I had the pleasure of interviewing packaging and branding designer Yara Marie Sayad. Originally from Lebanon, Yara moved to New York City in 2014 where she completed her masters in Packaging design at the renowned Pratt Institute. Since then, she has made a name for herself as a branding and packaging designer. After working at an established packaging design studio in Manhattan, Yara’s entrepreneurial spirit convinced her to make the shift to full time freelancer as she now works with her own selective group of clients.
Hello Yara! I’m so pleased to get the chance to speak to you about this topic. Considering that this career is relatively new to a lot of people, would you mind if we started by discussing what it is to be a branding and packaging designer? I’m pleased to be here speaking to you as well! The key role of a packaging designer is to create a structure that speaks to an audience and is appealing to the consumer. The package is a means of communication between the consumer and the brand. Personally, I love to think of branding and packaging as one body. One can’t come without the other. The branding is mostly the identity, a person’s characteristics/traits/features while the package is the skeleton, a person’s shape, the way he/she looks which emphasizes or portrays their identity. Therefore, a branding and packaging designer creates identities by developing the image of a brand and giving it life by creating a unique story.
That’s very interesting; thank you for sharing. Could you tell me a bit why it is important or valuable? It is extremely important since it is the first impression/ interaction between the consumer and the brand. It allows the brand to stand out among competitors, and to call out particular consumers with particular interests. This is valuable because it emphasizes the importance of presenting something very complex in a simple, yet useful way. There is a lot to think about when designing a package: marketing strategy, shelf efficiency, transportation, environmental friendliness, and communication: from the production of the package, to the shipment, to the user.
I would like to ask you a personal question. Could you give me a background of your journey, and how you have chosen this career? I have always been fascinated with creating and building things from scratch, and associating stories to my objects. Every occasion has always been an opportunity for me to create something for someone. I have always used occasions as excuses to buy and explore new materials, textures and techniques. When I was young, I remember creating games for my little sisters to play, designing cards for mother’s day, or letters for my friends. I also loved putting photos together in my diary to illustrate different days of my life.
When I was an undergrad, studying graphic design with a print emphasis, the slogan “digital is the future” terrified me. I could not imagine myself creating without the tangible, tactile sense involved. I then went on to specialize in packaging in New York. During my experience there, I fell in love with packaging, and how powerful a tool it can be.
As part of my professional career, I worked in a packaging design company in New York and had some freelance projects on the side. I would take all opportunities that came to me, and eventually became a full time freelancer.
And how would you describe your work and creative process? What usually inspires you? I have always been a very “hand crafty” and meticulous person, who loves to experiment with textures and tangible designs through the choice of paper, material, and printing techniques. I always resort to my hands as my first tool for my designs; which are then digitalized. My personal reward is to always bring something new and innovative to my creations. I enjoy facing these types of challenges, as I believe it is the best way for me to keep on improving as a designer.
After being briefed about a project, the first thing I do is research the product’s history. After feeling inspired by words, the concept develops in my mind. This gives me the opportunity to think and create freely. My next step is to study the market and competition to properly assess how I can create something valuable and special – always special. One of the greatest feelings is to add a sort of realness to my work, through textures and illustrations, to give it life.
I am inspired by everything around me, ranging from individuals’ behaviors, to the natural world. I think the beautiful, intricate structure of the natural world carries so much inspiration. In terms of structure of packages, I am mostly inspired by sculptures, as I consider them to be static packages. I am inspired by the mental challenge of creating something new, which has the ability to provoke new ideas or thoughts.
People often talk about personal and professional lives as though they are two separate concepts. Would you agree with this? That’s a very interesting question that I’ve never thought about. It seems like my personal and professional lives have always felt linked and almost interchangeable. I guess that’s a good thing to feel, isn’t it? At the end of the day your professional life will always meddle with your personal life to a certain extent. I also find that my character is reflected in my work. For instance, I am someone who can’t lie, this is why I pride myself on producing authentic work and bringing life to my designs.
Thank you very much for speaking about this. I think this is very important to know. Considering all the negative ways media and materialism have affected our environment and society, how would you say that people could use design and packaging to benefit the environment and have a positive impact? The most convenient way to use packaging design is to only use the necessary, to accept simplicity when it’s possible. The simple solutions are often the best, the easiest for the consumer to understand, and the most suitable for our environment. My advice would be to use only just enough to transport, protect, and preserve the product. Use the concept of simplicity as a challenge to consider more strategic ways of putting things together. Making a package multi-functional, using sustainable materials and giving it an after use is a great way to help the environment.
What would your advice be to future designers? My main advice is to challenge yourself, as it is the only way to evolve as a designer and create innovation solutions in your designs. We so often give up because of our intolerance to the unpredictability of negative outcomes. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and push your boundaries.
Do you have any final comments you’d like to share? Should we be optimistic about the future of packaging?
I just hope that the future of packaging will not involve some form of augmented reality where packages interact with our electronic devices. I hope that we will never lose the direct interaction and experience we have with packages.
Where can we find more of your work or learn more about you? You can find my work and personal information on my website yaramsayad.com