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Catching Daydreams: Right-brain packaging design in a left-brain world

Posted by: Brandy Lockaby on December 02, 2011

I tend to have daydreams a lot when I am alone – in the shower, on a short commute, preparing for bed. It’s like my brain is begging for some “me time,” some one-on-one attention. While I spend most of the day juggling meetings and presentations, my brain has been furiously taking notes, just waiting for the perfect moment to bombard me with a million ideas, as if it were my over-achieving personal assistant. I can almost hear the dialogue: “Brandy! Brandy! What do you think about this?” or “Hey, isn’t this a cool idea!” or “What if…?”

Let me clarify: This is not about being merely distracted. As early as grade school, I would be engaged and attentive in class, yet feel like my brain was continually ten steps ahead of my body. I would find myself constantly multi-tasking; participating in a class discussion while mentally choreographing a dance routine, envisioning my next art project, and thinking about some boy, all while doodling my mermaid-inspired prom dress complete with a seashell-inspired bustier. Some may diagnose this flurry of cranial cartwheels as attention deficit disorder; however, I’ll defend it as the inner workings of a creative, right-brain package designer eager to connect with her left-brain coworkers and clients.

Bridging the great divide
The “right brain” is sympathetic to spontaneous thought, and spends much of its time solving multiple creative problems. The “left brain” is more straightforward, analytical and precise in its musings. Working in a branding and package design agency requires understanding and appreciating both left- and right-brained thinkers to attain maximum results. This can be difficult if you are a “righty,” as sometimes left-leaning thinkers can (in a righty’s estimation) overwork a creative vision by adding lengthy lists of objectives, success criteria, and consumer validation. After reading a list of “can’ts,” how do we right-brain folks stay inspired and create brilliant package design solutions that also deliver solid business results?

Here’s an example: A left-brain brand manager may be looking for a device to increase sales volume or, as we righties typically say, “delight” their consumers. The problem is that an Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation does not have the capability to harness a righty’s imagination. We need to use a much bigger net; to expand before we contract. It’s like having a 2x2 versus a 40x40 canvas on which to create a painting: If I work on a 2x2 canvas, I have to do a lot of upfront planning and formulating ideas before even picking up a brush; so much so that when I finally do begin, each brush stroke ends up becoming very rigid and expected. Working on the 40x40 canvas, though, I could be relaxed, experimental, and free to find a “happy accident” which could become the centerpiece I didn’t realize I was creating when I began.

Lost in metaphors? Lefties, bear with me. I am not advocating creative chaos. I’m talking about balancing creative exploration and project management to produce breakthrough package design that works within a client’s budget and time constraints. Here are some ways to bridge the great divide; to merge two opposing trains of thought, one linear, one swirly:

This is an excerpt that originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Package Design Magazine. To read the full article please click here.

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