Parham Santana may have perfected the art of the style guide. When Walmart Stores Inc. approached the New York City-based firm to rethink the packaging for their extensive Holiday Time portfolio, Parham Santana delivered an allencompassing and versatile style guide in just 80 pages.
Maruchi Santana, executive creative director at Parham Santana, explains that an effective style guide should be intuitive and easy-to-implement for the end-user merchants, whose time is valuable. “We can do two or three packages, and with effective guidelines, users can roll out the whole program,” says Santana. Luca Torregiani, Parham Santana’s art director on the Holiday Time project, is proud of how accessible the Holiday Time style guide is. The style guide has minimal text to let the graphics and illustrations explain the key parameters of the packaging campaign. “It’s not intimidating at all,” says Torregiani. “The challenge is to make a system that speaks to the brand but is also flexible.”
Everything in its place
The fact that purchasers of holiday decorations are predominantly fed into Walmart’s interest in making the Holiday Time area a “destination” shopping experience. The female element also fed into Parham Santana’s deep knowledge of how to connect with women shoppers.
Walmart outlined 12 packaging campaign goals in the brief they delivered to Parham Santana. Besides being clean, modern, and not trendy, the campaign was to structure an easy-to-implement format that communicated benefits clearly to shoppers. Torregiani explains that the consistent information box format could be compared to the reassuring organization found with a desk drawer divider. The grid feel helps shoppers locate the information most pertinent to their purchase decision.
“Every space had a specific purpose and information,” explains Torregiani. The style guide indicates exactly what the parameters are for the size of the information box, the hierarchy of information, and the relationship between type sizes. Parham Santana develop a singular color strategy for the brand that, if needed, could easily be changed in the future with one simple color swap while maintaining the system’s overall look. The combination of greens with a highlight of cream help to inspire shoppers in a seasonal destination area inside the store.
“The deep color palette makes the product the hero,” Santana further emphasizes. Though the Holiday Time packages were predominantly green, a silver palette was used for LED tree lights, and a controlled selection of color accents helped differentiate the Village Collectibles product lines. “Color-coding used selectively is sometimes more effective,” says Santana.
A guide for every occasion
Torregiani explains that the guide really gets into the nitty gritty design details to make sure the parameters are clear and the style guide answers all potential questions. For example, he finds that computer screen shots often are the best way to show a designer how to create a specific graphic effect.
“It’s about speed,” Santana says. “What would the person on the other end really want to know?” Like a family sending a college student off to school for the first time, Parham Santana makes sure the style guide is ready for the unpredictable real world. To make sure they are not talking to themselves, the firm tests their guides internally with staff members that are completely unfamiliar with the project and optimize the guide when there is a stumbling block.
The design firm also worked very closely with Walmart on a comprehensive photography strategy, both in the style guide and in practice. Torregiani never underestimates how valuable pictures are in speaking clearly and directly to consumers. Parham Santana thought the Holiday Time brand would benefit greatly from managing all the photo imagery on all the SKUs so that it would appear to the shopper that the shots could have all been taken around one house.
Parham Santana helped streamline the photography process by reducing the number of shots and creating images that had multiple uses. Overlaying different lights on a single tree branch image, for example, was made convincing with lighthanded Photoshopping, saving time and money in the photography department. And in order to make finding the right artificial tree size easier for shoppers, all tree photography uses the same room set, to allow the shopper an instant side-by-side comparison, making it easier to find the size they need. The style guide also has easy-to-follow guidelines for the background snowflake pattern. The pattern is always straight and centered, evoking the feeling of holiday wrapping paper.
The pattern can be scaled down or up to match the package dimension, making it simple for end users. “We do believe in patterns,” says Santana, “because they can be dialed up or dialed down.”
One of the Walmart directives was to create holiday decorating tips for the packages. The tips are simple, budgetfriendly, and time-friendly as a small value-add to connect with consumers and also encourage cross-selling inside the store. They create an attitude of easy, attainable, and inexpensive decorating ideas that promise to deliver a little more at home during the holidays.