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  • designed for success

A Q&A with Marawan El-Asfahani, Partner and CEO of Jacknife

People are looking for consistency, accountability and meaning from brands they engage with.

What do you feel are the most essential design principles that every brand should make part of their strategy?

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A brand needs to be beautifully purposeful and make life better for the people it serves—it is memorable, timeless, conversational, “human.” It remembers its reason for existing, is focused on its original purpose and intent, and its relevance to the people whose life is improved by the products, services, and experiences the brand offers.

As a full-service design firm, your work ranges from product design to creative assets. What principles are incorporated into each project to put the Jacknife stamp on it?

Deeply understanding the functional and emotional needs of our clients’ target audiences allows us to engage with them in a more meaningful and relatable way. We also review the original intent and purpose of each of the brands we develop to identify and define the brand’s core values and narrative platform. As a branding firm, we truly collaborate with our clients, helping them better connect with people by speaking less like marketers and more like humans—it’s just common sense.

How do you integrate the consumer’s voice into the brand identities your team builds?

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We are consumers too. We bring a depth of consumer knowledge and insight to the table from our own experiences, and when appropriate personally embed ourselves in the brand experience. Our first step in any of our projects is to conduct primary research. This is an important component where we listen to stakeholders, study market behavior, scan and document cultural trends, and assess these in the context of our many years of cross-category experience. This helps us connect the dots that may seem random, yet always lead to a pattern that informs the functional and emotional meaning offered by the brands we build.

How have certain product design components, such as packaging, evolved in recent years? Do you feel consumers’ expectations are higher? How have you solved for this in your work?

Consumer expectation is much higher today than ever. Powered by social media, consumers tend to engage with brands on their own terms—picking and choosing the kind of relationship they want to have with a company or organization. During the first interaction with a product or package this relationship can forge a deep bond or quite the opposite very quickly. The answer isn’t always about the “uncrating” experience or tactile finishes. We craft product and packaging design solutions that focus on a brand’s relevance to the end user by anticipating that consumer’s needs and creating experiences that engage them in a meaningful way.

What’s next for Jacknife?

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We’re constantly evolving our own design practice to provide a more integrated perspective to the brands we work with. We have a truly multidisciplinary skill set that give us a full view of our clients’ design ecosystem and challenges. For example, at the same time we are designing a product, we’re thinking about what the brand should say and how it should look to best align with the needs of its target consumer. Our learning goes beyond the scope of client work; we’ve also developed a number of products on our own, testing our innovation and capturing intelligence in the process that is potentially transferred to all the client brands we work with.

What do you believe today’s consumer is most seeking from a brand? How does your team address this through design and strategy?

People are looking for consistency, accountability, and meaning from the brands they engage with. They want to be treated as a peer and partner and not just as consumer. We work closely with our clients listening to people, understand cultural context, and navigate complexity to provide brand meaning that is connected to and rooted in the original purpose and intent of a brand.

Marawan El-Asfahani is Partner and CEO of Jacknife.

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