Profiling a packaging designer

Materials World magazine
,
1 May 2006

[img_assist|nid=5725|title=David Jackson|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=120|height=131]As a consultant for design, print and materials at Easibind International, the UK-based product solution provider in the areas of packaging, promotion, and presentation, David Jackson has a varied role and that's just how he likes it.

His work takes him to meet clients and suppliers across the UK, but he is also increasingly involved in marketing. He has helped to organise major exhibitions and has given presentations to the packaging industry, most recently on ‘Creating Confidence in Creative Design and Innovation'. ‘I have a fantastic position that allows me to look at future advances [in materials, print and design] and see them develop into everyday uses,' says David. 

He credits this variety-packed role to working for a small company - Easibind employs about 100 people, 70% of whom are factory workers operating the in-house printing and manufacturing services. ‘I think I would always want to work in a smaller company,' says David. ‘There are more opportunities as you have one-on-one contact with the owners of the company. When I started, Harry Skidmore (Easibind's Managing Director) said "make the job what you want", so I also work with the business development team. It makes it more interesting.

He also sees public speaking as useful training to develop further confidence in communicating with his clients.

3D perspective

David has held his current position for the past three years, having completed a degree at Nottingham Trent University, UK, in Furniture and Product Design, which looked closely at a range of materials, their properties, processing and possible application areas. David says, ‘I always wanted to a be a designer. I liked the idea of sketching a new product. I wanted to be car designer, but then don't most young boys?'

He admits that he had never thought about packaging - a 12-month university placement at Easibind was the turning point. The company was at the time just beginning to develop its role within packaging, and David's position as an in-house designer was to develop a range of products using the company's own brand of flat sheet polypropylene - Easicard or High Performance Graphics Card. 

David did so well during his placement that he was offered a permanent position. ‘I enjoy the challenge of creating structural packaging from modern polymer flat sheet material,' he says.

As a consultant, he creates designs for clients using Easicard and develops them to the production stage for a particular market, or he acts as a materials specialist for designers, advising them on how to best use Easicard with the latest printing and technological advances. He often works on several projects a day, developing an industrial style and a funky, trendy pack, and simultaneously, catering to markets varying from hair care to DIY.

Close-knit

Working for a manufacturing company where he is one of only a few designers is more preferable to David than working for a design agency. He thinks his products are more likely to reach the market, rather than developing concept after concept with only a small number being approved. Moreover, he believes it helps in creating a pack that is easy to manufacture, because with knowledge of in-house facilities, ‘you can understand the manufacturing process of your designs, the machine capabilities, what limits we have and what we can achieve'.

Each project David works on presents its own unique challenges. He has to take into account the requirements of the retailer, supplier, the packing operator and the consumer. ‘For example, a supplier always wants a strong shelf presence,' explains David. ‘On the other hand they must be able to pack the product. Cost is also a big issue.' Ultimately, the pack must be ‘innovative, eye catching, cost effective and easy to pack'. Furthermore, with increasing environmental regulations, minimising the amount of material used and wasted is crucial.

David suggests that any 3D design course would be useful to enter packaging design, although there are some courses dedicated to structural packaging. Many universities also propose taking a Foundation Course in Art and Design to develop creative thinking. However, David believes practical work experience is fundamental to the success of any young product designer. ‘Courses can teach you about design processes but the only way to understand the commercial aspects is to work with real clients.'

Broadening horizons

As well as being the youngest member of the Institute's Packaging Board, David is also the packaging representative on the Institute's Young Members' Committee (YMC) and a judge for the Starpack School Awards. He sees his position on the YMC as important in making the committee more accessible to younger members from the packaging industry, following the merger of IOM3 with the former Institute of Packaging last year.

Overall, David sees great potential for product designers to fulfil their creativity in the packaging industry and get products on the market. ‘[As a consumer], you never notice good designs, only bad ones. Everyone thinks of the carton that won't open or the pack that you can't get into without a knife. My perception was no different. With experience, I understand greater aspects that are required and can appreciate really exciting new designs on small margins.'

Working in a small company, ‘you have to put more effort in, because what you do is more visible,' says David, but he appears to have no qualms about going that extra mile. 

 

Further information:

Easibind International