We’ve Created a ‘Monster’!

A product’s packaging is the first thing you notice on a store shelf.

In that first glance you notice the colors, designs, the logos, and insignia – what you notice about a product is much like a Rorschach test – it’s indicative of what appeals to you.

Without getting ahead of ourselves here, most products will only get that first glance – so our job as strategic marketers and designers is to make that glance count. “Product and retail packaging isn’t too far off from digital marketing,” explained Design Director, Charlie Culella. “You only have a precious few seconds to get your user’s attention and focus it on your product.”

A couple months ago we were engaged by Children’s Factory, a local St. Louis manufacturer 0f popular toy and educational development equipment, to design and create a product package for their nap mat products that would be available at Kohl’s retail store nationwide.

The Challenge

The client wanted a package that would make their mat stand out from the rest, and a design that would jump off the shelf. To embody the ‘Cozy Monster Mat’ they requested a lovable, friendly monster character who would bring their mat to life in the eyes of the children who would be using it, but also demonstrate its quality in the eyes of parents who would be back-to-school shopping in a matter of months.

This posed a dual challenge – how do you create a monster character that both delights children and garners the confidence of their parents? These two very different demographics have historically held equivalently polarized ideas of product appeal…

To the Drawing Board

“The monster was a tricky design challenge for sure,” Charlie said after assessing all potential angles of the project request before meeting it head on. “During my research I found many suitable directions for the monster concept to take. I wanted to be sure and create a unique character, but still fall squarely in the comfy and cute range without looking too young or old.”

Evaluating the packaging trends of similar products helped us form the direction our own product package would need to take in breaking free from the herd.

“Most of the competitor’s products were using smiling children’s head shots that didn’t speak to the actual product or it’s uses,” he continued. “In showing the monster sleeping on the mat, we was able to portray the mat’s uses with the monster himself, as well as interjecting some fun to the packaging.”

A Monster is Born

Working within the confines of an accelerated deadline isn’t always a designer’s dream, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Without opportunities to procrastinate, overthink, and over iterate, Charlie was able to produce a number of playfully-whimsical, nap time themed monster character sketches for Children’s Factory to select from.

The tiny, tike-like yellow monster who inspires sweet dreams and happy nap-times emerged as the fuzzy victor. The final product fell within the sweet-spot that Children’s Factory had requested – a lovable little monster that was neither too scary, nor too hyper in appearance. This is a rest time mat, after all.

“It’s all about riding that edge and always checking the direction of the concept,” Charlie explained.“With a few wrong tweaks, the monster could go from cute to creepy really fast, but the final product is definitely huggable.”