What made you choose packaging as a career, and what excites you about the sector?

Anna Jayne Withey - I fell into packaging by accident, but I’m so happy I did. I used to be a freelance events photographer, but then Covid happened and changed my career direction completely.

With no events to photograph, I found an intensive three-month graphic design course that was focused on getting students ready for industry. From there I got my internship at Tangle Teezer, which was a natural evolution for me. It’s a wonderful, niche company which deals with a multitude of design needs from global branding to bespoke, premium customer requests. In particular, I love developing the bespoke pack designs for Sephora, both year round and themed for Christmas.

More broadly, I’m excited by combining psychology with design strategy. I take huge satisfaction in evolving colour, typography and structure to influence consumer behaviour. Finding that link between understanding the broader societal needs of the consumer and translating this into packaging design.

What are the packaging challenges that you want to overcome?

Anna Jayne Withey - Sustainability is a must. Finding a way to make everything sustainable while also making it look exciting and premium is the challenge but a hugely important one. People will always want to buy product, which means we will always need to package it – packaging isn’t something that’s ever going to go away but it’s something that needs to adapt to trends and societal changes.

I worked on a bespoke Christmas project recently, and the brief outlined that it needed to feel special and stand-out. Specifically they wanted foiling, sparkles, and so on. From a manufacturing perspective it was complex as, glitter in particular, is not recyclable and can end up as micro-plastics in the ocean if disposed of incorrectly. I needed to hit the brief whilst also adhering to our sustainability targets so I found a solution by working with a supplier who uses a specific type of foil that is fully recyclable.

In beauty, everything needs to be beautiful. You buy the whole thing – the product and the packaging. It needs to provide this experience while being considerate of our impact on the planet.

What is unique in your approach to packaging? How does it play an essential role in your company/the industry?

Anna Jayne Withey - I have a psychology degree, which sets me apart from most designers who have design-based degrees. My studies were all about consumer behaviour, so my approach is to give consumers what they want, and also what they don’t know they want! It means I do a lot of trend forecasting, looking at both broad cultural events as well as aesthetic societal influences. Global issues like Covid and the economic crisis are hugely linked to consumer behaviour. During Covid, many consumers were more comfortable spending, but now they are more cautious due to the cost of living. So how do we encourage them to buy?

They want something more functional now, getting more value from quality products that last longer. My role as designer is to communicate that through packaging design. Giving the consumer a sense of comfort and re-assurance whatever their concerns. What’s going on in the world always determines how I design packaging – I am very much a strategic designer.

What do you see as the future of packaging?

Anna Jayne Withey - It’s hard to say, because so much about the present is still so uncertain. Sustainability will definitely be enormous, and how we continue to improve our environmental footprint while still providing beautiful designs will be important. Naked, minimalistic or circular packaging is a trend I could see taking off.

I think tech will also have a huge impact on packaging and how we create it and interact with it. That might involve QR codes with links to online portals, immersive VR experiences that the consumer can enjoy, or more AI-focused developments that support the supply chain.

I think ultimately, packaging will become more about the end to end experience it offers consumers, the stories the packaging tells, whether by its history from recycling or its future by use of tech.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Anna Jayne Withey - Being chosen as a Future Leader is one of my career highlights, I can’t lie! Apart from that, we did a Barbie collab, which meant I was able to meld two of my favourite childhood brands. When I saw strangers on the internet start fangirling about my design, commenting on the small details I put into the pack, it got me so excited! There’s nothing more fulfilling that see something that you’ve poured your soul into give other people so much joy.

What piece of advice would you share with young professionals out there looking to make an impact in packaging?

Anna Jayne Withey - Think about what you’re passionate about, and then apply it to packaging, whatever your role is in the design and development process. That means, when work is tough and your mood is low, there are still things that can fuel your soul. For me, it’s colour and sustainability – I want people to see the product on the shelf and get excited but also be proud to purchase what I’ve designed, as it is good for the planet.

What does it mean to you to be selected as a Future Leader?

Anna Jayne Withey - It’s the first accolade of my packaging career. I’m so honoured! How am I up there amongst all these amazing people? All the work I do, and pour my heart and soul into, is being recognised globally, and that’s amazing. No words can express how happy I am!

I’m just thankful to have a voice on this platform, where people can see and hear my ambitions and share my enthusiasm.

You can hear more from Anna Jayne Withey and the other Future Leaders at Paris Packaging Week, held 17 & 18 January 2024 at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris. Click here to register for your free visitor’s ticket today.