When you go to pick up butter off the shelf of your grocery store the design of it or any other product probably doesn’t cross your mind. Designer Cara Budner, is here to let you know just how strategic the look of any package can be. With over 10 years in the game of package design she’s here to shine light on true artistry and inspiration when creating, but keep it real about what a strong network can do for you.
The Brooklynite also lets Trendcue into her sneaker addiction, ideal clients, and career aspirations as a designer during our interview.
How did you get into fashion and design?
My mom was an artist, and she always did art with my siblings and I. We painted a lot, and always made birthday cards. I really liked designing the birthday cards for people, and to this day we still do it.
In high school I went to an art and design school, we had majors, and I studied graphic design. I knew this is what I wanted to do. When I went to college I studied display and exhibit design for my Associates degree, and I loved it. We got to do actual windows in the schools and came up with concepts.
How did you get into packaging design?
I had a mentor when I worked at a printing company, and I saw the projects she would do. It inspired me to study packaging design as the major for my Bachelor degree. I loved it!
What is packaging design?
I design the actual graphics for packages. I designed the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®. Recently, I worked with an organic all natural hair company. She already had a concept of root organics so I wanted to keep that in mind and incorporate the roots. I’m really happy with how it came out.
I finished it in two weeks, which is quick because usually you go back and forth with clients and they make changes. You have to make sure all the copy is correct and clean. They typically change the fonts to see how much space they have on the container. There are lot of legal requirements for the size of the type. These are all the things you have to take into consideration.
What are some of your other favorite label designs?
For Glade I did patterning for their limited edition holiday collection coming out this winter. It was really cool.
When I was at my old job as the design director and had a whole team we did the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® redesign. It was great! They’re a big brand so there were a lot of requirements because it’s a corporation with Unilever. There were a lot of things we weren’t allowed to do, but we tried a bunch of different things. Everybody did different parts, then the client took different parts they liked and we put it all together and made it work. It was challenging.
You’re a freelancer now, how is that for you?
It’s really great to have a good network. I have a really great network. In the packaging industry in New York it’s a very small industry. Once you work somewhere for a good period of time and you do well then someone tells their friend about you and so on. Then it’s easy to get booked full time.
I also take on my own clients like the organic natural hair company. I work with big firms where I don’t directly talk to client too.
How do people who are interested get into package design?
It’s about networking. Also, when you do work for somebody you have to make a good impression on them. Never burn any bridges.
Knowing the trends of design and staying on top of them. There are a number of websites that we reference to see what’s going on for package design specifically, and you can see what’s happening all over the world in packaging through these websites. Innovations with the structures, trends in type, color, or specialty dye cuts- cutting an actual part out of the label so you can see through the product. These are things you always want to stay on top of because you never want to present something that was three years ago. It’s similar to fashion.
Also be strategic. Every design needs a meaning for brand recognition.
You’ve been doing this for over 10 years how do you continuously love what you do?
I love doing it and showing my creativity in that way. Recently, I’ve embraced clients that are more about wellness or healthier, natural ingredients because that’s what I believe in. When you do something you believe in you are more successful at it as opposed to designing things that I don’t think are the best for the environment.
Sometimes a project comes and you’ve got to do it, but it’s an extra bonus when I design something that is for the cause that I stand for.
When did you realize you wanted to get into the Health and Wellness niche?
Probably in the last two years I’ve sought out clients that had products about wellness. Just things I love. I would love to move into more music packaging because I love music. Or fashion packaging. Living in Brooklyn I have a lot of musician friends and doing their album covers are always fun.
When I have a project that’s completely open with no rules I get to really tap into my artistry.
How do you push through working with clients that don’t align with you believe in?
It can be challenging, but it’s all about the inspiration you find even though they’re not a client you really think highly of. I always find a fun way to get inspired by it. Eventually, when you start designing with your computer and sketches it’s fun no matter what because you’re creating something and expressing yourself. Even though there are constraints there’s a freedom in being able to create.
What do you say to people who think they can’t make money as an artist? You obviously dispel that myth.
There’s so much social media now that people can use that to their benefit. I’ve seen this happen before my eyes with Brooklyn artist on Instagram. It really about self-promotion and hustle. If you talk about your stuff and communicate with people you never know what opportunities can open up for you.
How do you channel your creativity during your personal time?
Besides painting I also draw type. It’s something I’m really working on because it can be challenging. It’s one thing to do it on the computer which is easier I find, but drawing it by hand is more challenging. I’m working on that. I create fonts for some of my clients also when I’m able to.
It’s a process to create your own font, you have to create every letter. Usually you think about writing one word, but you have to think about how one letter is going to connect to the next. It’s something I’m slowly working on.
How do you stay innovative?
By looking at other artist and what’s out there. I get inspired easily by art and music. Seeing what others are doing and then expressing myself in a unique way to make it mine. For example, creating a brand or logo it can look the same, but its little hints and twist to it and it just happens. I can be working on a logo for so long and have different variations then one I do a tiny little tilt of something or add a tiny graphic
and there it is. It’s a feeling that you have to make it own-able, iconic, and recognized.
You’re also a sneakerhead, tell me more about that.
I do have this terrible addiction for buying sneakers. It’s difficult for me because my feet are small- size 5. The type of sneakers I love stores usually only have one shoe in my size, but I love them. When I was young I always loved them. I remember begging my parents for money to buy certain sneaker- sometimes I’d get it and sometimes I wouldn’t. It’s not something I wear once and they reflects my style. The way they’re sown together and different shapes and structures its similar to packaging. People tend to think that they’re not that feminine, but there are ways to make them your own and feminine.
I’m into the laces too. The weave or shape of the laces compliment the design of the shoe.
How do you pick out your sneakers?
I’m pretty picky. It depends on the color and style.
Any particular brand?
I do like Nike. I’m a brand purist with them, but also because in some brands it’s difficult to find my size. I do like specialty designs to get different designs. I would love to design a sneaker one day, anything is possible right?!
What do you mean by specialty designs?
I go to stores like Kith and Flight Club where they have more unique designs and limited edition. I hate seeing other people with the same sneakers even though that does happen. I like to have my unique style.
What’s your personal style?
I’m like a Brooklyn girl with sneakers and jeans, but lately I’ve been dressing up more. It’s like a little bit of Brooklyn style, but I like mixing patterns a lot and bright colors. I have a pop of color somewhere
usually my sneakers or my nails.
How does travelling the world inspire your art?
I love jungle and nature. Anywhere I can see a jungle or animals I’m like a kid. I went to Costa Rica a year and a half ago and traveled all over seeing different animals. I’m also inspired by the architecture when I travel. I went to the oldest bathhouse in Budapest and you can see the way tile was laid. Also how their bridges are designed. India is one of my all-time favorite places. The colors of the fabrics and patterns there is inspiring.