Graham Shearsby, Group Creative Director at Design Bridge: “We see the return of ideas-driven packs rather than just mannerisms or ‘make the logo bigger’ syndrome”

With 951 entries from over 50 countries, this year’s Pentawards competition, the only international one exclusively dedicated to packaging design, has been tough, experts say. We asked Graham Shearsby, Group Creative Director at Design Bridge, award-winning agency which has scooped 4 Pentawards this year, about the award’s retrospective, criteria and the trends, driving the UK package design industry today.

Q.: Dear Graham, this year you’ve been a part of the Pentawards jury not for the first time. Is that correct? What changes have you seen at the Pentawards competition over the past 4 years?

A.: This year is the first time I have personally sat on the Pentawards jury but since the second year of the competition, Design Directors from our Amsterdam studio have taken part in the judging process. We have always had a very close connection to the Pentawards. I believe it is the one major international competition that really highlights and showcases outstanding global packaging work.

Last year’s Shanghai ceremony and the publication of the Taschen Pentawards book really elevated the profile and encouraged even more agencies to enter.

Q.: By what criteria do the panel of judges select the winners? Is it sustainability? Innovative materials? Aesthetically pleasing forms and graphics? Functionality?

A.: The judgment criteria are based on 3 refreshingly straightforward but essential points: firstly the level of creativity and innovative thinking, secondly, the impact and communication and finally the quality of execution. All these are judged against the agencies submitted brief and articulation of the solution.

Q.: What are the biggest global trends in package design now? And specifically in the UK?

A.: We are seeing a number of trends in the UK: the return of ideas-driven packs rather than just mannerisms or ‘make the logo bigger’ syndrome. The rise of limited edition packs to engage and stimulate interest, creating a strong emotional brand language.

Q.: In your opinion, should a good package design be emotional rather than functional and sustainable? Or vice versa?

A.: Great packaging design should always lure you in. Engaging emotionally with your heart first then your head, by delivering completely on the functional aspects. Sustainability is always high on our agenda and should be considered and assessed throughout.

Photo: By Hoogesteger fruit juice, the Gold Pentaward

Q.: Design Bridge submits their works to the Pentawards every year since the award was founded back in 2007. Is that correct? How do you feel about winning several awards for the second consecutive year? What does it mean for the agency?

A.: We have had a very good win rate over the years, last year we were awarded agency of the year for consistently high achievement, which I was extremely honoured to receive at the Shanghai Expo ceremony. All three of our studios in London, Amsterdam and Singapore have now picked up trophies for projects around the world, across an eclectic mix of categories. Winning another clutch of trophies in New York is another fantastic achievement and I am very proud of the commitment and determination of all our teams to the highest standards and groundbreaking solutions.

Q.: Is there any specific place in the office where you keep all the awards? A kind of hall of fame?

A.: We do indeed display the trophies we have picked up in competitions over the years. They feature in our meeting rooms in London, and Amsterdam and Singapore have created a project hall of fame in their reception areas. They are important recognition of all the passion and effort from both client and Design Bridge teams.

About the Interviewee

Graham Shearsby is Group Creative Director of international branding agency, Design Bridge. Based in Clerkenwell, he oversees the three studios in London, Amsterdam and Singapore with his team of creative directors.

Committed to design education, Graham is a member of the D&AD Education Council and a representative of the Design Advisory Panel for Creative and Cultural Skills.