Joe Licari, director of package development, Clinique
Joe recently spoke with Beauty Packaging about the power of Clinique’s brand identity, the most rewarding project he’s ever worked on and how incorporating a “Mercedes effect” into your package separates your work from the rest.
Beauty Packaging: How did you become involved in cosmetics packaging?
Joe Licari: A friend of mine introduced me to a recruiter and I mentioned to him that if he heard of anything in New York City to give me a call. A few weeks later, the recruiter phoned and told me about a job in package development in the L’Oréal New York City office. I can admit this now, but when the recruiter first started talking about a job in cosmetics I was thinking to myself: “What? Lipsticks, nail polish?” At the time, I couldn’t see myself in the beauty industry. However, later that night I stopped by a grocery store and bought some lipsticks, mascara, some eye shadows and anything else I thought looked interesting. I spent some time studying these components, taking them apart, making notes and was pleasantly surprised to learn how complicated the packages were. I was kind of embarrassed to discover how much I didn’t know about this kind of packaging, and fascinated with the variety of package forms these cosmetics brands touched. I was sold on cosmetics after that little research session. So there I was at my interview sitting across from my future boss and she began the conversation, “So, what experience do you have in cosmetics and why do you think you’d be a good fit here?” So I opened up my briefcase and dumped all the products I had purchased on the table, took out my notes and started talking. The rest is history.
BP: Does Clinique have a signature or key element that defines all of its packaging designs?
JL: The Clinique brand was developed over 40 years ago as a marriage between The Estée Lauder Companies, Vogue editor Carol Phillips and esteemed dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich. It premiered as the first allergy-tested, dermatologist-created brand, and the message remains the same today. We try to design around the brand’s identity of allergy-tested, 100% fragrance free, so our packages have a simple and clean design element that is youthful and elegant. Originally, most of Clinique’s skin care packaging was in glass bottles; however, a number of years ago, the brand converted everything to plastics. We prefer to use PET for our bottles because it allows us to maintain a glass-like heritage with thick heavy heels and a high-quality feel, and is also safer as our products are mainly used in bathrooms with tile floors. We pay a lot of attention to how the packages line up as families and on display units to make it easy for consumers to shop according to colors of the packaging. Clinique also has an iconic logo that we proudly print or hot stamp on all of our packages.
BP: How does the packaging design process work at Clinique? When are you typically brought in on a project?
JL: It depends on the project, but more often than not, Package Development gets brought in when we have determined the formula’s texture, viscosity, and how the consumer will use the product. We partner closely with Creative Package Design, Product Development and Manufacturing at every step. We design from every chair and put every department’s wants and needs on the table first, and then incorporate these issues into an original package design.
BP: What is the most rewarding packaging project you’ve worked on during your career?
JL: Hands-down the most rewarding and challenging project I’ve had the pleasure to work on in my career is the Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle & UV Damage Corrector package. The bottle is a special technology starting with an injection blow molded bottle, then decorated with inks and hot stamp foils and, lastly, the bottle has a second resin applied directly over the decorated bottle. The technology has been around for a number of years and the cosmetic industry was using it for compact covers. However, we successfully engineered and produced an overmolded part in a bottle form with the silk screens and hot stamps on the inner bottle. We spent a great deal of time and effort figuring out how to keep the inner bottle wall straight and the aesthetics like the hot stamp smooth. In addition, we designed and engineered a completely custom dropper, which consisted of an original bulb shape, inner cap, plastic pipette, wiper and a metal overshell. Our supply partners were incredible, and I tip my hat to them for all their hard work and for meeting our demands for perfection. The package won a number of awards, most notably honorable mention for the 2011 package of the year from the Perfumes Cosmetics Design organization in Europe.
The package for Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle & UV Damage Corrector relies on a special technology that starts with an injection blow-molded bottle.
JL: Ah, the million dollar question. Yes, of course we have a few tricks up our sleeves—none of which I can share right now. However I can say we are working on some very interesting and unique designs for the future. We are always researching new materials and supplies that are safe and will help provide a high touch experience to our consumers.
BP: Can you offer any advice for packaging designers reading this article?
JL: Yes, currently, I’m really interested in the little extra design features you can build into a package that a consumer discovers when they use the package for the first time. My Clinique package design group likes to call these the “Mercedes effect.” A good example is the click lock you feel and hear when you twist on and off a cap or a compact that slowly springs open with a single push of a button. I never waste an opportunity to do research on new innovation. Usually these little added features end up being the most difficult to engineer or get prioritized last in a design because of timing or budget. More often than not, we stop the work or cut them out of the designs altogether. You might not have the answers to how to add these fun things to a package today, but keep working on them to perfect them and make them affordable. Working a “Mercedes effect” into your package is what makes a difference and separates your work from the rest. Remember, if it’s not complicated, it’s not fun.