Andy Kurtts Unwraps the Mysteries of Branding and Packaging Design
UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#19: Andy Kurtts Unwraps the Mysteries of Branding and Packaging Design

Founder and Creative Director of Buttermilk Creative, Andy Kurtts, joins UMAI Social Circle podcast to chat about what goes into branding and packaging design to get it on the shelves and into consumers’ hands.

Andy, who led in-house design at specialty grocery store, The Fresh Market, and has worked on branding and packaging design for for brands such as meltemi greek yogurt, Creative Snacks, Publix and Wegmans, is sharing what makes or breaks your packaging, how to create stand-out packaging to attract your audience, and so much more.

Let us break it down for you…

[00:47] Introducing Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director of Buttermilk Creative.

[1:24] Get to know Andy and his journey from being a kid in art class to being the founder of his very own creative agency.

[6:29] The ins and outs of designing packaging while working with parameters.

[7:50] How having a grocery design background translates into designing for his own clients.

[9:49] From the big picture to the small details; the things that can qualify and disqualify packaging no matter how good the product is.

[12:33] What your packaging needs to help your brand stand out to buyers.

[16:39] Understanding and targeting what consumers look for on the shelf.

[20:41] Channeling different personas to design packaging that fits the audience.

[22:40] Portraying the brand’s story in a small space.

[24:07] Embodying the customer avatar to translate feedback in order to create a design.

[26:53] Aligning on the ambiguity and interpretation of mood boards.

[29:27] How it started vs. How it’s going: Rebranding edition.

[32:57] The outlook on sustainable packaging. 

[35:43] Exciting packaging innovations to explore!

[38:44] Brands that will help with your packaging and branding inspo!

[40:23] How Andy gets inspired to design stand-out packaging.

[43:01] Presenting and designing strong options that you’ll be proud of.

[44:10] How and where to find Buttermilk Creative.

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Read – #19: Andy Kurtts Unwraps the Mysteries of Branding and Packaging Design

[AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPT MAY BE SUBJECT TO MINOR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS/VARIATIONS]

Narrator:
Calling all consumer goods, business owners and marketing professionals. Does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook ads but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes and yes, then our mini course was made for you. It’s 100% free and packed with the central tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at umaimarketing.com/minicourse. All right, let’s get on with the pod.

Alison Smith:
I’m Alison, Co-Founder of Umai and we’re being joined by Andy Kurtts, Creative Director and Founder of Buttermilk Creative, a full service design studio that’s done the branding and packaging for The Fresh Market, Fire Cider, Publix grocer and Wegmans and that’s just to name a few. Welcome, Andy.

Andy Kurtts:
Thank you so much for having me, Allison.

Alison Smith:
Thanks for being here. I’m excited because to me, branding and packaging is just a difficult mystery, so I’m hoping that you can demystify some things for me today.

Andy Kurtts:
I’ll try.

Alison Smith:
Good. Well, let’s start with your background. How did you get into design?

Andy Kurtts:
Sure. I always knew when I was little that I wanted to be in some creative field. I was lucky enough, through sixth grade on, I have some art class in every single semester, whatever. As it got closer in high school, I got closer to figuring out what I was going to study in college, I started being very intentional about the classes I could take. We had a vocational high school here that you could travel to, and so I filled up my courses, junior and senior year with computer arts and photography and commercial art and all that kind of stuff. Digital illustration.

Andy Kurtts:
When it came time to going out for college, I knew I wanted to do something creative. Initially I went to study fine art painting and realized very quickly that that’s basically one in a million kind of thing. That’s like training to be a star athlete or star actor. The thought that a gallery is going to pick you up is crazy. I quickly retooled and recalibrated and ended up going to the Ringling School of Art and Design. Now it’s called College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, to study illustration and design there.

Andy Kurtts:
That’s really where that it all jelled with me of this intersection of fine art and business. Studied there for four years and then worked at a print shop right out of school, doing everything that they needed. That was eye opening because in school they don’t teach you about separation, print plates, all the kind of limited color printing, offset, all that kind of stuff. And so I got a bit of a trial by fire because the woman who ran the press was just, she didn’t take anything from anybody. If I mess something up, she was right there.

Alison Smith:
Were you printing shirts or just anything that-

Andy Kurtts:
Anything. Business cards, brochures, they did digital printing an offset and letterpress printing. It was everything, as a full service print shop. That was really neat, because I got to literally design something and then see it be made into a plate, and then go on the press and then get printed like 5,000 copies or whatever.

Andy Kurtts:
Then my wife and I moved up to North Carolina and I started working at the fresh market and running their in-house design team. It was really there that I really found a love for packaging design and especially food and beverage, which is what we now focus on. During that time there, we did a ton of stuff, that I think when we started tracking our projects, we had 500 projects a year or something.

Andy Kurtts:
A lot of that was the packaging design and that was really interesting to work on it there because there was no line work. Which when you think about a private brand design, look at a grocery store, it’s normally, put the logo at the top, product photography, item name, it’s sent. For them, everything was a blank slate. What we did was we would look at the maker and the manufacturer for inspiration, the product, if there were any history there, and really just dug into that to inspire the look of the packaging.

Andy Kurtts:
While it was maddening having to restart every time, we wish we had some plug and play options for some of this stuff. It really helped me refine how to design packaging for a wide variety of people. I was there for seven years, and then six years ago started Buttermilk Creative, just basically doing what I had a lot of experience doing with the fresh market, but just with our end clients. It’s really neat, the specialty food and beverage industry is very, actually pretty small. A lot of the folks that I worked with at the fresh market went on to work at other places or for other brands and just the network really grows itself.

Alison Smith:
So cool you get to do your passion every day. That’s awesome. But with the fresh market, when you’re saying you’re doing packaging design, is that their self-produced products or is it other brands got help from y’all, or how does that work?

Andy Kurtts:
It’s like any kind of private label program.

Alison Smith:
Okay. Cool.

Andy Kurtts:
They would go out source manufacturers that are offering white label service or whatever. That was interesting too, because we would have to design with them whatever parameters. For instance, there was this company that made croutons, and their box was very distinct. We had that on the shelf at the first market, and then the fresh market started working with them on making fresh market brand crouton, but it came in the same shape of box. We had to be very clear in our design, because already the form tied them together, and so we had to be very clear on how we designed that crouton packaging so it didn’t look anything like the people who made it. Unless it’s some kind of exclusivity thing, like grocery stores don’t really want you to know who’s making their products.

Alison Smith:
Interesting. I just love that you have that background in grocery. I’m really curious, now that you’re working with other clients, how does that affect your overall design?

Andy Kurtts:
I reference it all the time, daily. It really has built this great foundation and education for designing for brands. Because even if you’re trying to get on to a mass market conventional grocery store or a super-duper specialty grocery store, the rules of the shelf are pretty much the same. Even before you get on the shelf, you have to get on a grocery buyer’s radar.

Andy Kurtts:
Then even before that, there’s a category review schedule. I got exposed to all this really inner workings of grocery stores that help my clients navigate all that. Now, by no means am I a broker or anything like that? I have no idea. That is not our specialty, but if a client calls me up and is like, “Hey, I need quick samples or mock-ups because I’m going to a category review meeting or I’m sending stuff in for category review meeting with our broker in two weeks.” I know exactly what they need and I could just crank it out for them. No more, no less.

Andy Kurtts:
Just being able to see that, and then also being able to see when there were samplings and cuttings. That’s where they get a ton of samples and they lay it all out in the test kitchen and just go around and rate and eat everything, and sample everything. There’d be a whole-

Alison Smith:
That sounds awesome.

Andy Kurtts:
Oh man. But if you were invited to, let’s say the ice cream cutting, you also had to go to the olive oil cutting. Something that’s, or the vinegar tasting or whatever. They were like, “You guys can’t just cherry pick. If you want to be involved in this process, then you have to take the good with the bad.” But no, it was really neat because we could really see from the VP level to the coordinator level, to a specialist level.

Andy Kurtts:
What resonated with them packaging wise, outside of all the other stuff, ingredient quality, margins, distribution, all that kind of stuff, all that business stuff but then we also could hear what aesthetically stuck out to them, but then also, what disqualified a maker. If their nutrition facts panel wasn’t formatted properly, or they didn’t have a UPC code on their packaging, it could be the most amazing, best story, the greatest product ever. But if it wasn’t compliant, wasn’t shelf-ready, then it was too much work to go back to that maker and say, “Hey, you need to do this. You need to do that.”

Alison Smith:
But they’d get cut just because of those?

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah.

Alison Smith:
What do you mean exactly by the nutritional facts not being formatted? It’s oblong or what?

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah. It’s crazy what people do to… The FDA provides lots of different formats for your packaging. Most people just think of that traditional just table version. But there’s a version where it’s just words. That would go on a really small package. But a lot of folks just take… Because you get a JPEG image of your nutrition facts and from whoever, the lab or whatever. Then you’re like, “Okay, well I need to take this format and then just slap it on this label or whatever.”

Andy Kurtts:
They just shrink it or they squeeze it or they compress it. While technically you have a nutrition facts panel, well for one, it’s not doing the consumer any good because they can’t read it. And then there is a potential that it’ll get flagged by the FDA, and then you have to fix it and there might be fines associated with that, so just that awareness of all the different formats in which one can go with which size of label. The size of label really drives everything.

Alison Smith:
Wow. That’s something so small I feel like a lot of people could easily overlook but… So those are the no nos. Are there any, you talked about grocery buyers resonating with certain types of packaging. Is there anything that stands out that people should look to add to their design?

Andy Kurtts:
I think it’s always having, if you don’t clutter the packaging but having good call-outs that are relevant to your customer and the category that you’re in. If it’s like, this is a very generic example, but if you’re making an energy bar, then make sure you mentioned keto and paleo or whatever. Really being able to… Then any relevant certifications or logos, like USDA Organic or Non-GMO, that kind of stuff. That really resonates with grocery buyers because they know that all of those certifications to use those logos costs money.

Andy Kurtts:
Well, first of all, you have to get your product approved and your facility approved and all that kind of stuff. Then you have to keep it up and you pay for that every year, so obviously you’re invested in whatever-

Alison Smith:
The standards.

Andy Kurtts:
Exactly. I think that means a lot. Beyond that, it’s very… They’re really looking for stuff that is going to stand out on the shelf, it’s going to be different than what they currently have. If you have the ability, then you go to whatever store you’re going to try to get into and really look at the set and really understand, okay but everything’s dark or everything’s brown here. Let’s say like the granola set. Everything’s either really light or really brown, so maybe we do a bright bag four ours or whatever.

Andy Kurtts:
They’re also, this is nothing I have control over, but they’re also looking for what the format is and how many they can get on the shelf and all that kind of stuff. If you have some funky shape or something and your competitor can get four bags on a shelf, and because you’re a crazy shape, you can only do two, that’s going to hindering you. And aesthetically, it’s all very subjective, I think from from the… Everybody has their own tastes.

Alison Smith:
Yeah. Like fresh market’s going to be different than Walmart.

Andy Kurtts:
Even within those organizations, we had super conservative people that were grocery veterans that were like, “No, you got to have the Starburst in the corner. Then there were other folks who were really in touch with cutting edge trendy design, and they would push us to be more out of the box and be more subtle and whatever. It just ran the gamut there too. You’ll find the same wherever it is.

Andy Kurtts:
That’s why we work with a lot of other grocery stores, is that we have worked in-house at a grocery stores, so there’s already a bit of a learning curve that we’ve already gotten over. Because it’s a quirky world and to take a designer who maybe has been working in an agency environment and then say, “Okay, now you’re going to freelance with this in-house department at a grocery store.” It’s a totally different animal. That’s a value add that we bring, is that we can just get plugged into the team right away.

Alison Smith:
Very cool. Huge value. I love that tip, just go to the store. When you’re starting your branding journey, go to the store and just be different. It’s so obvious but. We talked about grocery buyers, what they’re looking for. Like you said, it’s going to vary. But anything specific that consumers are looking for? How can brands know what their consumers are going to look for on the shelf, I guess?

Andy Kurtts:
Well, that just goes back to knowing who your target customer is, and speaking to them. And really having a laser focus on who that is, and being as specific as you can. Way too many, I think, brands out there skip over that process. We talked to one of our clients early on, and we were like, “Okay well, who’s your target customer?” And they said, “Anyone with a mouth.” And then we say-

Alison Smith:
Oh gosh. I’ve heard that so many times. I’m like, “That’s not right.”

Andy Kurtts:
That’s not right. It’s understanding exactly who that is, and then that’s creating your messaging and your packaging all around that, detaching yourself from it and really focusing on who that… Because you could be a 30 something year old dude like me, who wants to make something that’s targeted for older women or something. I’m going to need to really research, which we’re actually doing right now. We’re making a packaging for powdered supplements that is going to target gen x women. I had to take a step back and say, “Well, what’s going to resonate with that?”

Alison Smith:
How do you figure that out? Or you’re just on tic-tac?

Andy Kurtts:
Well, not tic-tac. Did I say gen x? What was the ’90s? Who was the ’90s and early 2000s? Was that gen x?

Alison Smith:
Millennials.

Andy Kurtts:
Before millennials. Whatever that generation was before millennials.

Alison Smith:
Gosh, I don’t know.

Andy Kurtts:
It would be people like women who grew up in the ’80s, late ’70s, early ’80s into the ’90s come of age in the ’90s. It turns out that that demographic is not spoken to, really. Our client, we worked with a person who does marketing research. When you think about powdered supplements, you’re going to automatically think, it’s a younger crowd. It’s possibly skews female, health-focused exercise, and you do all that and you’ve basically just described every core customer for every powdered supplement brand out there.

Andy Kurtts:
She uncovered this untapped demographic for this type of product. I think those folks are… That demographic’s just as interested in eating good food and being healthy and active and all that kind of stuff, as the younger crowd. We didn’t make the packaging look like a Nirvana album cover.

Alison Smith:
But you’ll be sick.

Andy Kurtts:
[inaudible 00:19:51] to me. But we knew that that, again, that wasn’t really… That while they might’ve listened that music, it’s visually probably wouldn’t have… it would have been weird. We just worked on how do we get just really try to put on our target customer hat? Because it doesn’t look like a design that I would necessarily be attracted to. But-

Alison Smith:
I think that must be really difficult to… Like you said, you’re 30 something year old man, constantly having to design for other people, which makes a great designer. But tell us more how you get into that, like you said, the customer avatars. Are you listening to Nirvana every night and drawing like you do or what?

Andy Kurtts:
I just try to immerse myself in the research and just really try to check all the assumptions at the door. I also have great help from my wife who isn’t in the creative work on a day-to-day basis. She’s a studio director so she is invoicing and sending emails out and doing that kind of stuff, and managing other things. She really can look over my shoulder and say, what are you doing? Who’s who is that? Who are you designing for? And really helps ground me. Because I will get fall back into some just things that I like visually that do not fit. And so that’s a super help as well, having someone with fresh eyes look at it.

Andy Kurtts:
But it’s just leaning into it and by now I think I don’t really… My goal is not to make something cool. It’s to make something that the client is going to be happy with and is hopefully going to make them a lot of money. Whether I think it’s cool or not, or aesthetically pleasing or whatever is… It’s part of it and I’d like to think that what I’m making is going to look good on the shelf, but would I put pink at the top of a box or whatever? Maybe not, but if that’s what the client wants and feels that it’s going to resonate with their customer and it’s going to fly off the shelf, then I’m beak up there.

Alison Smith:
I like that. We just talked about the customer avatar, how you get in that zone. But how do you tell the story of a brand in such a small space? How has that done?

Andy Kurtts:
Oh man.

Alison Smith:
Sounds like a challenge.

Andy Kurtts:
It totally is. It’s even more challenging. I worked on these gourmet butters, and the cup is about an inch and a half tall. That design space was about an inch and a half tall, so then the cup is slightly taller. I had to sum up this whole story of this amazing butter that is developed by this the maker is from France and he’s got this whole culinary background and his grandma made this type of table-flavored table butter or whatever, all into this little tiny thing.

Andy Kurtts:
It really, you’re just looking for anything that you can pull from the history or from the story and integrate. If it’s a color, if it’s a little symbol, if it’s a… I don’t know. Then you have to also accept that you’re not going to be able to get everything across on that packaging too. There’s other opportunities with the website and other places to further tell the story. It’s a balance.

Alison Smith:
Finding that customer, that target customer, if you’re a part of process in any way-

Andy Kurtts:
Yes, that’s right.

Alison Smith:
… how can branding people help with that process?

Andy Kurtts:
Yes, we are part of that process. There are plenty of specialty studio or firms that help with that specifically, but we can help embody that avatar. Once you nail down who that persona is, then that is really when we can start humming along with… Because that’s going to inform objectively the work that a founder might… This goes back to what I was earlier saying. You as the founder might hate the color orange. But when I present something orange to you and you bring up, “You know I hate the color orange.” It’s like, “Well, but your target customer, prove to me that your target customer hates the color orange.” It just gives you as the designer a leg to stand on when… Because that’s the worst thing, poison pill for a design project, is the subjective feelings that come into play.

Andy Kurtts:
When people give criticism or try to give criticism who aren’t used to giving criticism, like art school, we were so used to being torn apart at a critique that that really doesn’t… none of that bothers me. Also giving constructive criticism. But a lot of the founders that we work with, they’re not used to that, and it’s uncomfortable to talk about design. You can either accept that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Andy Kurtts:
Because I can’t tell you how to run a snack company. I don’t know the first thing about how to set up a line to fill bags of chips. I’m not going to tell you anything about that. I think a lot of people assume that, “Design is easy. I can get feedback.” And it’s not. The sooner you can accept that and just say, “I’m out of my element, but I can help you walk through what you’re feeling.” And then translate it into actual feedback that will help the design.

Alison Smith:
Design is difficult to talk about. Because I don’t know how you communicate design. There’s Pinterest and I think that’s a bridge to help people communicate their feelings.

Andy Kurtts:
Exactly.

Alison Smith:
But it’s hard.

Andy Kurtts:
Anywhere along the way… A good way to do it is through a mood board, which is basically just creating a Pinterest board and aligning on what a client means when they say clean and modern. It’s like my interpretation of clean and modern is going to be different than your interpretation of clean and modern, so let’s align on that. Then if that’s what you want your packaging to be and it aligns with your target customer, then we have a baseline.

Andy Kurtts:
But sometimes a mood board is too conceptual for a client, and they’re like, “What am I looking at?” So you’re going to actually use that font. It doesn’t say our name or whatever. Because you can also put font choices on mood boards, along with color and along with just overall look and feel. We do a case-by-case basis because we’ve presented mood boards where people just got way too literal with them and just couldn’t get away from them. And they thought that literally that’s what their packaging was going to look like. And it was like, “No, we’re just trying to capture a mood here. Mood board.”

Andy Kurtts:
Then trying to help your client. I know that it’s hard to give feedback, and so I’m not going to overwhelm them with a bunch of design terms. Because I know if a client doesn’t like a font, they can’t reference and say what it is. They’re not going to say, “Well, I just want the surf to be more humanist.” Or whatever. I know what that means, but-

Alison Smith:
I did not.

Andy Kurtts:
When they say like, I don’t know, just that font feels too cold. If it’s like a sans serif, then I’d probably need to explore some serif more warm, friendly fonts that’s more human looking. Versus something that looks more computer looking.

Alison Smith:
That’s so interesting. It really is. I love that you have to dissect what someone’s trying to say on a constant basis to get it right. It’s very cool. But you did talk about the evolution of brands, so I just wanted to ask, should a brand design their packaging knowing that in the future they’ll most likely want to do a refresh, or should they design something that’s withstanding time?

Andy Kurtts:
Sure. Especially for a startup brand, you can almost guarantee that whatever packaging you launch with, no matter if you invest $500 or a million dollars, you’re going to redo it very quickly. A lot of the startup brands, we try to steer away from. They should look at more economical options because… Then come to us afterwards when they’re out there for a year or so.

Alison Smith:
Because I can see that getting someone really stuck on launching, is the branding has to be right and it’s just like just put it out. Okay, cool.

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah. I just, an article that I wrote for the Startup CPG Spotlight blog. It was whatever, published last Friday. It’s going to be a series where I talk to founders about what kind of packaging they started with and launched with, and what the packaging looks like now.

Alison Smith:
That’s the social media trend that’s happening right now. I love it.

Andy Kurtts:
Exactly. That’s what it’s called. It’s called, what is it? The, this is how it started, this is how it’s going.

Alison Smith:
And this is how it’s going. That’s so cool.

Andy Kurtts:
Thank you. The one that just published is with the folks who started Bare Bones Broth and it’s Kate and Ryan Harvey. I talked to Kate about it. When you look at how they started, looks nothing like what it looks like now. Some of that was due to just the challenges of a small brand. They had to do a label on a stock bag. Versus now, they can get bags printed, and it’s beautiful, full color bags.

Andy Kurtts:
But then it also was, you can tell the design aesthetic wasn’t as obviously polished. But they just needed to get out there and just learn along the way, versus getting hung up because you can almost guarantee it’s going to get redesigned. Then for more established brands, then obviously I’m trying to create something that’s going to be somewhat timeless so it doesn’t look like… you can tell something was designed in 2020 or whatever.

Andy Kurtts:
But you can pretty much guarantee, just based on a lot of different factors that you’re going to get a redesign, or you should start exploring a redesign around five years. That’s really… But then the shelf life of most designs, if the company sticks around, is around 10 years. But if you really want to keep things fresh and keep on top of revisiting call-outs or revisiting small tweaks that might improve your packaging and visibility, then five years is a good rule of thumb.

Alison Smith:
Great. I love having those hard numbers. I know it’s not a hard number, but I think that’s really helpful to wrap your head around. I would love to get your input on sustainability where sustainable packaging, what things you’re excited about in that realm or where we’re moving towards for that.

Andy Kurtts:
I’m really excited, but then also frustrated because the options are super limited. And it’s really going to take someone like a Coca-Cola or one of these large CPG companies to really lean into sustainable packaging, then that will help everyone else be able to-

Alison Smith:
As it’s got to go down the chain.

Andy Kurtts:
And it’s just so expensive right now. But it’s critical. Now, I did hear something interesting the other day, that we focus a lot on compostability and making something that you can throw away. They were basically like, “No, no, no, whether you’re throwing it into a landfill or doing some compostable thing, you’re still generating trash and waste. And really what we should really be focusing on is reusability.” That’s one thing that I’ve been really inspired by seeing how folks are doing the reusable thing.

Andy Kurtts:
There’s this soap company that sends out a little dissolvable pods. Your kit that you buy has the pump in it or the whole thing. Then you do a subscription and then in a month or whatever, they just send you a little pod, pop in there and shake it up with water. That’s really neat to think about how you can apply that reasonable, re-fillable to other industries.

Andy Kurtts:
Every client we work with, we try to help them navigate sustainable packaging or explore sustainable packaging, or just lesser impact packaging, just because it’s hard. Sometimes just that the investment just isn’t there and the budget isn’t there. Our business is on the line and so we can’t push them too much, but we do try to have a conversation when it comes to format and substrate. We try to bring that up.

Alison Smith:
You give the options. I completely agree. It’s got to start from the top because it’s just, it’s probably way too expensive. I know a lot of brands start with glass and things like that, but as they grow, they just can’t keep up with that, so… Any other packaging innovations that excite you?

Andy Kurtts:
Let’s see. There was this really interesting company that I talked to, that they do this neat thing, I think it’s called Phantom Graphics maybe. Basically what they do is it’s only with clear pressure sensitive labels right now, but they’re exploring other materials. But basically, they through printing on top of the label and behind the label, a certain pattern, it looks like the image that you’ve printed is moving. It’s hard to describe but it’s really cool.

Alison Smith:
Like a 3D thing?

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah. When you were a kid, did you ever have books that had overlapping black and white images and when you moved them over, they look like they’re moving?

Alison Smith:
Yeah. I think I know what you’re talking about.

Andy Kurtts:
It’s not a hologram, it’s not a lenticular printing, which is like when you have something that you move back and forth and it’s like texture. This is something totally different. I don’t know, it was just fascinating to me that they have been able to… Pressure-sensitive, printing on clear pressure-sensitive labels, it’s not the oldest type of packaging printing, but it’s not particularly new. But they’ve been able to make something that’s old new and interesting.

Andy Kurtts:
You can think about the implications for… You could put a clear label on a beer can, and that would be really neat. Because it’s already a funky category and always looking for ways to innovate. We are actually potentially going to work with them on one of our clients who she makes, called True North Beauty. She makes skincare with chaga mushrooms, and she’s got this beautiful Malakai pattern as part of her packaging. To just think about how, if that Malakai looked like it was moving, almost like water moving around.

Alison Smith:
Cool.

Andy Kurtts:
I don’t know. That would be appropriate for a category. Because you just expect to have really beautiful rich packaging experiences with health and beauty.

Alison Smith:
Well, if that project goes through, definitely ping us. I need to see that.

Andy Kurtts:
For sure.

Alison Smith:
Cool. Well, that’s exciting. My final question is something that we like to ask everyone. It’s a difficult one though, so what are some of your favorite brands or packaging designs right now that we can all look at and get inspired by? It’s hard to choose favorites. We know.

Andy Kurtts:
I know, I know. Let’s see. Who are some of the… Okay, here. I’m going to name some studios that I am constantly amazed with what they’re putting out. Just because I followed them, and then you get to look at their work. Is that okay?

Alison Smith:
Yeah, that’s great.

Andy Kurtts:
There’s this one that’s basically who I consider just about the leader in this natural products packaging design world, is Interact in Boulder. Think of any like when you’ve gone to Expo West or one of the trade shows and there’s a really cool brand and packaging, that they probably had a hand in it. I’ll always look into them on a daily basis like, who are they working with or who did they launch, or I try to guess if I see a cool new, natural product out there. I’m like, “I bet Interact had something to do with them.”

Andy Kurtts:
Another really neat one is Miller, I think it’s Miller Creative in New Jersey. They do a lot of super great work. Look on their Instagrams. That’s where the best place I think to see things. But it’s funny. I do packaging on a daily basis, but it has become noise to me as well. I look for inspiration outside of packaging.

Alison Smith:
That’s cool.

Andy Kurtts:
Because if you just look at packaging, then you’re just going to [crosstalk 00:40:10] forever-

Alison Smith:
They all merges together maybe.

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah, what everybody else is making.

Alison Smith:
How do you get inspired? Let me ask you that.

Andy Kurtts:
Oh man. By art and just trying to expose myself to as much things outside of the design world as I can. You have to on one hand, be in tune with it so that you’re creating things that are within the same visual trend or vocabulary, so that customers, what you’re designing is going to resonate with customers. But on the other hand, you can’t. You have to infuse different new inspiration so that you don’t look like everyone else.

Andy Kurtts:
Just because of my background, I love art and I love painting, and so I’ll pull out… I’ve got a whole bunch of art books and that’s where I’ll look for… A few years ago, there was a California olive oil that I was designing, and one of my favorite movements is painting was the Bay Area, figurative movement. There’s this one particular painter named Richard Diebenkorn, and he did these really neat geometric paintings.

Andy Kurtts:
They were basically looked like landscapes, but they were geometric. They’re amazing and they have a lot of texture and everything. I basically designed the… Because it’s California olive oil, this was a California art movement. I tied those two together and made the label look like that. One of the ideas.

Andy Kurtts:
The other idea was a cliff with the ocean, would look very quintessential, like Highway 1, you pull off the side of the road. That’s the option they went with. But I still had that other option which had a ton of all this art history associated with it. I’ll do that a lot.

Alison Smith:
Were you like she’s so [inaudible 00:42:25]?

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah. I was like, “It’s a slam dunk.” And they were just like, “I don’t know. I just really liked the seaside one. It just really sums it up.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Alison Smith:
Oh man, that must be hard. You need to frame all your favorites too and just be like, this should have won.

Andy Kurtts:
Oh man, I long ago have stopped to pick and favorites with my designs and just… You just can’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t be proud being associated with. That was the rule of thumb when I first started was… One of the techniques we used was always included a really bad one so that the other two look really good. And-

Alison Smith:
You actually do that?

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah, we would.

Alison Smith:
Also behavior 101 is like, “Don’t really give them choices. Give them a bad choice and a good choice.”

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah. Now we just limit the options and we only present just a couple options that we feel really strongly about, and they could pick either one and we would be happy. But my favorite designs, my hard drive is filled with so many of those that just never see the light of day.

Alison Smith:
Sad. You should have a second website of Andy’s graveyard or something.

Andy Kurtts:
Yeah.

Alison Smith:
That’d be cool.

Andy Kurtts:
I’ll try that.

Alison Smith:
Well Andy, this was really fun and I learned a lot. Thank you for talking to us about branding and packaging.

Andy Kurtts:
You bet.

Alison Smith:
Everyone needs to go check out Buttermilk Creative. Can you tell people where they can find you or reach you?

Andy Kurtts:
You bet. Yeah. Buttermilkcreative.com is where you can see us. Then on Instagram we’re Buttermilk Creative. Then we are on Clubhouse and I love Clubhouse. I host a show every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern with my friend, Kirk, who’s also another… Kirk Fizzola, who is another packaging designer on the West Coast, and we just have a blast. We talk for an hour just about anything packaging related.

Narrator:
Umai Social Circle is a CPG Agency driven podcast, based out Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram at Umai Marketing, or check out our website, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.

 

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