If you aren’t one of the over 25,000 people listening to the People of Packaging podcast, you’re surely missing out. Especially if you missed episode 21 of season 4, featuring CBX’s very own Todd Maute. In this episode, Todd sits down with host Adam Peek to talk about everything from brand strategy and Gen Z trends to the agile design principles and adaptive brand design of Forge.
Early years and inspiration (not what you might think)
While Todd has spent the past 15 years of his career with CBX, his design story started with a fine arts degree and visions of becoming a cartoonist or sculptor. After quickly realizing he’d likely starve to death, Todd delved into the agency world and became a successful creative director. As often happens, once Todd’s career—and the agencies he worked with—grew, he found himself spending less time at the drawing board and more time with spreadsheets. He missed his creative outlet.
In come the founding partners at CBX. The agency was only a couple of years old, and they were jonesing to get into the retail space—Todd was their guy. He says, “I love going into a retail environment, no matter what the environment is, because, to me, the space is designed a certain way, the product adjacency is chosen for a specific reason, the products on the shelf are chosen for a specific reason. They sit on the shelf in a certain area for a specific reason.” Quite simply put, Todd loves spending time in stores.
A decade and a half later, Todd still loves going to stores (his wife, on the other hand, doesn’t always love joining him) and he is still crafting award-winning brand and package design for CBX. How does he keep things fresh? Todd says he finds inspiration everywhere: Everything we look at has been designed by someone. From lines on a car to colors on a house, someone made a conscious decision to design it that way. He suggests going “out of context” for what you’re designing for. If you’re designing for olive oil, go spend time in a pet store—looking at analogous brands can be very inspirational.
Research, balance, and challenges—there will always be challenges
But his design ideas aren’t based solely on inspiration; he puts great stock in research and data, and points out that CBX has a practice of basing its approach on people, brand, and culture. He is proud to tout CBX’s proprietary study on Gen Z and the interesting findings that came from it. For example, Gen Z’s cultural perception around gender neutrality impacts how they think about color. The old-school “blue is for boys, pink is for girls” is not going to fly with today’s Gen Z consumer. Colors like yellow are more appealing because they are seen as gender-neutral. Another interesting Gen Z consumer finding is that they will buy into something based on the beliefs of the company more than the equities of the product itself.
When asked how he marries data, research, and customer objectives with his own creativity, Todd said it’s all about balance and partnership. To him, working with his customers is a true partnership—it’s his team’s job to interpret what customers’ objectives are and to align with what they are trying to accomplish. While some creatives may feel stifled by research or client objectives, Todd feels the opposite. To him, the guardrails placed on the creative objective aren’t limiting; rather, they enhance one’s focus and it’s with this focus that you get great creative.
A challenge facing both creatives and large corporations is the massive wave of consolidation now underway. Everyone is trying to be more efficient and trying to both grow and reduce their businesses at the same time. Manufacturing, CPG, packaging, and even retail spaces are facing consolidation, which has created these large conglomerates of products.
So, this is where Forge comes in…
This consolidation, coupled with the pressure on brands and packaging—from government agencies, via regulations, to market demand pressure and new product iterations—can make it difficult for the larger companies to adjust and pivot for today’s challenges. Forge is CBX’s answer to today’s great consolidation wave. Forge is a balance of Design Principles and Agile Thinking that can deliver strategic, adaptable design across complex systems. Take for example a private label—it may have thousands of SKUs over one or two brands. It needs not only design continuity but the creative needs to live on a variety of packages and materials at various locations throughout the store. Whereas at one time brands lived only in one particular aisle, now you find them in a multitude of locations throughout the store. Forge gets the right people and the right info into the room to address these challenges so they can craft designs that maintain the brand essence across a large number of products and packaging. And then forge ahead.
To learn more about CBX, Forge, and Todd’s part in the rollout of some legendary sneakers, check out the entire interview here, https://www.peopleofpackaging.com/season-4-episode-21-todd-maute-partner-at-cbx/ or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to inspiring podcasts.