Think green as in nature, green as in sales
By KATE BERTRAND,
Chris Hacker’s vision is at once simple and complex; it’s the fusion of great design and sustainability in design. Hacker joined Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies last fall as senior vice president of global design and design strategy to bring that vision to bear on all design aspects of the company’s consumer brands.
“I have a strong passion around making sure designers work from a sustainable, environmental point of view. That colors everything I do,” he says. “I intend to emphasize great design but also incorporate the sustainability component.”
He says his influence will be felt in the brand identity and packaging design of heritage brands such as Johnson’s Baby and Band-Aid adhesive bandages as well as leading skin care brands such as Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Neutrogena.
In his previous position as the head of marketing and design at Aveda, Hacker reinforced his commitment to environmentally friendly, sustainable design.
His work there serves to demonstrate that business success and sustainable design can support each other, a fact that is often overlooked: “Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability are not mutually exclusive,” he says.
In fact, Hacker’s design initiatives at Aveda, which influenced the look and feel of the company’s packaging, visual merchandising, advertising and other brand identity components, nearly tripled sales of Aveda products and lifted the beauty brand from a niche effort to a substantial player in the beauty care category.
Hacker considers his work at Aveda his greatest success to date, from both a business and an environmental perspective. “We went from using 15 percent post-consumer recycled material in our packaging to using an average of around 80 percent. It was a chance to not only get the design and branding correct but also to make the packaging sustainable, which fit the company’s mission.”
Thanks to the efforts of Hacker and his team, Aveda won the 2004 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for corporate achievement, which recognizes companies that use design as a strategic business tool.
At Johnson & Johnson, Hacker’s first order of business has been to create an infrastructure for an internal design organization—a first for the company. Previously, all design and branding work had been outsourced.
He currently is managing the creation of a design studio in New York City, whose focus will be brand identity design for the full range of marketing applications, including packaging. The company also has a design center in California, under the Neutrogena name.
Looking to the larger marketplace, Hacker cites Apple for excellence in package design: “Apple’s packaging is spectacularly beautiful. It’s so simple and direct, connoting the emotional power of the Apple brand.” He also gives a nod to a start-up, Method (a fellow 2006 Brand Innovator, page 22), for its innovative packaging design.
Reflecting on how his career and vision have evolved since his early training as an industrial designer, Hacker recognizes the importance of working as a product designer at J.C. Penney in the early 1970s during a corporate rebranding effort.
During that time, he worked with Cooper Woodring, a designer Hacker describes as uniquely skilled in changing corporate design culture.
Hacker also regards Leonard Lauder, The Estée Lauder Companies’ chairman of the board, as a strong influence. It was at Estée Lauder that Hacker first delved into package design.
“During my early years in design at Estée, Leonard Lauder was very present with the process,” he says. “He brought a holistic understanding of what the brand was, and what the brand wasn’t, to the table.”
Even earlier, Hacker says, his father and grandfather had a strong influence on his design education. Both were successful graphic designers. In fact, his grandfather was a pioneer in commercial design, creating progressive packaging, labels, logos and more in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Today, it is Hacker who is taking excellent design to the next level. “My desire is to see designers take on their powerful role as the arbiters of what needs to be made by thinking about design from an environmental standpoint,” he says. BP
Name: Chris Hacker
Title: Senior vice president of global design and design strategy, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies
Years in current job:Since October 2005
Where or when do your best ideas come to you?
“In my view, inspiration comes from everywhere. It’s unrelated to ‘where’ or ‘when.’ It’s more about ‘what.’ And being able to see that it is important.”
What do you consider the ultimate branded package?
“The iPod packaging.”