Posts Tagged ‘design’


Unboxing a More Beautiful World

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

This article first ran in the December 2, 2015 issue of MediaPost’s MarketingDaily.

The plethora of YouTube videos and the celebrity status of popular unboxers has made unboxing a wildly popular topic. But in all the frenzy, and with all the eyeballs on the moment of opening a new product, there’s actually very little attention paid to the shipping box itself.

In today’s world of delivery overload, it’s time we reconsider the ordinary brown cardboard box, giving it a branded life of its own. After all, the moment of unboxing is a highly emotional experience, with anticipation and excitement making it feel like the opening of a very special gift. With growing opportunities in delivery and shipping to consumers this holiday season, shipping boxes could very easily become the last frontier of package design.

Package as “ad space”
The Minions’ Amazon takeover last spring proved this could be a new, viable revenue stream for the retailer, by using the shipping box as one would any other ad space. As an entry point for brands looking to reach a mass audience with ownable packaging, it’s a smart move given the popularity of online shopping. But is selling your box as an ad space to the highest bidder the best way to leverage this untapped blank canvas? The key is not just slapping on any ad willing to pay, but to elevate the role of shipping packaging to what it really is: The ultimate branded gift-wrapping experience.


Branded “wrapping”
Imagine a Chanel handbag arriving in a Karl Lagerfeld-designed shipping box, complete with a personalized note or preview of the new collection, or the next Dollar Shave Club kit arriving in a Shinola-designed box, bringing a new level of craftsmanship to the monthly delivery. The packaging space becomes much more appealing and important when it’s tied to the contents; either by creating a link between two like-minded brands, or by bringing elements of surprise and delight to the customer.

Geo-targeted, personalized packaging
If shipping is the new retail, then why shouldn’t shipping materials become more personal? With the ability to target by region, city and even zip code, a more targeted message can be delivered to areas or individuals. Supermarket deliveries from brands like Fresh Direct or Peapod could be wrapped with information about local events or promotions. Or, in advance of a special occasion like Mother’s Day, you could design the outer package of those chocolates you send to Mom. The trend of customization and personalization should find its way to the outside of your shipping box.

Limited edition packaging
Your shipping orders could even become a venue for special guest wrappers — celebrities, fashion designers, or luxury brands — to create a more premium feel and tap into the idea that anything “limited” is more desirable. Golden foil wrapping for the holidays, brought to you by Beyoncé, or a velvet-textured delivery for that special someone on Valentine’s Day, designed by a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Creating a tactile experience out of a regular cardboard box is one way to ensure the enjoyment of the gift inside.

Repurposed packaging
If you open your mind to the possibilities of design on the outside of a cardboard box, a future where these lovely boxes are repurposed and reused in many ways doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Boxes that have aesthetic appeal can be reused for another shipment, or something playful like a bookend, jewelry box, or even furniture. They could even have a modular function, morphing into various shapes and sizes, giving you endless possibilities, while being more eco-friendly.

While we’re still quite a ways away from eradicating the drab and boring cardboard box we’re all used to, the potential for infusing some design and aesthetic appeal is there. Imagine a world where the standard delivery truck is filled with an assortment of beautifully colored and wrapped gifts, or where garbage day in your local neighborhood suddenly looks like a roadside rainbow of carefully wrapped and branded packaging. I predict the careful reconsideration of the ubiquitous shipping box will bring a little more joy to shippers and receivers, while potentially inspiring less disposal and even more camera time.

Eva Rebek is director of design intelligence in Sterling’s New York office.


Why We Brand, Why We Buy

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Have you ever thought about what drives your desire to buy things? Any thought given to why we brand things? Those are two questions Debbie set out to answer when she began an anthropological quest back in 2005. What got her started? A simple question about the most popular brand on the planet at the time. Check out her recent presentation at Khosla Ventures, one of Silicon Valley’s largest venture capital firms, as she describes her findings.


New Work: Café for Change

Friday, August 14th, 2015

CafeForChange_CoffeeCup-01Did you know that your next cup of coffee could help eradicate poverty in coffee-producing countries? With more than $175 billion of coffee consumed globally every year, the industry generates tens of billions of dollars for their importing countries, but very little of it goes back to the more than 26 million growers. As a result, most of the people that depend directly or indirectly on coffee production live in poverty or extreme poverty, with little hope for change. Even with the best fair trade deals, coffee growers’ share is less than one cent per cup. CafĂ© for Change, an organization founded just last year, is working to change that, and we worked with them to get the brand off the ground. We worked on the brand idea of creating a fair and just world for all producers. The brand identity, featuring a coffee bean, beautifully emphasizes the need for change in the industry. The supporting visual identity system is modular, allowing for the brand to be used digitally, on packaging, and for other similar crops, like tea and chocolate, so they can generate their own movements.


Now UP! on Design Matters

Friday, April 24th, 2015

There are a slew of new episodes of Design Matters now up at – Most recently, two delectable conversations with Steven Heller (who’s written a new book!) and food specialist Julia Turshen!


>>click here for a full list of episodes


Now UP! on Design Matters…

Monday, April 6th, 2015


Check out one of the latest episodes of Design Matters, in which Debbie interviews Ben Watson – Executive Creative Director at Herman Miller.

As former CEO of haute Italian furniture house Moroso, and also former Global Creative Officer at Nike, Ben is able to share some enlightening tales of growth in design with Debbie.

Check out the episode here<<


Now UP! on Design Matters

Friday, March 20th, 2015


Celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Design Matters with a fantastic conversation between Debbie and designer Louise Sandhaus.

Educator, Partner and Author – Louise teaches at CalArts, works with prestigious clients such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Los Angeles World Airports, and has recently published the book Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936 – 1986.

Click here to listen to the podcast<<


Sterling Buzz…

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Check out our delicious, newly launched designs!

Sterling has gone artisan with the new Häagen-Dazs packaging and is helping Edy’s/Dreyers bring the joys of frozen custard to homes across the country!



Sterling Buzz…

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

We’re happy to announce two exciting wins for Sterling Brands and Debbie Millman in the Mobius Awards!

Our Design team has won First Place for the 75th Anniversary Nestle Toll House packaging design, and our head of Design, Debbie Millman has won first place for her book: Self-Portrait As Your Traitor. Additionally, Debbie has been nominated for best of show!



For more info and updates click here:


Sterling Buzz…

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

We’re happy to announce Sterling’s win for several of our latest designs in the American Graphic Design Awards!

Click here to see all of our winning designs. For questions and more information on any of Sterling’s designs please reach out to us here.

DVX Identity Design for American Standard - Designers: Kim Berlin, Michael Dabbs, Isabel Babcock

DVX Identity Design for American Standard – Designer Team: Kim Berlin, Michael Dabbs, Isabel Babcock

Clutch-N-Clean design for Kimberly Clark - Design Team: Stephanie Krompier and Gabrielle Cuoccio

Clutch-N-Clean design for Kimberly Clark – Design Team: Stephanie Krompier and Gabrielle Cuoccio

Hershey's Miniatures for The Hershey Company - Design Team: Maliva Baker, Marisa Balmori, Michelle Lee, Michelle Hoffman

Hershey’s Miniatures for The Hershey Company – Design Team: Maliva Baker, Marisa Balmori, Michelle Lee, Michelle Hoffman


Introducing On the Future

Thursday, December 4th, 2014


While you may read about a lot of trends as 2014 winds down, we’re happy to introduce On the Future, our first forecast of product and brand trends for 2015 and beyond. As you’ll see, our report is quite different. It goes beyond the coming year to see what brands and products will be up to several years from now. We deliver this in what we call Sterling Futurecasts. Each futurecast in an actual illustration depicting a product, service or item we believe will be brought to life thanks to the convergence of many aspects of our current reality.

Using a cross-section of cultural anthropology, market research, trends observation and forecasting, and industrial and experiential design, some of the Sterling Futurecasts include:

Urban Defense

The over-population of urban environments and the creation of more mega-cities will drive the creation of health and wellness products that help consumers navigate and fight environmental challenges. Sample products include pockets embedded with a silver-based antimicrobial nanotextile that sanitizes your hands on contact.


Wearables that track the steps you take or the food you eat are already falling behind the true potential for the convergence between health and technology. Future products will allow for up-to-the-minute reports on your blood composition in order to recommend changes to your diet and exercise regimen.

Frugeois (pronounced Froo-ZHwa)

Millennials and the generation that follows have each experienced the recent economic recession in their own way, and each has learned that conspicuous consumption and careless spending never ends well. For them, being frugal and finding new ways to reuse and repurpose what they already have is paramount.

We invite you to download the report and let us know what you think the future holds.