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Take Flight: Introducing Terry Marks of tmarks and National Board of Directors, AIGA Design

Packaging Experience Summit
September 26, 2018

We caught up with Terry Marks, principal of tmarks, National Board of Directors, and AIGA Design and guest speaker at Packaging Experience Summit. With over 25 years of experience in their industry, Terry is an expert in creating memorable brand experiences through packaging.

Packaging Experience Summit is fast approaching on March 19 –20, 2019. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we are highlighting our all-star speaker lineup of experts, influencers, and leaders in the packaging and digital print industry. Today we caught up with Terry Marks, principal of tmarks, National Board of Directors, and AIGA Design. With over 25 years of experience in the design industry, working with companies ranging from Microsoft Stores to DC Comics, Terry is an expert at crafting powerful brand experience and forming emotional connections through his art.

How did you get into packaging design? What has kept you in this industry?

I am struggling to recall my first packaging client. It may have been for a company that sold products through Costco or perhaps Brown&Haley. I got into packaging because I was fortunate enough to be called upon and have some success. Prior to the internet, design was so very much about print and packaging was a natural extension of that - and one that I love and for which I like to think I have some acumen.

Now, it is one of the last meaningful avenues of making a truly catered experience for the recipient. Instead of controlling images that scroll across a surface in your hand, you control size, texture, truly control color, shape, and appeal in ways that can conjure something beyond visual, beyond tactile, something that can affect people emotionally.

I’m affected and fascinated by that. For me, it parallels the power of writing.

What is your favorite example of packaging that creates an emotional bond with the consumer?

There are numerous pieces that make one stop and simply observe and engage — or laugh. One that came to mind is the package for a piece of Kutani — Japanese porcelain —that my parents bought. Living in Japan for a stint, I was amazed how the experience of an object was catered to — be it a single pencil, hand-wrapped in custom paper at the checkout counter and presented as a gift or an expensive porcelain work arriving in a fir box with handwritten sumi on the face. One of the first packages I kept was such a box. I still have it today, decades later.

A more recent one is the packaging for the wines of Abreu Vineyards. I did not do these, but deeply respect the work and execution. The bottles themselves are custom, with the logo in relief on the front of the wide shouldered bottle. The labels are engraved and bear highly detailed illustrations. Even the back label — which for wine is technically the front — are printed using engravure. A trio of bottles arrive in a custom black clamshell box with black ribbon stop. The face is tastefully executed uncoated black, fluted paper with gloss black foil of the logotype. The bottles are hand-wrapped in custom tissue. When you encounter this, you know you have something remarkable before you.

I wish I had done this.

What are some creative strategies you like to use when designing packaging to heighten the customer experience?

Strategies for each product differ upon market, audience, placement local, etc. There might always be a credibility quotient, but more than that there’s a need to stand out — to differentiate in a positive way.

I suppose a blanket statement might be to do a real survey of the market, the competition, to understand and internalize it. So that when you return to product in question, while understanding the opinions behind it / the company ethos and the brand strategy and positioning — which is often the result of our work collaboration — to create something that is true. Worrying about originality gets one on one’s heels and looking about. Focusing on what is true and expressing that usually creates something original without trying. Because of that, it creates that elusive ‘something more.’

What are common missed opportunities you see with brands when it comes to their product packaging?

Is this where I say: They should have called us? This is really hard. I tend to think that when I see collections of packaging work, one remembers the ones that really stunk and the ones that are so well done that it is difficult to imagine how they got to such a great result. It’s usually the endgame of great thinking. But all the stuff in between — the good stuff — unfortunately isn’t memorable. Maybe that’s the missed opportunity.

I remember stumbling upon Communication Arts magazine in my college library. I didn’t know what it was. But I was fascinated by all this stuff. There was an article about a group that rebranded the limping along house brand for a grocery chain. You know, the stuff you buy that’s good enough and maybe hope that people don’t see in your pantry. Well, after the rebrand, the everyday value stuff was outselling the premium brands. That’s the power of packaging.

What is one key takeaway that you hope to impart at Packaging Experience Summit 2019?

In this age of faces glued to screens, the real, the tactile, the IRL (in real life) things have an incredible chance to make a profound impact. Leveraging that through great packaging that speaks not only to the product, but connects with the consumer, and takes to heart the impact on the environment could like change fortunes of a brand.

For the opportunity to meet and chat with Terry in person, register for Packaging Experience Summit today. Registration closes March 11, 2019.

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