Dave Brown, co-founder and 2D design director, Brown&co, is a creative entrepreneur with more than 30 years’ experience in brand building and design. He gives us an insight into how new packaging materials and innovation is helping designers work more ethically.  

Your elevator pitch: introduce and sell us your company in no more than 280 characters.

Brown&co is a global branding agency built on a virtual collective model. We curate expert teams from a group of 150 collaborators worldwide, working with human nature to better human lives. We engage focussed, multi-disciplinary expertise to invent, direct and grow brands.

Where are your company’s locations? 

Everywhere and anywhere. As a virtual agency, we aren’t burdened by the overhead of expensive office space. Rather, we utilise WeWork-type spaces on a ‘needs must’ basis. This gives us total flexibility to work in environments where our client partners are, or in venues which relate to the brand or challenge we are engaged with. All this with global reach. 

Are there any specific challenges or advantages relating to your geographical location that you could tell us about? 

Quite often we have multinational teams assigned to a project, and a challenge we sometimes face is when we need to connect online across extremely different time zones – the USA and China for example. However, the advantages of having our collaborators across the globe include the easy facilitation of cross cultural insights, and having a massive pool of available and specialised talent.

Tell us a surprising fact about the market you work in. 

We’re seeing a growing shift towards the commoditisation of design, either through the crowdsourcing of creativity, or the number of creative practitioners in our industry who are prepared to give away IP for free. Free pitching and ‘spec’ work must stop, unless it is for genuine and respected charitable causes.

At Packaging Europe we like to watch trends and areas of innovation as they evolve. Can you tell us something we might not be aware of that is driving technology in your sphere? 

Nano technology applied to new packaging materials, substrates and inks allows an intelligent and interactive experience, enabling a pack to function far beyond the protective outer case of a product.  Furthermore, the innovation in bio plastics ‘grown’ or generated from microbes without the need to use Petro-chemicals or valuable plant resources, is an exciting advancement in science and technology.

What would you say is the biggest common misconception that you encounter in your business? 

Clients think that advertising or digital agencies are equipped to lead the brand-building function, when in fact, they are simply geared up to execute in the short term through a particular channel. Branding agencies, on the other hand, are specifically geared-up to provide the long-term strategies and tools that all channel partners work with in order that a considered and symbiotic brand ecosystem is created.

If the wider packaging industry could be transformed in some way, what kind of change would you like to see? 

At Brown&co we believe in ‘using human nature to better human lives’. Everything we do should have a positive impact, so I would like to see far more rigour put into what materials we use and experiences we create in order to promote wellbeing and preserve the valuable resources of our planet.

There is too much ‘greenwashing’ out there at the moment and, as designers, we must do all we can to work ethically and make a difference.  

…and how do you envisage your company changing the industry in the coming years? 

I think we’ll see more virtual ways of working, and this agency model growing. It’s nothing new, but it allows people to work how and when they want to, and to engage with brands and markets that they love.  Digital and mobile are clearly channel opportunities for growth as technology advances.

Now it’s only our imaginations which hold us back.