposed legislation an alcohol packaging in Ireland. This led to a discussion over the second glass, about sugar, fat, coffee and we ended up with a potential situation where the Irish coffee was the world’s most toxic drink. That was funny. The idea of Endangered Species was on my mind following a previous chat with PR guru Mark Borkowski, so with a little help from my friends we launched a website and blog.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in packaging over the recent years?

I love the increasing number of spirits brands on the market, beautiful labels and bottles. Duty free, in particular, has become a feast for the eyes. Also, the use of impactful graphic design on packaging for small producers, in particular the rebirth of illustration. The growing concern regarding single use plastic and reactive drive to innovate with new materials will be really impactful.

In such competitive market, how do you ensure your packaging design will stand out and catch people’s attention?

I love this question as it forms that basis of every creative brief. The real answer is to create a bit of visual magic that captures people’s attention and makes them smile. Michael Wolff, founder of Wolff Olins, says, “We are the editors of the brands that we enjoy.” How you do it, is actually a mix of pure design skill, colour, type, shape and materials. 

What’s the biggest challenge of designing packaging?

The most challenging thing is designing a unique and new personality for the pack. So much has been done before. At the moment, the amount of statutory information is reasonably limited, although badly designed. The issue for the future is that the statutory requirements and health warnings will increase substantially and badly impact the overall design and our ability to communicate with the consumer, including how to understand the information given and to consume responsibly. This will become a real issue for small brands and startups who rely on packaging alone to promote and sell their products.

What is the most restrictive regulation you had to work around when designing alcohol packaging?

At the moment, it is not too bad, there are guidelines produced by the Portman Group, Drink Aware, and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. However, in the Republic of Ireland they are proposing that health and warning label areas will be 33% of the pack.

What’s the one example of optimum packaging design you’ve seen lately?

I love Black Cow vodka, it’s made by the UK’s biggest cheddar cheese family with some help from a mate, chef and bar owner Mark Hix. Great monogram, happy and skippy cow illustration, clear bottle, the gold top.

You’re launching design hackathon tomorrow. What’s the goal of this initiative?

The Global Design Hackathon is an opportunity for designers and the creative community to create and share ideas. When I set up Endangered Species I wanted to do something more than just talking about the issues, and the DesignHackathon will do that. We go live on Wednesday 3 October at 10am in Makerversity at Somerset House, London, and will run for the month of October accepting ideas online. After that we will publish and share the work.

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