Story | 07/09/2024 10:47:36 | 6 min Read time

Anita Kuit: Design with purpose can change someone’s life

Daniela Walker

Text

Ossi Piispanen

Photography

Anita Kuit is lead designer in branding and packaging at Disney Company and a jury member for the global packaging design competition Pentawards. She firmly believes in design with purpose. When brands start to listen to minority groups, everybody wins, Anita says.

Lesson 1: Inclusivity can turn beautiful design into purposeful design

“Packaging design has always had a purpose because we’re visual communicators – we’re either making information easier to read or we’re making it easier for consumers to pick the product they’re looking for. The shift is when you think about it holistically: design with purpose now really means sustainability, inclusion, diversity and accessibility.

It’s about designing beyond the core purpose of protecting and selling a product. It’s going beyond aesthetics into form and function that is meaningful or responsible. You could be trying to solve a problem for a specific group of people – that could be a minority group of people – but it also connects with consumers on an emotional level. It can really change how people feel when they see your products.”

When you think about it holistically: design with purpose now really means sustainability, inclusion, diversity and accessibility.
 
 

Lesson 2: Discovering consumer insight expanded what I thought design could be

“As a student, you’re very much trained to think about the purpose of design from the outset. Why do you think this design is the right solution? What does it mean? But then when I got my first job as a graphic designer, I was very much focused on honing my technical skills.

A couple of years ago I was put on a task force to learn about consumer macro trends that are driving the next five, ten, twenty years. And that’s not always part of your day-to-day job as a designer. You’re normally answering a brief for a specific end user or consumer. Through learning about consumer insight, I discovered the importance of representation in design and the opportunities we have as designers to use our creative skills and our creative thinking to drive meaningful change.

That sparked something in me – this is what people are going to find important in the future. The world of design is evolving. We’re not just making nice-looking packaging; we’re really designing for a need. So, what can we do now to get ahead of that? How can we serve those consumers?

The Pentawards has added a new competition category this year called Design with Purpose, which is proof that the industry is evolving, and brands are starting to listen to minority groups to create products that leave no one behind.”

The world of design is evolving. We’re not just making nice-looking packaging; we’re really designing for a need.

Lesson 3: Design for the few to design for all

“I love the design philosophy around purposeful design – designing for the few is design for all. In other words, you need to know exactly who you are designing for: where do these consumers shop? What are their needs? What problem are you trying to solve for them? Then you create a design solution that answers their needs. Ultimately that solution benefits every user.

A classic example of this is the design of the TV remote. It was initially designed for people with limited mobility, so they didn't have to get up from their chair to change the TV channel. A more recent example is Microsoft. The blurred background in the Microsoft Teams app was designed for people who use lip reading. It helps them focus on a person’s face, their facial expressions, and their lips. That was the initial reason it was implemented but now it’s like a privacy screen for everyone.

Procter & Gamble – one of the biggest consumer goods companies globally – recently launched shampoo and conditioner bottles using tactile elements to differentiate shampoo from conditioner for the visually impaired. It’s such a simple idea, but so impactful and effective for visually impaired. It took a visually impaired employee at P&G to say, ‘hey, I work in this industry which is selling all these products that people are using daily. I can make a difference here’.”

I love the design philosophy around purposeful design – designing for the few is design for all.
 
 

Lesson 4: Design with purpose has to be authentic to be meaningful

“The most important thing to remember when considering design with purpose is authenticity. As a packaging designer, you are working for a brand – either in-house or at a design agency. You need to know what the story of the brand is and what its values are. And then you start to think about how you can bring in design with purpose. There are many ways in but for instance, you could ask: does my product get sold in different markets across the world? Do we need to look at cultural representation per market? Would that make the design more inclusive? Or is this a one design-fits-all execution?

At the end of the day, we work in a commercial environment, right? If you want to create something that is more inclusive, accessible or sustainable, it has to make sense for the particular brief you’re working on. If it doesn’t make sense, you don’t do it.

I think overall, the industry is moving towards this idea of designing with purpose. It’s the same thing that has happened with sustainability. At the annual Pentawards competition ‘Sustainability’ is a separate category, but we see sustainable design in every category, it’s becoming the norm. You can take very simple steps to make your packaging more inclusive or accessible, but a small step could have a huge impact on someone’s life.”

At the annual Pentawards competition ‘Sustainability’ is a separate category, but we see sustainable design in every category, it’s becoming the norm.
 
 

FACT FILE: Anita Kuit 

  • Anita Kuit studied design at St. Joost School of Art & Design. Before studying professionally, she learned all the industry secrets from her father, who has owned a graphic design agency for over 40 years.
  • As the lead designer in branding and packaging at Walt Disney Company Anita is responsible for delivering innovative and packaging and branding design for the licensed consumer product division, focusing on apparel, home and fast-moving consumer goods categories.
  • She is a jury member at the leading global packaging design competition the Pentawards.
  • Anita provides career coaching to design students and graduate designers.
 

Author

Daniela Walker

Daniela Walker

Text | Daniela Walker is a writer, editor and trend forecaster, whose work helps brands understand the major societal and cultural shifts that are impacting our collective futures. She has worked with companies such as Nike, Bacardi, Dell and the BBC and her writing has appeared in Wired magazine, Frame magazine and Monocle amongst others.
 

Author

Ossi Piispanen

Ossi Piispanen

Photography | Ossi is a documentary photographer and director. He works primarily with communities, alternative sports and grassroots movements, focusing on portraiture and storytelling. Ossi’s clients include FT Weekend, The Guardian, Vice and Zeit Magazin.
 
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