By Neil Farmer
Earlier this summer I was invited to give a presentation to the winners of the Schools and Student Starpack Awards at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London. I was asked to speak about my own career spanning 40 years in the international packaging industry and the great opportunities for young people today, who are about to embark on their own careers.
As the Institute of Materials rightly says, the idea behind Schools and Student Starpack is to introduce young people to the design process and provide them with an early introduction to the Packaging Industry. By being involved in the awards and submitting entries they will think about packaging as a great career opportunity. There were certainly some great innovations and worthy winners this year in all the categories.
What I stressed in my presentation was the need for an understanding of as many of the packaging materials, processes and technologies as possible. Careers in design can really take off if young recruits familiarise themselves at an early stage with all materials, whether metal, glass, plastics, cartons and corrugated. Learn about all printing processes too, right through from lithography to digital and 3D printing. I personally established a designer support service in one of my businesses some years ago. I went around to design agencies and educated and informed them about what could be achieved technically, using different materials and processes. They were delighted to receive someone from one of the industry’s largest companies taking the time and trouble to share with them the knowledge and expertise about different packaging technologies. It was a two-way street. We all benefitted because the agency often came back to my business with a brief to create a new pack for one of their clients, often a major consumer goods brand. As I learnt very early in my career, good communications, professionalism and hard work go a long way.
Through the Starpack Awards we now have many young creative designers looking to embark on careers in the packaging industry. In my presentation I stressed the need to be flexible. Be prepared to travel and work in different countries. There are many opportunities today in Asia, Australia and the Americas. It may be a daunting challenge to embark on a new job on the other side of the world, but today’s new generation of potential recruits are up for the challenge and prepared to travel extensively and learn from experiences, in different cultures and workplaces. I also told them: Never be afraid to aim high. Some of the biggest companies in the world, like Procter and Gamble, Unilever, L’Oreal, Diageo and Coca-Cola, to name but a few, are always on the look- out from fresh minds and creative talent. It may be a tough road to walk down and involve long hours and demanding deadlines, but often rewards will come to those who work hard and persevere.
Finally I told the School and Student Starpack winners to think about their target market. Your pack design could finish up on a supermarket shelf competing with the other 47,000 products to win the ultimate prize, mass market sales success. It’s that seven second, blink of an eye moment when the purchasing decision is made in the store. 60% of all consumer purchasing decisions are made by consumers looking at products on the shelf. Get your design right and you could be responsible of one of the packs of the year in the retail and other sectors. From what I saw of the Starpack winners this year, there is every chance many of them could go on to great things, achieving high levels of success and industry accolades.