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13 September 2019

The Director’s Take: We talk to Ted Monnin, new Senior Creative Director at our Cincinnati studio…

Ted Monnin’s move to Equator follows six years spent as the creative lead for a fellow Cincinnati-based design agency, where he guided the construction of its team from the ground up and directed all creative development, working on the likes of Wendy’s, Essilor Brands and P&G. 

A foremost expert in brand identity development, Ted considers his most memorable projects to be: the redesign of Special K, which comprised deep consumer research, brand architecture, packaging and new product development; a global redesign for Charmin, a project which included global qualitative consumer research and touched all levels of the brand including identity, sub-brand development, and packaging; and a complete rebuilding of the Glidden proposition, which helped reposition it as one of America’s most enduring brands.

Here, Ted talks to us about what it takes to be a successful creative director in the fast-paced world of packaging design, what’s driving the market today, as well as where the Cincinnati team will be heading from here…

Hi Ted. Welcome to the Equator Design family – we’re delighted to have you with us! As you settle into your new role, can you tell us a bit about the qualities successful creative directors need to demonstrate as they lead their team?

I think the top priority, and perhaps the most overlooked, is the ability to fully listen. You’ve got to understand the pain points and the challenges clearly in order to arrive at comprehensive solutions. 

Next is curiosity to dig deeper and go beyond the face value, to investigate the motives behind the things that are happening, to explore the best possible solutions and discover the one what will work and move the product forward.

Finally, I’d say collaboration – being open to the best solution no matter where it may come from. Being engaged with different perspectives is essential to making everything work to its peak.

Which parts of your job do you enjoy the most?

Problem-solving and developing talent are the reasons I get up in the morning. Cultivating growth with talented individuals on my teams has been a hallmark of my career. I believe these are the differences between working as a top creative and being a true creative leader. 

The US private brand marketplace is in a constant state of flux. Where do you see it going next?

Large US retail brands are playing catch-up, well behind the private brands of Europe. Over the next decade, the US will move to a hybrid of the private label brand model in Europe combined with a few surviving major label brands. As major brands continue to flounder in proving their value to consumers, private brands will fill the gap by bringing market innovations in sustainability, performance and product safety. The clock is ticking on traditional CPG brands and only a few will survive by 2029 I believe.

What’s driving these developments?

Well, if you compare the shopper of years ago with the shopper of today, they are two completely different entities. The economic pressure on consumers has changed what they perceive value in. Do you really want to spend your money on traditional brands claiming confusing performance benefits to justify their worth? Do you want to manage your families’ budget based on brand coupons helping offset the cost of big brands? Or do you want to save money, get similar performance at a better value and use that money to spend more time with your family? It’s about finite funds, limited time and readily available options that simply make more sense for more families. The fact is, if your retail brand is simply mimicking the national brand, you’ll be left behind. It’s time to change now and own the future for US retailers in every category.

Now that you’re part of the Equator team, what’s your estimation of our under-one-roof model?

Simply stated, Equator has made the old way of doing the business of packaging design obsolete. With Equator’s model, you get efficiency, collaboration, innovation, and control. By having all aspects of packaging under one roof, we embody a culture conceived for one purpose – delivering for our clients. No need for complicated hand-offs from agency to design studio, to photography studio, to production house, to separator, to printer etc. We can handle it all so that nothing is lost in translation. Every project is refined and improved along the way for an optimal outcome, delivered at lower costs.

How do you plan to develop the Cincinnati team?

Team building is my first priority. Our team has been growing rapidly since opening the Cincinnati office one year ago. I can see we have exceptional talent in all of our disciplines – great marketers, designers, strategic leaders and skilled production professionals.

As we grow, our challenge is to keep building strength while maintaining our culture and the magic that Equator brings. Cincinnati’s potential is without limits given its deep pool of talent, and with this potential comes the responsibility to add great people while continuing to grow the incredible cohort we already have in place.

Finally, tell us a bit about what influences and inspires you, particularly in the worlds of art, graphic design, pop culture or historic packaging design…

I’m always getting inspired by food photography blogs, the great photographers and stylists I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and the publication Donna Hay. My influences are taken from creative innovators and storytellers ranging from Saul Bass and Herb Lubalin, to artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, and illustrators and authors like Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl.

Learn more about Ted and the Equator Cincinnati studio at equator-design.com. To speak with us about refreshing or developing your brand, email edward.holden@equator-design.com