Makeover Challenge

The Winner of the 2012 Makeover Challenge is ....

Posted: January 17, 2013 by
Linda Casey

 Hundreds of votes were cast in the ninth annual Makeover Challenge, sponsored by Hazen Paper Company, but the decision between the top two competitors—Bailey Brand Consulting and Pulp+Wire—came down to less than 20 votes.

Package Design readers cast votes online and in person at this year’s Pack Expo International show in Chicago. At our booth, voters could see the foil pouches currently being used by Klara’s Gourmet Cookies as well as the concepts developed by the four competitors— Bailey Brand Consulting (, DiDonato Design (, Jenn David Design ( and Pulp+Wire Design (

Each firm directly consulted with Klara Sotonova and Jefferson D. Diller, the wife-and-husband team behind Klara’s Gourmet Cookies, to learn the couple’s business and branding goals. In these consultations, each firm brought their own information discovery style and conceptual process. The agencies shared the starting point for the package-design project—metalized foil pouches with pressure-sensitive labels on  front and back.

As a subscriber to Package Design magazine, Klara’s Gourmet Cookies was one of hundreds of brands invited to apply for our annual design contest early this year. As a blue-sky exercise, the concepts were developed as if they were destined for market but they are theoretical. The brand has no obligation to use any of the designs after the contest.

But Sotonova and Diller expressed their hope, early in the competition, that the Makeover Challenge concepts would result in something more. In our first formal interview with Diller, he said, “Ultimately, our goal is to roll out new packaging for the Fancy Food Show food show next June.”

 With a design that originated with a single question asked by the winning firm’s founder and creative director Taja Dockendorf—“How do we create something that could be magical but at the same time cost-effective?”—Pulp+Wire won the 2012 Makeover Challenge, sponsored by Hazen Paper Company.

Its design, which weaves magic in much the same fashion a fiction writer builds magic into a fairy tale, resonated with both online and on-site voters. In a short story, magic can be revealed by details that often carry their own tales. Many times these details are hidden in plain sight, such as a field of flowers that’s revealed to be a fairy city.

That same level of detail is woven throughout the packaging. For example a closer look at the printed “lace” patterns on the cartons shows that they aren’t made from ordinary shapes. The circular shapes have the silhouette of the cookie in each specific package. And the flourishes that offset the circles horizontally? They’re baking utensils.

This use of food and baking tools as art reflects Dockendorf’s appreciation of the art of creating great food. In the early stages of her career, Dockendorf owned a restaurant with her husband. She worked evenings as a general manager at the restaurant and pursued her career was an industry and graphic designer during the day. Eventually, the design business grew into her full-time ambition. But that sensibility never left her and enables her to communicate with food business owners on a different level.

It also gave her the courage to follow her “gut” on this project. The ability to not second-guess enabled Dockendorf’s team to focus their efforts early in the competition. A move that Pulp+Wire’s art director and brand strategist Sara Rosario says was essential to the firm’s success. “We didn’t mock up five or six different ideas,” she explains. “If you’re doing eight to 10 different ideas or mock-ups, you’re taking away time from refining the design that you’ll eventually go with.”

Pulp+Wire definitely invested time in its winning design. “It took a little more than 200 hours total from start to finish, including prototyping,” Dockendorf explains.

The agency worked with package printer J.S. McCarthy ( to refine a design that would enable the distinctive apron-shaped cartons for the 8-oz. packages and the geometric shape that opens to a serving plate used for the 2-oz. “grab-and-go” size.

Sotonova and Diller say that the winning concept “is beautiful” and “resonates with the artists we know.” But they also appreciate the great breadth of ideas generated by the Makeover Challenge contest. “The problem is that there are aspects of all of the designs that we like and aspects that we don’t,” says Jefferson, who wants to explore window placement, type choices, label use and fragility closely before committing to any of the concepts.

With the close competition, the voters also had differing preferences. Some even prefer Klara’s current packaging material. “Because I used to work for Sara Lee, I know a bit about bakery packaging,” says Nancy Limback, who is now a senior packaging engineer at healthcare company Sanofi. “When you pack high-fat cookies, you can have some smearing or discoloration on clear film. You also can see broken pieces or toppings such as coconut floating around freely.

“If I was being asked to consult on this project, I would tell them: You’ve got the pouch sealing equipment already. Let’s get some awesome graphics preprinted on these things, and look at the structure options for metalized film.”

Comments like this lend credence to Sotonova and Diller’s cautious approach. But caution won’t prevent Klara’s from updating its packaging. Diller explains: “We’re definitely making a change because, like your magazine tagline says, ‘The package is the brand.’” 

Package Design thanks Hazen Paper Company, the sponsor of the 2012 Makeover Challenge. Hazen Paper is a paper converter specializing in custom holographic originations; film, foil and paper laminations; specialty and gravure coatings; and rotary embossing. Founded in 1925, Hazen Paper is based in Holyoke, MA with satellite facilities in Osgood, IN, and Housatonic, MA.

 Truly Homemade
Many food businesses use the term “homemade” to simply mean that their goods are made from scratch at the business’ location. When Sotonova and Diller say their cookies are homemade, they truly mean “home” made.

The couple’s two-story home is one-part cookie factory and one-part domicile. The pair runs a fully functional commercial kitchen on the building’s main floor, and they live upstairs with their young daughter, Mika.

The toddler gets an early glimpse into the business world, with mom and dad operating a wholesale cookie business downstairs. The sweetest benefit? There are always plenty of Mika’s favorite cookies—the Linzers—at the house. 

Want to be a part of our next Makeover Challenge?
Visit to make sure your subscription is current and the information is accurate. In a few months, Package Design will be sending an invite to a select group of brandowner and design-agency subscribers to apply for the next contest.