Priyanka Karyekar and her winning formula for packaging design

Priyanka Karyekar, creative director, Elephant Design, and winner, Designer of the Year, explains what it takes to be a visionary packaging designer

15 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Priyanka Karyekar, Elephant Design

How would you describe the feeling of winning Designer of the Year at Women to Watch Awards 2024?
Winning the Designer of the Year award at Women to Watch 2024 is a transformative and memorable experience. It is an acknowledgement of skill, innovation, creativity, and hard-work. I have a strong feeling of pride — especially for female designers breaking barriers and setting new standards in the industry. I am happy to bring it back to my Elephant family the second time in a row. 

What is your mantra for packaging design?
There are a few things we focus on. The first is simplicity. The design should be clear and should communicate the brand without any complexity. Next, functionality. The packaging should facilitate an ease in decision making, communicate the ease of use, and should enhance the overall user experience. Functionality is essential, alongside aesthetic appeal. Lastly, storytelling. The design should stir feelings and strike a chord with the consumers. Great design always tells a story and stays in the mind of the consumer after the first interaction. 

Can you give us an example of a packaging design having an impact on consumer behaviour?
We redesigned Dominos’ packaging to appeal to the Gen Z consumers. In this category, we've seen a stereotypical approach to packaging that focuses solely on food imagery. Our approach was to move away from those typical designs and bring in something that would be more engaging. 

The Gen Z crave newer experiences and believe in creating & sharing moments that become cherished memories. Our "Slice of Life" packaging concept didn't just refresh Domino's image; it repositioned the brand as the go-to pizza for the Gen Z. 

Consumers connected with the relatable scenarios that were illustrated on the packaging along with the emotional messaging. Domino's managed to emerge as a brand that understood their lives and celebrated their moments.    

What are the areas for innovation in packaging?
Innovation in packaging is an evolving field driven by consumer demands, environmental concerns and technological advancements. Some of the innovative areas in packaging are the use of sustainable materials, packaging with sensors or indicators, augmented reality and personalized packaging, and mono-material packaging to make recycling easier. 

With automated packaging lines and high-end finishing machines, the quality and performance of the packaging has improved, leading to the optimisation of specifications and light-weighting. What sort of vendor SOPs have you implemented?
Elephant follows some stringent pre-print procedures. It may seem time-consuming, but we make no compromises at any level. 

After the design is completed, we print digital copies in various sizes to assess the design's integrity in terms of the original concept, readability and functionality. We decide on the final colours after comparing a few options. We also provide print samples from our end to help accurate colour proofing. 

Vendor collaboration is an important element of the design process where we exchange ideas with the vendors and explain our expectations. We are always on-site when the final print production begins, ensuring that the final output quality meets our expectations.
What is the most interesting project that you have worked on at Elephant Design?

Hoop was one of the interesting and challenging projects that I worked on in 2023. I had the opportunity to work on everything from brand identity to packaging design. I was able to collaborate with the client team through the design process at every stage. We worked with different substrates and materials. We experimented with printing effects. It is also close to my heart because their products focus on the overall wellness of human beings and address new age health concerns.

Is shelf appeal important? Or is it overrated?
Shelf appeal is certainly important in the marketing and sales of a product. It plays an important role in catching the consumer's attention, conveying the brand's message, and influencing purchasing decisions. While it is crucial for brands to make a good first impression on the shelf, it should be considered as part of a broader packaging strategy. It is also very important to have a good presence on e-commerce portals where scale, shape, texture or substrates cannot be expressed.

What is your take on AI in design?
AI has the potential to significantly transform and enhance the design industry by fostering creativity and improving efficiency. However, AI has its limitations. Human intuition, creativity, and empathy are irreplaceable. AI should be treated as a tool that complements or improves the design process, instead of something that replaces human insights & creativity. 

What are the changes the pandemic has brought upon the design industry? Do you think some of these changes will be permanent? If yes, what would those be?
The pandemic brought profound and unexpected changes to the design industry, reshaping the way designers work, collaborate, and approach their profession. According to me, some permanent changes might include hybrid work models, because they provide designers with flexibility and work-life balance. 

I think digital-first strategies focus on digital transformation and engagement through an emphasis on the online experience. These changes underlined the significance of wellness, well-being, and mental health for me — in design and in daily life.

Have you obtained inputs from your clients to get an overview on new activity --- and if there are clues suggesting change in consumer behavior and how the marketing engines are addressing them?
Our clients are our constant sources of insight — be it technology, human behaviour, or market shifts. As the demographics of consumers change, so should the medium of marketing. There is a huge shift in consumer belief when they make decisions about new categories, products, or brands. They trust their own sources of information such as blogs, influencers, and their own circle of friends & peers. They do not have much exposure to traditional media like print or television. All of this must reflect in the way we design, too. 

Moving forward, what is your strategy when it comes to "sustainable and green" raw material sourcing in the short and long term?
Designers are just one part of the chain. As responsible participants, we always suggest ways to make packaging sustainable. It could be about replacing the substrate or ink, or about reducing layers and printed areas, or optimising the size of the packaging for a more sustainable outcome. We have discussion on these possibilities and then it is taken over by the decision-making team in terms of feasibility, viability, et cetera. 

The jury members were impressed with the work you have produced. They were keen to know how (and why) Elephant stands out. It’s quite easy to lose the plot. What compass do you refer to to navigate change. Can you share some examples with us?
Elephant stands as the number one design agency in India because of our unwavering commitment to excellence, creativity, innovation, and client alignment.  We are built on our values — and one our most important values is empathy. 

We are the consumer's voice. We always keep the consumer at the core, which means we can put ourselves in buyers' shoes and understand their pain points & aspirations. We infuse meaning into every element we design, whether it is an icon, symbol, or visual. 

The amount of thought that goes behind every phase is enormous. We have been doing this for enough time that we understand larger brands, enabling them to grow bigger. At the same time, we also guide young brands to take that next leap in their businesses. 

We are built for scale and add value to brands through design thinking. Most importantly, we are always thinking ahead into the future.