From art director/photographer at classic magazines such as Look and Life to packaging designer/creative director at L’Oréal, Chesebrough-Pond’s, Arden and Revlon, 50-year industry veteran Joseph Messina calls himself a “one-stop shop” as he designs packaging for everything from fragrance to treatment lines, displays to brochures. Here he tells Beauty Packaging how he finds inspiration for his projects, and why materials with imperfections sometimes work best.
BP: Do you design mostly fragrance bottles? What other responsibilities to you handle on a project?
JM: Yes, I design mostly fragrance bottles, but I also have designed cosmetic, treatment, hair, as well as food and pharmaceutical packaging. I am a one-stop shop as I do advertising, media planning, displays, sell sheets, brochures, product-with-purchase and gift-with-purchase items, counter looks and installations. I do everything except what goes in the container.
BP: Please name a few of the bottles (or other PC containers) you have designed.
JM: Designs include Amazing for Bill Blass, Chloé for Karl Lagerfeld, Night for Judith Lieber, Zirh men’s treatment line, Tova treatment line, to name a few.
Messina’s packaging for Judith Lieber’s fragrance Night seamlessly interprets her iconic minaudières. (Bottle: Bormioli Luigi; Stones: Swarovski; Cap: Augros CP)
JM: I am often brought into a project at the very beginning.
BP: Where do you find your greatest inspiration? How do you keep things fresh?
JM: I try to be inspired by the project. In fragrance, if it is a designer, then I use them for the inspiration and if it is a treatment line, then I try to find something unique about the line that I can pull from. I try to keep things fresh by keeping up with trends and what is happening in the world of fashion.
BP: How do you typically approach a new packaging design?
JM: I first meet with the people who are involved in the projects and get as much background as possible such as photos, write-ups, what they are trying to create as an image. I then present six to eight ideas that best answer the assignment at hand.
BP: What do you have to keep in mind as far as suppliers—and how your vision will be transformed?
JM: I need to know what can and can’t be produced by the suppliers. I designed Elixir of Love for Caswell-Massey and wanted the bottle to look like it had been found in an old warehouse since Caswell-Massey is one of the oldest establishments in the United States. So I went to a very poor factory in Mexico to produce the glass, which was not quality glass and had a lot of imperfections, which made it look old.
BP: Do you have a signature or key element/s that defines your packaging designs? Any particular strength or aesthetic?
JM: I do not have any signature elements in what I do except good taste and an answer to the assignment.
BP: What is the most rewarding or challenging packaging project you’ve worked on? Why?
JM: Chloé, since it was the first designer package I had ever done. I also was very pleased with a collection of porcelain I did for Elizabeth Arden for two fragrance brands that went from 6,400 pieces in the first year to over 300,000 pieces in the third year, showing the power of packaging, since people were only buying the package and really didn’t care what was inside. I can get someone to buy something once; to get them to buy it again, they have to like the product.
BP: Please tell me about the packaging for Judith Leiber fragrances.
JM: Since Judith Leiber is known for jeweled evening bags, I wanted the package to be a mini version of one of her bags, and since it was called Night, black was the color of choice for the bottle with white crystal stones. This concept led them to add other fragrances to the Leiber line, all with stone names and never having to do new tooling for the bottle. [Messina has designed five in the line in the past year, with Topaz slated for launch next.]
BP: How has cosmetics/personal care/fragrance packaging design changed over the last 10-20 years?
JM: Fragrance packaging is less formal and less classic and the sky is the limit, while cosmetic and personal care seem to have stayed the same.
BP: What are today’s challenges regarding packaging design?
JM: The challenge of today seems to be to come up with something that is different and unique that will stand out at the counter and yet be affordable.
BP: What are you working on now?
JM: I am working on a very unique concept for a line of women’s fragrances. However, it is too early to tell you what it is even though I have completed all the design work.