• Transform magazine
  • March 04, 2021


Insights: Go big or go home?

PB  Creative headshot.jpeg

Eerily prescient before a time of increased demand, PB Creative had a branding solution for antibacterial hand gel. The agency took home an award in 2019 at the Transform Awards Europe

‘Go big or go home’ is the expression; the premise being that to create maximum impact and make an impression, you need to think ‘supersize.’ But what this adage doesn’t consider, is that small and perfectly formed can also turn heads.

When it comes to branded packaging design, category and product usually dictate dimension, but they don’t have to limit wow factor, innovation or desirability. The designer’s job is to create the most powerful, appropriate and effective work possible, with whatever brief they’re presented.

Big might get you noticed instantly, but small has its own advantages. There’s the potential to create ‘covetability,’ a kind of ‘magpie desirability’ that’s not so easy to achieve on a massive pack.

Communicating brand and product messages on smaller packaging does present its unique challenges, especially in the FMCG and cosmetics sectors, where consumers are faced with a myriad of products and want as much information as possible, but there’s no reason to see this as a drawback.

If designers keep front of mind that great brand and packaging design is about beauty, clarity and placing the consumer at the heart of all strategic thinking, they will be fewer bumps in the road.

It seems a little counterintuitive, but it’s important not to expect a small pack to do too much. As advertising budgets shrink, packaging is required to deliver more brand and product messaging. As a result, we’re seeing things getting busier, noisier and messier.

Squeeze on too much and you risk losing focus and confusing the consumer. Pick out the key messages and stick to your plan. Smaller canvasses require control and order or you risk diluting clarity and stand out. Understanding the priority of on-pack communication and developing a clear messaging hierarchy that reflects it, whether that’s brand or product-led, is fundamental.

When we started work on Carex hand gel, it really lacked standout among the sea of similar-looking antibacterial brands (straight-sided, flip-top bottles, all with similar blue colourways and me-too graphics). We focused on creating a 3D structure based on the elliptical Carex logo. We also gave it an integrated closure to maintain the new seamless and ergonomically distinctive silhouette.

Not only did the new structure look different from anything else out there, thus achieving great stand out, but we were also able to expand the label real estate and logo by 50% despite the pack volume remaining the same. Through clever structural innovation, we were able to maximise the brandable canvas. The whole approach improved functionality, range navigation, brand clarity and most importantly, desirability and standout.

There’s no doubt that you have to think strategically with diminutive design.  

When we created the 2D brand and packaging identity for Toni & Guy hair cosmetics, there wasn’t enough room to go big on ‘how to apply’ messaging, so the graphics we used had to work hard to make it clear – sweeping mascara strokes, dabbing highlighter marks, spritzes of illuminating scent. The design itself was highly emotive and delivered on the product experience.

Whatever the category or pack size, there’s no reason why a brand can’t be brought to life and celebrated through focused creative thinking.

Next time you’re looking down the wrong end of the telescope, rather than seeing a small problem, think of it as a big opportunity to create some of the most strategically effective design out there. You could have a little icon on your hands!

Pete Hayes is co-founder and managing partner of PB Creative.

The full list of Transform Awards Europe winners can be found here.