Packaging was where it all started for me. I still love to see designs brought to life in 3D form. Working in-house for both John Lewis and Waitrose meant packaging briefs came in all shapes and sizes, from toys to food to kitchenware. If I haven’t worked on a packaging brief for some time, I’ll set myself a brief to satisfy the craving.
Whether it’s for a global brand or a fledgling start-up business, the considerations for creating a new identity are identical. It must clearly represent the company, its values and characteristics. For example, Mediteria supplied fine ingredients to Michelin starred chefs, so I took the letter ‘M’ and recreated the drizzle effect found on signature dishes. When an identity is created, it’s hugely satisfying to see it applied online, published and installed in store.
In a busy retail environment, catching the attention of a distracted customer can be a tall order. Within a moment the brand as well as the product’s selling point need to be communicated, whether it’s a small shelf wobbler or a dramatic experiential idea. Seeing people stop to take a photograph of a window display you’ve designed is immensely satisfying.
Designing and art directing publications, especially catalogues that run into hundreds of pages can be challenging. The diverse content calls for specific observations or ways of working. For example, the Ernest Jones watch collection meant capturing the finest details adorning watches worth many thousands of pounds. Or creating the John Lewis Nursery catalogues which involved art directing distracted toddlers on location. Whatever the publication, the principles of selling from the page remained the same, with proof of their effectiveness reflected in sales figures.
Retail promotions can be influenced by ATL campaigns, but in many instances, assets need to be originated to tell the story. It could just be a quick, tactical campaign designed with existing imagery, or you could be briefed to art direct a big budget photoshoot on location abroad. I was lucky enough to work with renowned wildlife photographer Brutus Östling, capturing stunning imagery in the Spanish countryside to feature in Canon’s EOS 70D launch campaign.
Starting with a traditional pen-dip, practice techniques and lots of paper I began to learn the basics of modern calligraphy. After many hours of practice, using far too much paper (and attending a short course with London Calligraphy), I converted to the iPad Pro. Vital practice time accelerated dramatically as did the creative use of available apps.
When I’m not designing at work, I might treat myself to designing at home (or on the train). It might be a birthday invite, a poster for my son’s school parents’ association or just purely for my own enjoyment. Much of that work can be found posted on my Instagram account @richardportman.design
A pencil and paper, or perhaps the iPad Pro nowadays, is a very effect way to visualise an idea or concept. It could be a quick scribble to explain a thought to a team member or perhaps even a detailed, colour visual to support a pitch presentation.