All-round creative agency
United Kingdom, London
“We do a lot of work in the gift packaging sector, whether that’s around Christmas or other milestones such as a major DVD or game release,” he said. “These products often only have a purchasing period of around four to six weeks, so there isn’t much time to maximize return on investment. In terms of the packaging production, there is usually a very short turnaround time. You have to push the boundaries of creativity, while at the same time ensuring it can be manufactured in time.”
This is where Spark has an advantage over many of its competitors. Whereas other companies may focus on one element of the design and development journey, Spark has all the capabilities under one roof, from the initial pencil sketch through to the final product coming off the production line.
“Because we have all those capabilities in one place, we know what is feasible in the time, and we know where we can push the boundaries,” commented Bingham. “This is where Studio software comes into play, it enables us to visualize fit-for-production, photo-realistic packaging prototypes and therefore facilitates and accelerates the design process.”
Studio is a unique set of tools for 3D packaging design made specifically for packaging artwork professionals. The software is intuitive and powerful, allowing designers to work faster, more creatively and with technical accuracy. It takes away the need for physical mockups. It hugely improves and simplifies the collaboration and communication for everyone involved in the design and development process.
“Studio provides an integrated set of tools that help us to visualize our creative concepts considerably faster than we could have done before,” said Bingham. “Previously we would have had to go through a set of very complex processes to get mock 3D visualizations. We would do some work in Adobe Photoshop, and the perspective was never 100% accurate; when adding complex shapes, it became even more difficult. That’s all changed.”
Spark can now produce virtual prototypes very quickly. In a field where customers often demand several different concepts to choose from – and need revisions done in quick time too – having the ability to produce realistic 3D renders in a matter of minutes is extremely beneficial.
“Because we work in the short timeframe of the gift market, you don’t have the luxury of having a CAD function and then, once that’s approved, going into the graphics function,” explained Bingham. “It’s all done at the same time because the graphics affect what you do on the CAD and vice-versa. Studio allows you to do that.”
Because Studio removes the need to produce physical prototypes too early in the process, saving the client significant time and expense, it also allows teams to bring more creativity to new and exisiting projects
“There is a huge amount to be said for being able to visualize packaging early in the process,” explained Bingham. “It gives your creativity the opportunity to flourish without great time, expense and risk, and as such, creative ideas that would normally die in the concept stage are able to see the light of day. A great example is the packaging we did for Sony’s Heavy Rain.”
For the release of the special edition of Sony’s seminal game Heavy Rain, the Spark team were tasked with coming up with something particularly eye-catching. The result (pictured) was one of the most impressive game covers of all time. The front sleeve is covered with embossed raindrops, in-keeping with the game’s title and providing a completely unique look and feel. Bingham believes Studio was instrumental in its success.
“If we had gone to Sony early in the process and said we want to do rain on your packaging, they would have asked for a proof of concept,” he said. “Without Studio this would have cost several thousand pounds in proofs and so on, and it never would have happened. Because we were able to do virtual prototyping, we could visually demonstrate the concept at a very early stage and it got the green light.
In general, marketing departments holds the budget for gift packaging rather than operations teams, so it is very important that we can demonstrate very early on what we can do. These marketing teams are under huge amounts of pressure with very short timelines, so if you can’t demonstrate your concepts clearly, that budget will very quickly go elsewhere. This is a major part of what Studio helps us to do – enable the green-light on key projects by providing excellent proof of concepts at an early stage.”
Something that Spark prides itself on is getting concepts right first time, which is a useful quality to have. Studio helps Spark get concepts right byproviding realistic renders at an early stage in the process.
A fantastic example is an Advent calendar that Spark designed for cosmetics company Clarins, who wanted an innovative, alternative shaped format to differentiate it from the competition. Several different shaped concepts were designed using ArtiosCAD and rendered for approval using Studio, with Clarins choosing the striking triangular option, pictured. The final product that hit the shelf is identical to the initial concept, emphasizing the ability to get projects “right-first-time” with Esko software.
“When Spark designs something, we have to ensure that every single element has been thought through and can be executed in the timeframe,” said Bingham. “We never pitch something that cannot be done. In this instance, we had a tight turnaround time, but the concept and execution were flawless, and a major part of that was being able to show multiple high-quality concepts at an early stage via Studio.”