For this year's D&AD competition (2023), I took on the challenge of creating a new merchandise identity for Penguin, specifically targeting Gen Z readers.
The brief required developing at least three different merchandise products while maintaining the existing Penguin brand identity.
Although the options for merchandise were open, designers were instructed to steer clear of food and clothing and instead focus on items like bookmarks, notebooks, stickers, bags, and cushions.
Before diving into the design process, I carefully examined the brief and extracted key points: creating three merchandise pieces, retaining the existing logo, and appealing to Gen Z readers. My design approach typically involves analysing the brief, conducting research, sketching ideas, and then moving on to digital development and design.
One point that I pulled out in particular was the focus on Gen Z, in order to better understand the preferences of the target audience, I conducted a survey to gather data on generational design preferences. I shared the survey on various social media platforms with family, friends, and co-workers, ensuring a diverse range of responses.
I wanted to ask a variety of questions so this was the list that I came up with:
Most importantly, I needed each person who took part in the survey to inform me of their generation, so this was the first and most important question. As for the rest of the questions, all were about various design preferences that will begin to show the difference between generations and hopefully create trends and links I can use for my project.
· Typography - Serif or Sans Serif, Bold or Script, Uppercase or Lowercase.
· Colour - Pastel or Fluorescent, B+W or Colour, top 3 colour options.
· Pattern, block colour, gradient
· Design Style - Minimal or maximalist
· Type of bag - Tote, Backpack, Satchel, Draw String
. After analysing the survey results, I found that Gen Z preferred uppercase lettering over lowercase, which influenced my design choices to be bold and striking.
At the time of working on the project in early 2023, minimalism was a prominent trend in design, largely influenced by platforms like #BookTok on social media. To gain insights into what would appeal to Gen Z readers, I used these platforms extensively, discovering that a reading journal was highly sought after. A reading journal is a specially designed notebook with pages dedicated to "monthly favourites," "reading logs," and a visual bookshelf to track one's reading progress. This product was particularly engaging for a generation that had experienced DIY creativity during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Armed with my research and key design points—bold, uppercase, pastel colours, minimalism, and shades of blue, green, and plum—I proceeded to sketch various spreads for the notebook.
The notebook sketches began on paper, I drew out a bunch of double spreads and got out a few of my initial ideas before moving onto my iPad and creating designs that had a little more order.
Using Procreate allowed me to quickly make changes without having to redraw a whole spread due to it being digital, this allowed me to experiment with both hand-drawn and digital elements such as typography.
My next step was to move onto Photoshop and begin creating the spreads ready to mock-up into actual notebooks.
Utilising Photoshop, I brought the designs to life, experimenting with different colour combinations. To finalize the colour choices, I posted polls on social media, considering the popular shade types within Gen Z preferences.
For the notebook covers and tote bags, I opted for a slightly pastel version of Penguin's signature orange. Additionally, I explored different shades like purple, green, and blue, sometimes referencing the original Penguin book covers to stay true to the company's heritage.
The final outcomes for the D&AD brief included the notebook, stickers for the notebook, and various tote bag designs. By incorporating bold design elements and appealing to Gen Z's aesthetic preferences, the merchandise identity seamlessly connected with both Penguin's heritage and the desires of its modern audience.