It’s no secret that most American consumers think private label foods are a good alternative to national brands. After all, private label brands often offer the same nutritional quality and ingredients as their national competitors. Most importantly, however, private label products are cheaper, thereby offering today’s bargain hunting consumer “good value for money.” While many retailers believe that the success of private label brands stems from lower prices, recent research finds packaging type, design, color and branding to be far more important than is typically assumed.

Given these findings, retailers in the U.S. are starting to think differently about design. In Europe, for instance, retailers typically change their private label design every 2-3 years to account for changing design trends, a stark contrast to the U.S. norm of 4-5 years. However, to remain “on trend,” U.S. private brand owners have the tricky task of providing consumers with great design more regularly, however with limited resources. To accomplish these objectives in a market that is accustomed to purchasing national brands, an efficient design process is crucial.


Partner With Your Agency

One of the best ways a private label retailer can achieve efficiency is by partnering with a creative agency, thereby mitigating the retailer’s need to direct, manage and recruit large creative teams. While choosing a design agency can be a hard task in itself, retailers naturally look for the agency that is going to best deliver a combination of creativity and efficiency.

An efficient design process, whether for private label or not, delivers the best result in the most cost- and time-effective manner. Having developed the ALDI group’s international private label programs for over 25 years, we at Tjarks and Tjarks have had to hone our design process to deliver this type of efficacy across every one of our projects. In doing so, we have found that an efficient result:

  1. Speaks to the client and consumer: Delivering designs that the client expects and the consumer needs tends to result in a shorter design process, fewer amends and faster production.
  2. Is precise: Getting every little detail correct from stage one is vital to ensure that the job only goes through the studio and approval process once. The more times a job is edited, the more rechecking is necessary and the less cost effective it becomes.
  3. Is meticulously planned: Taking the time to know your client’s process and the cost of your resources is fundamental to delivering a job within budget. The more you plan, the more you can foresee problems and develop solutions to save time and money. For instance, is photography really needed and, if so, how can large shoots be incorporated into the timeline with minimal impact?
  4. Over-delivers: While a client may only expect to see three design concepts, additional options may help to satisfy both their and their customers’ needs more quickly. It can also promote a quicker approval process.

To create a highly efficient design process that delivers this kind of result, we recommend that the following eight principles be taken into consideration. By using these, we have been able to pass on savings to our clients. 
8 tips for design efficiency


1. who are you?

Use your strengths to find your own efficiencies. We have dedicated and honed our processes to cater for both the design and production of large SKU volumes. By specializing in the way we recruit, design and produce files for these types of jobs, we offer a niche service that is effective in rolling out great quality in vast quantities.


2. be open and engaging.

Delivering efficient design results is only half the story! Being engaged and open with your clients opens the door to their way of thinking. Regularly discussing general design trends, rather than just the project, helps reveal both their own tastes and what has, hasn’t and could work. We find that this mentality gets clients excited about design as whole and paves the way to a more effective result that speaks to both them and their consumer.


3. put your strategic hat on.

The foundation of any effective design project or production rollout is strategic planning. First, ask yourself “What does the end result need to achieve?” then think of the necessary milestones required. Start by mapping out how you will tackle the process internally and use your resources effectively. Once your internal timeline has been developed, discuss it with the client to ensure that their own way of working has been accounted for. Although this can be tricky, it is vital for efficiency. For example, knowing the client’s approval process and timeline can be instrumental in preparing for production, color management and photography.


 4. ask the right questions.

Preparing for a project is the key to success. Just as you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, design projects need a solid brief to deliver effective results. Although questions around the product’s USPs, market, competition, price and brand history are vital, playing devil’s advocate and asking “How do you think we could get a non-buyer to switch to this product?” can help you understand the client’s wider objectives. While a boost in sales is an oft-conveyed aspiration, the retailer may also for instance desire to on-board new customers. Having this information in advance will enable you to incorporate design elements to meet all their needs.


5. design as a hive.

Many designers like to “own” projects. But, as with anything undertaken over lengthy periods, fatigue and demotivation can kick in. To combat this, we design as a team on every project. Junior designers bring fresh alternative ideas to the concepts created by the seniors, which are more aligned with the client. Stylistic designers then finish the job by giving it some finesse. Creatively pooling ideas like this capitalizes on everyone’s unique abilities and promotes cost-effective productivity. It also brings your design team together, so a win all round!


6. refine as a group.

Lengthy approval processes and revisions can significantly skew a timeline. In a best-case scenario, try to get design feedback from the client in person so that you receive all the necessary information in one meeting.  This way, after the first round of changes are complete, most of the large ideas have been covered. Nothing sucks time away more than multiple rounds of changes. Finally, it’s good practice to review any further feedback through the consumer’s eyes: “Will my target market notice this change?” If the answer is no, consider if it really needs to be changed.


7. streamline production.

Offering clients a fast, precise and cost-efficient production process is no easy feat. While teams dedicated to specific brands can be valuable, this can limit the knowledge of the production department as a unit. In contrast, teams that can pool their knowledge to simultaneously tackle amends, master file creation and text implementation will prevent timely delays in case of absences. By adding a meticulous color management process, you can successfully produce packaging that is physically printable on the desired materials, thus further avoiding costly disruptions to production.


8. spot the difference?

Finally, nothing speaks to efficiency more than precision. The more precise a job is at the outset, the fewer man hours are needed for revisions, amends and further approvals. To tackle this, either implement a quality control stage in your process or, even better, benefit from a whole team like we do. Consider the quality level necessary to render the job profitable, but also effective and precise. For example, we have eight quality control steps, all signed off by a director to ensure maximum precision. While this may seem costly in man hours, the overall efficiency gained from a lack of errors is exponential.

In conclusion, while there is no right and wrong way to make your design process efficient. It all comes down to how you can help the client. Developing a plan, allocating resources effectively and simply discussing your process with the client can go a long way to helping drive efficiency. Obtaining efficient results that are both quick and cheap is every client’s dream, and if the client is one you want to keep, then consider these guidelines to help you get there.