While working on the web app, targeted for creative teams, our Approval Studio guys have carried out big research, making interviews with Project Managers, Team Leads, Design Professors, and Specialists working in different creative spheres, such as packaging design, label design, interior design, UX/UI design, etc. The most interesting conversations will be published here, in the Approval Studio blog.
Our first interview in the series is with Tobias Kredel, Design Artist and Holistic Master Strategist from Hamburg, Germany. Tobias has over a decade of experience in marketing and packaging design, but recently he has launched his own project called The Pool Organization and is now focused on innovations in design.
So here is our conversation with Tobias from The Pool, Andrew – Approval Studio Project Manager and Taras – Approval Studio Marketing Manager.
Andrew: One of the problems we are trying to solve with Approval Studio is a miscommunication with the customer and within the team. While reading your presentation we found that you also faced this problem a lot. Let’s discuss what solutions did you find for your business process and what other issues you are facing daily working in the packaging sphere? Problems and solutions, of course.
Tobias: One thing that’s really important, I think, that we need to improve is the way people are working together while being on long distance from each other. so that they do not necessarily have to take all the critical decisions in this one meeting, where they gather face-to-face. For example, I used to have meetings where people had to come to us for one day. They had to fly Helsinki (Tobias is in Germany) and in the evening had to leave back again and so you have to squeeze everything in one meeting. Usually, all the critical decisions plus all the important sharing of pre-research are packed into this one day, and that’s a lot for one day and people are really working on an intensely high level. So, you usually leave with a headache because it’s really hard work.
This is also so because we basically are not able to take any real decision without meeting but we have all this technology – augmented reality and virtual reality at hand now, and I think this should be able to handle all these “long-distance relationships” problems. I believe there are technologies already, but they’re not implemented in many organizations. It’s basically like in Star Wars with projections of people and then you can say ‘Hello’, and you can share with them as if they were in the same room.
Andrew: That is something actually we’re working on. Of course, it’s not augmented reality it’s more like a simple solution when we have a tool on our screen and on your screen. At any moment we can work together being in different parts of the world, you know, and to work on this product and discuss it as if we are in the same room. That’s something we are trying to reach, and that’s actually the reason why we want to hear about your problems and your solutions and to compare how often other people these problems. The example that you gave us is probably true for big companies that people can come to other cities, to other countries just for one meeting. However, smaller businesses cannot afford it if they have like $5,000 for their campaign. They cannot afford to spend like $2000 just for flights and to have a dinner. How often do you think, or from your experience, you face the misunderstandings and what kind of misunderstandings are here – in the creative process?
Tobias: I have not counted this. Very often you just do not notice that you have misunderstood each other. Basically, most of the time when I looked at other people’s faces, I had the impression that they do not understand me on 100 percent because they were coming from different countries and their understanding of English is not perfect, my English is not perfect. Usually, you do not understand 100% of people and, especially, when you are starting the business. People today are better at English, but when I started to work in a professional environment, my English was not perfect. If a French guy was talking, for example, I probably understood just 50% of what he was saying. Of course, you are polite, and you think, and you hope that you have caught everything. But then, what to do? What should you do? You cannot always say ‘can you please say that again?’. Frenchman will again say that so fast that you are not able to understand it. Language confusion – that’s the main problem there. Maybe, that’s also something that you can integrate into your tool because these on-time translators are getting better and better.
Andrew: Yeah, they are getting better but still, you know, what it’s hard to translate something even for professional interpreters. Sometimes, it’s hard to get the gist. Talking about innovation and real-life, do you think, would it help if the discussion would be not only verbal, but people could just write an annotation and show it to each other. Would it really be helpful?
Tobias: Yes, of course. I mean it is also what you see in this PDF I sent you, with the yellow packaging, on the different benefits. The benefits are stated, shown and explained. Then, everybody knows what the thing is about, because the process includes that you together define what means logistic efficiency or production efficiency or anything else. It’s explained at the beginning, and now everybody knows that the icon means production efficiency, production efficiency means this and that, and it’s clear for everybody. However, in meetings, before we use that system and it has not been done, the Frenchmen had a different word from the Englishman, and that was a problem. So, I think it’s very important to define important things in the beginning together so at list these things are clear and defined for everybody.
Andrew: Let’s talk about your business specifics. Can you describe the whole project of yours? Briefly, starting from the moment when a potential client is contacting you with an idea. What happened next?
Tobias: Usually, the customer contacts us with a problem. Then we’re getting a briefing that is often not very well
Taras: Yeah, in 99% it is not the very brief we need. (Taras has been working as a creative director for years and knows the situation very well).
Tobias: Maybe, people do not have the right templates. In my business, especially, when it’s about packaging, as marketing guys, we are supposed to write briefs. These marketing guys might have done something completely different before, like selling cars or whatever. Then they are supposed to write a packaging brief. Of course, they are not able to do that so they would need help to do a good briefing. So, we, in my last company, always tried to do it by sending customers templates or lists to go through like ‘how to get a good briefing’. Of course, it’s just food for thoughts, but sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Andrew: Cool, you answered my following questions. Let’s go ahead. So, once you get the brief, once you know what you need to do, what’s next step? Of course, you are getting some mockup, right? What’s the next step? How do you discuss this mockup and your idea with a potential client?
Tobias: I usually have a sketch.
Andrew: So, if you have a sketch so what you do with it, especially, if the client of yours is not in your region, is not in your city? Or if even he or she is in the town, what is the next step?
Tobias: Usually, you scan it and send it by email.
Andrew: Email? Okay. What if several people are working on one and the same sketch? As you said, there might be a marketing guy on the side, or there might be some legal guy and so on?
Tobias: I, personally. have started to send download links
Andrew: And how do you collect the feedback? What is the way to collect feedback? – that’s my question. How the communication is going? After you send the link do and you call them saying‘ guys I sent you the link to take a look.’
Tobias: Quite often they take a look and then, we have a telephone call. Then we go through all the designs and then talk about it. Usually, they get a sketch, the small description of it, of course, is not the full explanation. Often, we talk on the phone and go to slide by slide. Usually, it’s one concept or slide at the beginning.
Andrew: At this moment, how often do you have the misunderstanding? I’ll try to explain. I, usually, when doing the demo, have a picture of interior design where I have several tables, several couches, several mirrors. However, when even saying like ‘in right upper corner we have a couch’. The client asks ‘what couch?’ because we have several of them in there. So, how often do you have these misunderstandings at this starting moment? Especially using the phone, or using different channels like emails.
Tobias: That’s usually when you have time, and it depends on how complicated the packaging is. So, sometimes it makes it easy to understand, sometimes it makes it hard to understand and then also the question of how many images used to explain the mechanism. At some point, of course, you need to do a sample and then get 3D mockups.
Andrew: Even 3D mockups?
Andrew: Under prototypes, you mean 3D files, right?
Tobias: Physical sample. It’s just a different way. There are still people who try to implement this workflow, but I have not really seen it be successful in packaging innovation. So, you can use this 3D mock-up on screen only but if you are just talking about the same packaging system if you say ‘I’m doing a muesli box’ it could be the same muesli box but with the different artwork. Then, of course, it makes sense to just do that as a 3D mock-up on the screen. But in our case, it’s different. So if you are really doing packaging innovations, the materiality is important – how does it feel, how does it work, and even the size impression. You do have to see that in front of you, not on the screen. You cannot judge size pressure on the screen. It’s impossible.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s true. You actually want to feel and touch. It usually happens when buying something online: you have never seen it, and you first go to some store. You found the product you think you like, you go to the store, and you want to touch it, you want to see it, and to make the decision. Even if you’re going to buy it online, you still want to see and touch it. That is really important for packaging sphere, but, probably closer to the end of the project. But talking about the typical boxes, like you said – cereals. I suppose, in this case, you still first would like to see the sketch online, to grasp the concept. A moment of advertisement here – few words about the tool we are working on right now – Approval Studio. Of course, we cannot attach a physical object into our Approval Studio and share it with someone, but what we are trying to achieve is to let people means to upload a sketch, upload a design and have a transparent, easy-to-follow discussion of the concept. You share the link with a person in “another room” – that’s might be a client or the marketing guy. They can open it, view it, compare with some another variant – compare previous versions and make the decision at least in colors or even the whole idea – whether the whole idea is something. It’s not about innovative packaging, I totally agree with you.
Tobias: True, it is more about workflow for graphics agencies probably.
Andrew: Do you use any tools to share ideas or simple emails? Actually, do you use any tools in your work? I mean not professional ones where you make those sketches but tools like team management, versions management, etc. Do you use any of those?
Tobias: I use Adobe Studio, Cloud Studio. I need Creative Cloud Donuts. I just noticed that it’s much more comfortable than those I used in the past.I used to download every picture that I bought online on iStock or Shutterstock. Now, I’m basically trying to solve everything with Adobe, and by doing that I can select pictures online, and then put them into my Creative Cloud account and then I can directly load them from the library into my Photoshop Illustrator InDesign.
Andrew: Okay but what about working with a team? Or working with a customer, some people use tools like Trello to put all the projects in one place to have all the notes in one place.
Tobias: No, no, no. Maybe you have something to recommend?
Andrew: Yep, I have Approval Studio. (laughing). Of course, there are a lot of different project management tools, but what we are working on right now — is the one specific for creative teams – but the list of project management tools is very big.
Tobias: Indeed. I wanted it in my last companies. I now started my own business just few weeks ago. So basically, I have nothing: I have a printer, SendBook, and I have Adobe, and nothing else but project management tools it was something I was always interested in. In my last company, I have tried to implement something like useful workflow. But again, this packaging Innovation thing is something special it’s not like another company’s whoever looking more like a conveyor belt weigh. It is so chaotic that many tools just didn’t really make sense to use very much. I always used Microsoft Project but for more rough planning at the beginning. I did not use it day to day because it did not pay off.
Andrew: Yeah Microsoft Project is a complicated tool. Have you worked with any workflow applications in your previous jobs? Not talking about Microsoft
Tobias: We had one for time accounting that also had some functionalities for billing and stuff, and it’s got the spirit. Now I think they are bankrupt, but it was a real pain in the ass with this shity program. Before that, we had some program developed especially for us. So that was a web application, and some guy did that for us – the database where you could just enter your times.
Andrew: So, it was custom. I got it, but it’s not exactly the tool we’re working on. We’re not actually thinking about timestamps, not even timestamps but we’re not thinking about the time we spent from the billing point of view. We are trying to assess the time that these or that member of the company needs to fulfil his or her job; to estimate how long it takes to receive the reply from the client, how long it takes to receive the reply from the designer.
Tobias: Honestly, I would love to have a good system for that. If your system is fine, then I would love it. Do you have a free demo or something?
Andrew: We have an early bird program right now where everyone can start using the system for free and what we need is just to hear the ideas on how to make it better, how to improve it and so on. We are also working on something new, and the interview itself was meant not to demonstrate our current product, but to hear about your ideas about the something that we can create to help you. We can arrange some short demo where I can show you what we have at the moment and what we offer at the moment.
Tobias: Yeah, I would also be happy to support your process because I think it would be great to have a such tool. I don’t know if you saw that on my profile the pool organizations. The pool organization promo material is also could be downloaded, or I can send it to you. Our info posters are showing the different programs that the pool organization supposed to have. One of these called ‘Save Fuel’ so the people do not fly so often and just discuss the staff they could have discussed online. The tool is basically like yours, this topic is important for me and I would love to help you. Something I need.
Andrew: Yeah. You know this term Global Village? It’s like 40 years old or something. Defines our current reality where people from different parts of the world now can talk like we do, sitting at our desks without feeling any distance even being in different time zones. So, having this Global Village time, having such a tool as the internet do not need spend time and money just to fly and have a conversation. If you need to feel and touch something that’s a good idea but if you just need to talk to somebody – use the professional means.
Tobias: But still, if you have a packaging mechanism and you would have a better way to show it than on a shity webcam. Then, it would also be possible to share more of this process of the prototyping, I think.
Andrew: Webcam would not be a help probably. At this moment, at least, this week we were on the trip, and we made the video with a good cam 4K. So we had really cool downhill but when we watched the video we didn’t feel the volume, we didn’t feel any extreme, just watching, without knowing how cool was that, how dangerous it was. Probably, it is something that we still cannot express. Actually, augmented reality or even 3D goggles can help with virtual reality.
Tobias: Yes, it’s true
Our further conversation with Tobias was focused on scheduling a demo session of Approval Studio, going through its features and other things that we thought are not worth posting here.
We really hope that our conversation was interesting for you, as it was for us. Feel free to share with us what questions, you think, should be asked in first place, while talking to creative teams.
If you want to share your experience with our blog readers, just contact Andrew at [email protected] to schedule a short interview.