Jill Tomandl’s road to creating some of the cosmetics’ industries most attractive and eye-catching retail packaging began in places far from the high-sheen world of fashion: that of General Motors and package engineering.
After a start in industrial packaging, Tomandl eventually headed to Los Angeles from Detroit and enrolled in the fashion design program at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and the rest, as they say, is history. She now creates award-winning, luxury packaging as Vice President of Innovation, Product Development and Package Design for Stila Cosmetics.
But Tomandl is not so quick to dismiss her roots on the technical side of the packaging pond, espousing the value of merging innovative packaging materials and structures into artful package design. “I am very passionate about designing packaging and custom clothing,” says Tomandl, who also founded a custom-leather clothing line in 1996. “My plan was to learn about the technical and scientific aspects of packaging, so I could not only conceptualize and design the package, but also understand how to execute all aspects of it.”
Today, she has been widely acclaimed for her passionate merger of consumer cosmetics with cutting-edge packaging accoutrements. Stila’s Color Wheel Palette, for instance, won the grand prize at the 2011 HBA International Package Design Awards (IDPA) for its inspirational use of a traditional color wheel sized according to the “use-up rates” of different colors (or frequency of use), paint-by-numbers instructions and even a smartphone app that helps users create a range of looks.
Tomandl’s packaging is known for its wide spectrum that cuts a swath of interesting material choices; she is happy to embrace such materials as agate, mother of pearl, grosgrain, tweed, suede, and silk satin. “One of the key criteria to creating unique packaging is to use interesting materials,” she emphasizes. Her packaging for Stila has also become the main visual element in brand advertising in many prestige fashion magazines, such as W, helping further the idea that the package must conjure the brand message as a key sales element. “It is important to utilize packaging to communicate the marketing message for the product,” she states simply.
Her background also ranges far from the norm. Growing up as a passionate lover of art, Tomandl even studied visual arts at an art academy as a teenager at the encouragement of her mother. But when she began thinking about college, her father encouraged her to pursue a technical field where she would find more gainful employment. She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in packaging engineering in 1993 from Michigan State University.
This led to a winding road to Stila for Tomandl, who joined the up-and-coming cosmetics firm in 2001. Her work out of college in the industrial corridors of General Motors only lasted a year after graduating from Michigan State. At GM, Tomandl focused on packaging for component suppliers and learned about manufacturing processes. That experience has served her at Stila and all along her cosmetics career path. “Automotive parts and cosmetic parts are made using the same types of manufacturing processes,” she says. “I also worked in the package testing lab, so this gave me a strong scientific background. I ultimately wanted to design cosmetics packaging, so both these positions gave me an excellent foundation to create beautiful and functional packaging.”
Before coming to Stila, Tomandl cut her teeth at Merle Norman Cosmetics and its Package Testing Lab and Package Development Department. And she gained valuable consumer testing expertise that also was important to her later success.
After four years at Merle Norman, Tomandl sought other challenges. She served a stint at a vitamin and nutritional supplement company as a package engineer and then switched coasts to take a job in New York in package development with Estée Lauder. She was mentored by Gary Korba, learning the ins and out of developing packaging for an elite cosmetics line.
In 2000, she moved back to Southern California, first working in package development for Hard Candy, a prestige line of nail polish sold in high-end department stores and boutiques. That experience brought her to Stila, where she has fulfilled her mission to craft elegant-looking packaging that used a high degree of innovation and art.
“Stila is an eclectic, fashion-driven brand,” says Tomandl. “The Stila consumer values package design, so I have definitely been able to contribute my creativity to Stila.”
Among her many contributions has been her work to entice fashion savvy consumers in an open-sell environment that includes high-end department stores where the customer wants guidance along with a product. Doing so has meant the use of other media outside that of color and shape to hook the consumer to the package.
One of her more outrageous innovations is the Smoky Eye Talking Palette, a four-pan makeup line that includes directions on creating a smoldering eye look. It also includes a one-minute, push-button audio and video presentation from a Stila pro-artist on how to create that smoky-eye appearance, as well as application tips and instructions on brushes, using a lenticular label.
“One of our retailers challenged us to develop a ‘futuristic’ product, so I create a `virtual makeup artist’ with the package,” she explains. “It was the first ‘talking’ palette. The technology came from the greeting card industry.” Tomandl also designed a convenient holiday gift palette, “prepackaged with a bow that allowed the gift giver to record a personalized message.”
The brand’s more recent innovation, the Dream Catcher palette, is inspired by a Southwestern dream catcher, a rainbow-like formulation that inspired consumers to follow the curve of the palette and the shades to create a complete look. Its award-winning Color Wheel palette uses the compact design of a color wheel, with eye shadow positioned in ROY-G-BIV order that is both vivid in its artistry and easily understood by the consumer. “The design of the compact format helps to teach consumers how to combine colors and experiment with new looks,” Tomandl explains.
Among her favorite projects has been that of Stila’s Precious Pearl Collection, a product formulation infused with pearls and that includes a genuine mother-of-pearl plaque. Her company’s Stila Agate Eye Palette features a genuine Brazilian agate with a leather cord that both decorates the suede compact case and can be worn as a necklace. “Agates have metaphysical properties that inspire the person wearing it, Tomandl says, and the package creates the marketing story.”
These innovations and others showcase Tomandl’s long background in package engineering and development and her core belief that packaging is critical to the success of the brand. “Unique packaging has proven successful, since it is the consumer’s first point of contact with the product,” she says. “If the package is interesting, the consumer will explore it further. When they see the quality of the product, they are hooked.”
Tomandl works especially hard to create the right package for Stila’s holiday collection, one of the most important times of the year and largest selling season. And in this competitive, high-stress environment, the package becomes even more critical to luring consumers striving for the right holiday gift and the perfect premium cosmetics product. “I strive to create a visually impactful design for the blockbuster palette, so it stands out in the highly competitive retail environment during the season,” she explains. “The packaging allows the product to become part of the design.”
Tomandl’s interests are far-ranging. She also has designed clothes for music videos, concert tours, commercials and films. But her diverse background in package engineering and art, along with her strong fashion sense, has made Tomandl a bit of a renaissance designer in the highly competitive world of cosmetics.
In this issue of Packaging Strategies, we share an article about a popular men’s wellness brand, finding an ecommerce partner for growth and control of your products, PACK EXPO Show coverage, a chocolate factory that found the right system for its bars, a Q&A with two companies on sanitary equipment and making the switch to aluminum.