Opinion and ‘bad’ design

On my weekly shop wondering around the local Sainsbury’s I came across a few brands that have both rebranded and produced new packaging, I would like to say that most of these are innovating and making some real improvements in terms of brand and packaging appeal, some however have lost their entire essence.

There is one company I am talking about in particular, an FMCG pies, pasties and quiche player who used a top agency to create their new brand offering. The agency in question are without a doubt brilliant and their design outcomes are mostly stunning pieces of art and very considered, generally leaning towards providing work for more artisan brands. Let’s call this agency ‘agency x’. Though as mentioned ‘agency x’ are a fantastic agency, I believe their rebrand to be not suitable and not considered for their recent client – the design has moved away from showing the product and having that enticing first glance purchase appeal to having a much more artistic approach that lacks any key consumer information at first glance. When I first saw the packaging I instantly thought of the Kleenex limited edition pack that had a roundel brand marque with a patterned and artistic pattern.

Now I’m not saying that ‘agency x’ provided ‘bad’ design, more so that it wasn’t suitable for that particular product, so, with that being said the real purpose of this article is to ask the question: Is it ok to have an opinion, whether it’s good or bad, about current design work on the market? I feel like there is a fear of opinion lurking in the industry due to the fact that if you do have a bad opinion of something that it may hinder your chances of ever working for the select agency or company in the future. As designers I feel that it’s part of our job to be able to both give and receive constructive criticism without the fear that it would land us in some form of trouble. At the end of the day design can always be improved so that criticism is something that improves us and let’s us grow for the future, it forces us to reassess and consider what else can be done to better a future project.

Most importantly, opinion is helpful though what is more helpful are seeing sales figures that can say a lot about a recent rebrand, a great example of this is the failed Tropicana rebrand. In 2009 Tropicana took the step to overhaul their brand and packaging with a 35 million dollar advertising campaign to champion the updated simplified pack design, a design that was stripped of it’s previous information hierarchy. The new Tropicana design ended up on shelves for a mere month before Tropicana announced the return of the old pack.

Would this have happened with more opinion? Or as designers do we get lost in the new story so much that we lose the essence and the understanding of the consumer in the process? Don’t be afraid to have an opinion (providing you can back it up) and remember what your design is selling.