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Ingredients: Art Direction, Design, Custom Illustration and Hand-Lettering mixed into Packaging, Logos/Branding, Book Covers and Interiors, Bible Covers and Interiors, Greeting Cards, Posters, Brochures, Catalogs, Invitations, Announcements, Apparel, Press Kits, Advertising, Annual Reports, Way-Finding, Websites



Being right at the wrong time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 • By Jay Smith

Remember this blog post a while back about that blank sheet of paper? 

This is the story of what came out of that blank sheet of paper.

A while back while grocery shopping in Whole Foods, I noticed a brand of grilling sauces which had some interesting flavors, but their branding and packaging was not so good and tasty. I made a mental note that day while purchasing one of their flavors, that I would work on a pitch to them as soon as possible, to elevate their brand and presentation on the outside of their bottles. Once I tried the product, I became that much more determined to do this, since the sauce was really good. Bourbon and Bacon was the flavor, if you must know.

Here’s the not so good and tasty part, starting with their logo(s) and existing package. Why there are two logos I have no clue, but that inconsistency is part of the problem. The top logo you see here is the one that exists on the packaging and the bottom logo is what they have on their website.

Southern City Flavors is another one of those cases, like Elixir, as discussed here, where the product is really good, but their branding and presentation of their products is no where near the quality that it needs to be. A pitch project like this always gets me very excited, because I know we can help a company with their branding, that will make an impact in the marketplace and not only elevate their brand, but the customer experience and interaction with the brand. 

So, back to that blank sheet of paper. That sheet turned into several, as it always does when we start a new project. Hours and hours and hours were spent staring at those sheets of paper as I thought, conceived and labored over sketches and ideas scribbled down on those pages. From the very beginning of something like this, as each idea is formed, I start getting a sense of the look I want these sketches to have in final form. Some of these ideas came very quickly, within minutes. Some took weeks. Some didn’t make it past the sketch phase, as hard as I tried to make them work. That’s how it goes sometimes. After a few weeks of working on this, I asked Kristi to help with the project, since I had an idea for a logo and package design that would require her special, custom hand-lettering and illustration skills. Below are some of the sketches we both contributed to the project.

After the sketch phase was complete, and our ideas were refined, tweaked and some eliminated all-together, we started looking at fonts, and here is a collection of some of the fonts we looked at for the various logos we came up with.

When all of the smoke settled from the font exploration, and matching the right type to the marks etc. we had sketched out above, we wound up with four logos. Three were very clean and sophisticated options that I designed, along with a vintage option that was beautifully hand-drawn and lettered by Kristi. The next step was do come up with color palettes for each one and then begin the designs of the bottle labels that we would present for each logo idea. Also during this time we picked out various Bella® label stocks from Neenah and had a local printer output our label designs on those label stocks, to give us the highest level of professionalism and realism in our presentation. 

Here are the results that came out of that initial blank sheet of paper.

LOGO and PACKAGING CONCEPT #1–Since the company is local to middle Tennessee, my first logo idea was to have the state shape and a flame interact somehow, that would symbolize local grilling sauce/condiment company. I wanted the color palette to be a take on the red, white and blue colors of our American flag, but with a twist—a more orange/red for the flame and a deep navy for the rest. All-American, but with a sophisticated southern twist. This logo and packaging design is strong, simple and bold, while being very inviting and appropriate for a southern company. The fact that it is so clean and simple will help it stand out in a visually and physically crowded marketplace for these kinds of products.

We also came up with an alternate to this idea, where we kept the logo but did a warmer color palette for it and changed the fonts for the flavor. Changing just those things made a big difference and we wound up liking both versions so much that we included both in the presentation.


LOGO and PACKAGING CONCEPT #2–For this concept I came up with a seal type of look for the logo that was super clean and simple, with the flame carrying over from the previous concept and acting as the lone mark within the logo. For the label, I designed a die-cut solution that went around the top half of the logo, creating a similar but more interesting label shape than what the company currently has on its packaging. I also created some cow and chicken icons to represent foods that the sauce would be ideal on. This logo and packaging design is also simple and sophisticated, which is quite the contrast to so many in the marketplace that are way too busy.

LOGO and PACKAGING CONCEPT #3–This is a vintage inspired concept, that Kristi illustrated and lettered by hand, that turned out beautifully. It has a casual sophistication to it that we really love and was a hit way back in the sketch phase of the project. For the label, she created a die cut shape that followed the angle on top of the logo, which created a great environment for the logo to shine in. The rest of the label design consists of some textured paper in the background as well as being printed on a very textured label stock, and hand-lettering for the remainder of the package information.

LOGO and PACKAGING CONCEPT #4–The final concept here is another vintage inspired look, with 3D type and some flourishes to give it a sophisticated, southern vintage look. The label for this concept is also die cut, with simple angles that follow the top and bottom of the logo and each of the panels on the label have a very nice, subtle background color anchored in some light rule lines, to add that much more sophistication to the look.

Now that you have seen the work, let’s talk about the next step. Introducing ourselves to the company, who still at this point doesn’t know we exist. I drafted an email to the owners of Southern City Flavors, and introduced us as big fans of their products and that we had a concern that the quality of the product inside the bottle is not represented by the presentation of the outside of the bottle. I also provided the pdf of the work above to wet their appetite for a more formal presentation of the designs, as well as some links to great articles about branding to support why we knew this rebrand was the right thing for Southern City Flavors to pursue.

But being right is only part of the equation. You have to be right at the right time. A week went by after sending the initial email, and I followed up with another, and this time I heard from Mike Weeks, the principal owner of the company, who told me that he has been working on a complete branding change for the last four months, and that the new packaging is just now starting to get out to the market.

Being right at the wrong time is not a pleasant experience. We were really disappointed to read that email from Mike about him doing the very thing we had worked so hard on, and almost to the day of when we contacted him was rolling it out to the market. Timing is a key element in pitching for new business, because unless you have a relationship with someone at the company you are pitching, you don’t know if they are doing the very thing you are suggesting they do to enhance and improve their brand. We didn’t have an existing relationship here, but that didn’t stop us, because the old ways of just telling someone you can do a great job for them while showing your portfolio don’t seem to work. You have to wow them from the very beginning by visually proving yourself worthy of their investment of what their brand needs.

So what are some take aways from being right at the wrong time?

1. Our work is strong and so much better than what they have. We are proud of our efforts and know that any of our designs are a vast improvement over what has been representing their brand.

2. It was a joy to work on this project, regardless of outcome. We select companies to pitch to because they have the types of products or services that we love and are passionate about, and offer the kinds of work that we really want to be doing, and we continue to do this with absolute freedom to put our best efforts into these projects for their good and for ours.

3. We have peace of mind in knowing that we were right to choose Southern City Flavors, because at some point Mike saw the need to rebrand his company and packaging, based on his own intuition, the input of others, or both. We still choose to look at this as a wine for us, because we selected a company that needed help, and though our particular designs will not be on store shelves, the work will be on our website and we will promote it for our own benefit to grow our business and attract other clients in that same industry.

The hardest part.

Friday, July 29, 2016 • By Jay Smith

Here it is. The hardest part. The blank sheet of paper. 

It’s the beginning of what isn’t yet, but what will be. 

I don’t see it yet, but I will. 

At some point, something will transfer out of this brain, through a pen, and onto this page. Eventually I will have something worth turning into a finished concept, but not before hours and hours of staring at this piece of paper, thinking, connecting and hoping for something good. Something great. Something worth the time, since the company we are doing this for doesn’t even know we exist. Yet. They will once we have gone from blank paper to brand presentation.

What do I want this brand to look like? What are the styles of packaging that I will present to them for their products? What will set them apart in a crowded marketplace?

I don’t know yet, but I will.

Soon we will transform them into a company who looks and presents itself in a manner that is appropriate for the quality of products it produces. They will look as good as their products taste. They will be able to visually compete and defeat their competition because of what comes off of this blank sheet of paper. Until then though, the hardest part stares me in the face. 

To be continued . . .

Caring enough to completely comp it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 • By Jay Smith

You may recall from this blog post a while back about my Elixir Strings rebrand project, where I took it upon myself to not only redesign their logo, but string packaging, social media headers and ads, on four different concepts I came up with. Once that blog post was finished, I started implementing some strategy to get in the door, and after lots of networking and persistence, I was fortunate enough to find the right guy to talk to about this. He is Lou DiPietro, the global marketing director for the brand. Lou responded to my email about the blog post, and was very appreciative of the passion I have not only for my business, but Elixir as well, but kindly passed on the designs I had submitted to him. At the time, the annual NAMM show was coming up and he asked me if I was going to be in Anaheim, CA, where the show was taking place. I told him that I would not be there, but that I am always at the Summer NAMM show here in Nashville. 

Then a most unexpected thing happened.

Lou cracked the door of opportunity back open, after he closed it in turning down our designs. He said he would be in town for the Summer NAMM show, and asked to meet. Of course I was delighted at this newfound opportunity to meet, and he was nothing but kind to me in his correspondence about it, and asked that we stay in touch. Fast forward to May of this year, about a month before the NAMM show. I wrote Lou and asked about a day on his calendar that we could meet while he was in town, and he wrote back with the only day and time he had available, so we set the meeting and I began looking forward to that conversation. But what would I bring to that conversation?

I decided it was time to take my packaging designs and completely comp them up, making actual boxes for Lou to see, hoping that 3D examples of my designs would be the difference in Juicebox Designs landing them as a client and their rebrand as a project. I started by going back to the designs I had fronts and spines of, and finishing out the boxes, but I had to make a die template first from an existing Elixir string box, and once that was done, it was just a matter of finishing the box layouts. For the backs, I decided to include some notes about Pantone colors and paper that I wanted to use. Then I had some high-resolution digital proofs output of all the designs.

Once I had my proofs, I started cutting out the designs and assembling the boxes.

When I had all four of the boxes assembled and ready to go, even with the design of the string sleeve inside each box, I confirmed the meeting time and location with Lou via email, and a few days later we got to meet in person, after months of emailing back and forth. I was ready.

So why go to all of this effort, time and expense to do these boxes and present to him? Because as I mentioned above, he cracked the door of opportunity back open after he initially closed it. He gave me hope that it was still possible to land them as a client and that by seeing the boxes and hopefully presenting them to his team, that would be the tipping point for them to want to continue the rebrand conversation. Lou didn’t know I was coming to the meeting with the package designs mocked up, just like none of them knew this rebrand project was coming in the beginning. I was willing to go all in with what I felt would give me the best chance with them, because I figured this was my last card to play in the conversation about the rebrand. He had already turned me down once, and I was willing to risk it again by showing up with them completely comped up. I care that much about this.

What did I have to lose?

Just time and a bit of expense. 

What did I have to gain? 


My meeting with Lou went very well and he could not have been more pleasant and enjoyable to talk to. Truly a pleasure. We had some great conversation about design and how I got inspired to do all of this in the first place, along with talking about their position in the marketplace for both acoustic and electric strings. He was very thankful for the mocked up packages and I talked about each one of them as he looked them over during our tasty breakfast at the beautiful Hilton Hotel in downtown Nashville. He said he would show them to his team and get back with me on them, and then we continued talking about their products and Lou asked me lots of questions about their strings and my experience with them from the consumer standpoint, because I have been using them for 18 years.

Then our conversation began to transition to branding on another level than logos and packaging, and that was more about event branding, since he knew that we did that sort of work from our conversation. He started asking me about things we have done in the past regarding event branding and what we could do for them. I shared some initial ideas about it and he seemed very interested about it given my immediate input of ideas and enthusiasm about them. Shortly after this our meeting had to conclude, because Lou’s first jam packed day of Summer NAMM meetings was about to kick into high gear. I came back to the office, jotted down some notes of what we talked about and wrote him a thank you letter, sealing the envelope with gratitude and hope.

A few days after the NAMM show was over I dropped Lou an email that contained a great HOW Design article packaging design strategies, because so much of what I put into our package designs was mentioned in that article. I also included a brief summary of our conversation and the things we talked about, because I wanted to convey my continued interest in working with them, regardless of what happens with the decision from him and his team about the rebrand. A few days later I heard back from him with the news that though his team appreciated where we were coming from and agreed that some of the areas we discussed regarding their branding and package design need to be addressed, that they are going to pass on our designs, but appreciated our insights etc.

Turned down again.

So, all of that effort and months of work for nothing. Or was it?

Just because they are not interested in our logos and package designs, doesn’t mean that we do not have a future with Elixir. All of that conversation about logos and package design got us in the door to start another conversation about event branding, which we are continuing to talk about. As of this writing, I am waiting to hear back from a proposal I submitted last week regarding that very thing, with the hopes that what we included in it will prompt Lou to want to hire us for that type of work that we began talking about in our meeting.

And that meeting would never have taken place if I had not written that blog post and shared the vision and passion for caring enough to completely change their branding. That blog post would never have taken place if I had not taken the time to do all of the work for the logos, packaging, ads and social media components. And all of that work would have never happened if I didn’t care. If we land Elixir as a client that starts out with event branding, that will still be a great thing for us and all of this work will have been worth it. It was still worth it just in getting to meet Lou and spend time with him.

So where do we go from here? 

We wait for the team to meet about our proposal for the event branding project, and see if they are interested in moving forward about our vision for this component of their brand and how it can enhance the experience that customers have with their brand, and increase market share, like they want to do. If we get turned down again, and they are not interested in pursuing the event branding project with us, then we see if there is another conversation we can start with Lou about other needs they may have. If not, then we still keep in touch like asked us to do, and remain in hope that the day comes when he will want to talk with us about a project for Elixir. 

To be continued . . .

Birthing the twins

Thursday, July 14, 2016 • By Jay Smith

Recently here at Juicebox Designs, we have birthed twins. No, not human twins, although Kristi in our office is an identical twin. We’re talking about product twins. Two coloring books for adults—one was born back in the spring, called Patterns for Prayer, and the other, called Patterns for Peace was born earlier this month. 

They were conceived months ago on this piece of paper below, when I was trying to come up with a line of books to complement our first coloring book for adults, Colorful Comfort. Our goal was to create a second line of books that had the same level of quality as Colorful Comfort, but have a different visual theme, be a different (and smaller) size, and come in at a lower price point. Visually, we wanted them to be based around patterns—floral, geometric and abstract. Regarding size, we wanted to get away from the square shape on these and move to a vertical rectangle, so after doing some research, playing around with sizes and the page count and crunching some numbers with our printer, we settled on all those things and started the next step.

Next up was the actual planning of the book. This is where a lot of my work comes in, since Kristi does all of the illustration and hand-lettering. After it was determined that the Prayer book would be first, I started making a master list of verses from the Bible about prayer and once I had a list of prayers covering various topics, Kristi and I met about them. When we were both happy with the verses and the translations of them, then the fun part started. 

After the plan was in place, then the creative work began. Since Kristi is a big fan of coloring, and does it on a regular basis, she already had a vision for the types of patterns she wanted to surround the Scripture verses with, so she went to work sketching patterns, like these below. Pages and pages of sketches were being conceived and created, and as this process was going on, we were meeting on a regular basis, to discuss which ones would be good as a border, background, repeatable pattern or any of the other ways Kristi had determined how these could work. 

Then she went to work inking the sketches, and this step alone took at least 2-3 weeks. Every bit of it is custom created, and though there are some repetitive patterns, all of that is done in a creative way as well. When she had a batch done, we would print them out and evaluate line weights and overall composition of the art as it would relate to the verses it would surround.

While Kristi is inking away, I jump back in and take our list of verses, and start plotting which verses would be great with the art that she was inking. This involved laying printouts of the book pages in the floor, in spreads, just like a customer would see them in finished, bound form. I printed out our verses and started cutting them out and taping to the art, and together we made the decisions of which verses would be lettered and which ones would be typeset in a font. This step went on until we had the entire book inked and had all the verses accounted for on the pages. Once we had the entire book represented on our floor (spanning two rooms of our house!), I began to “sequence” the book, meaning that I spent a great deal of time thinking and planning the exact order of the book, placing great importance on the creative and narrative flow of the book. Not one piece of art is on any page by random placement. Not one piece of art is placed on any page, or on a particular spread, without lots of consideration as to what style of art comes before it and after it.

Another task of mine while the book is being “sequenced” is the editing of the verses—but no so much grammatical editing, but visual editing. I go through every page and write out which words on each line need to be scooted one way or the other, so that Kristi’s beautiful, custom lettered type is easily read by customers ranging from 8-80 years old, and we have that broad a range of customers enjoying our books! When lettering was adjusted, it was printed out again and laid right back on the floor with all the other pages. 

Once all of the pages are clean from markups, I pick it all up in order, and flip through it on my desk as if I was looking at the real thing, and Kristi does the same. Then we double check translation credits and any other item in the front matter that we need to do, like finalize the text for the person we are dedicating the book to, which in this case are our dear friends, John and Lynn Marie Kramp. 

Remember that whole sketching phase that Kristi was in earlier? Well, she had cranked out so much good stuff that when it came time to do Patterns for Peace, we were way ahead. The process was exactly the same though. It’s just that for the second book, all the logistics were figured out like size etc., so we were able to jump right into hunting for verses about peace, while Kristi was figuring out how much sketching there was to do, since we had a lot of surplus patterns left over from the creative phase of the Prayer book.

Just like before, we examined every border etc. that Kristi inked to make sure she was happy with the line weight and quality on each of the hand-drawn pages. We were also keeping track of the amount of each style of art we were bringing over from our surplus, and comparing to the Prayer book, so we had creative cohesion between the two. 

Here we have a few of the pages that I was making notes on about the verses that would go on it, or a page that I thought would be a great journal page, just like we did for the Prayer book. Every third page is filled with lines inside the border, so customers can journal their prayer or peaceful though for the day that he/she is coloring on that page.

After all the “sequencing” and editing work was done and we had our dedication page finished, which for the Peace book went to our dear friends Chuck and Barbara Tenpenny, we double checked verse translations and their credits and put the finished book next to the Prayer book, and started flipping through it as if we were looking at the real thing. Once all of our little tweaks were done, it was off to the printer!

Here are the twins posing together for their first photo, after we received our first shipment of Peace books. Just like human twins, they are very similar, but very different. Their topics are very similar and yet different as well. Connected yet independent, they go together really well and complement each other in every way. Each book has its own “colorful” personality that you see right off, but once the cover is turned over, then their development over time becomes the task of the ones entrusted to their care, which are our customers. They get to guide and create their own beautiful works of art from our pages, and along the way, experience a closer walk with the Lord, all the while being able to journal and record what is happening in their life. 

Now that the twins have been birthed, we get to deliver them out into the world for people to enjoy, as do our friends at LifeWay Christian Stores, who sell these as well as Colorful Comfort.

 As to what our next colorful creation is, well that’s another story entirely . . .

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