My TTK Confectionery Placement
I have just recently finished a five week placement at The Treat Kitchen (TTK) Confectionery within their Nottingham warehouse and office. I thought this would be another amazing opportunity to broaden my skills and experiences within a new environment. The warehouse team downstairs is much larger than the office team where I was situated and therefore I soon learnt everyone’s name and knew what everyone’s individual role was within the growing business.
The two small offices are positioned adjacent to each of, connected by a very small corridor and so everyone was always going between the two to pass phones to other members, talk to someone in the other room or moving to a space for a mini meeting. There was always something going on, whether it was interviews, conversations, meetings, briefings etc, and as a result the atmosphere was always buzzing and never stagnant. This meant that although I was largely an observer, the days went extremely quickly.
TTK operate in the world of packaged confectionery and gifting, striving to constantly create new and exciting products the confectionery industry has never seen before. Before I started my placement within the team, I did not realise they were suppliers for huge established brands such as Harrods, Dunelm, TX Max and Primark just to name a few. Each brand requests different products, packaging and branding to fit their requirements. Some are happy with the TTK branding, however others ask the design team to put their own branding onto the sweets’ packaging, whereas others do the branding in their own teams after receiving the sweet treats. It is therefore a lot more complex than I initially imagined; I now realise that liaising with suppliers and stockists is not always as straight forward as it might seem from an outside point of view.
From day one, I was certainly thrown into the business and left to my own devices for a large proportion of the day. I was given a couple of briefs at the start of each week and I would just work through the design stages until I had something to show and receive feedback on. If I could put a name for the role I did for the five weeks, I would call it a junior artwork or graphic design assistant since my main responsibilities were seeking visual inspiration, pattern design, packing and sticker design, as well as typography, name creation and logo design.
During this work experience, my drive, self organisation and ability to throw myself into any task I am faced with really benefited me. I am quite an independent person who is able to use my initiative which was very useful when it came to tasks. There were many times when it was not the appropriate timing to ask opinions about what I had done or ask for a new task for example so I would work on what I thought would be the next step for example.
My main challenge during my time within the business was ensuring my designs were commercially viable; getting a balance between expressing myself personally and what I would be drawn to and thinking what would work commercially for the brand, consumer and market. I have also never previously had to work within cost limits and therefore I underestimated the cost of embossing and foiling for example but now understand how these costings need to be taken into consideration.
The main things that I have learnt are the importance of composition, framing and layout which are the framework for every design task. Similarly, this experience has allowed me to experiment further with Adobe Illustrator and familiarise myself with the basic features. I still have more to learn with this software to undertake more complex design tasks, however it is one of those things where the more I use it, the more I learn and start to understand how everything fits together. I was able to use Illustrator to illustrate the jars, as well as create the flat-plan designs. I also learnt about key shadowing and the importance of highlights when it comes to product mock-ups. My original ones were quite flat and therefore did not look very realistic. However the added highlights and depth added another dimension and this together with realistic shadowing under the products created a more realistic final outcome.
I started my first day putting together a TTK analysis and an S/S 2020 Trend forecast, including prints, colour palettes, trend drivers and trend in action including food, drink, flavours, gifting, fashion, etc; I also created a mood-board to illustrate the trend stories I identified.
For the rest of the time, I researched competition and Nottingham creative agencies, visual inspiration, especially in design agencies and worked on packing designs for truffle boxes, jars, gift boxes and seasonal products such as boxes and character designs for Harrods’ Easter collection and jar stickers for Easter, Mother’s Day and Valentines next year. I had never worked on packing nets before so this was another new skill that I picked up; it took me a while to get my head around the flat-plan design process, working out how the pattern would be presented when 3D and folded. I also had experience of formatting nutritional tables and ingredients lists on a swing tag cutter design, as well as being showed how to use girds and margins professionally on InDesign. This led me to having a go at formatting a catalogue page in their S/S 2020 brochure.
Furthermore, I was exposed to real client briefs which led to idea development both individually and also with the head of art work and product development. Talking ideas out loud definitely helps with my brainstorming process. By exploring typefaces for logo designs and packaging labels on website such as DaFont, I was able to find ones that mirrored the mood I was aiming for. I was similarly part of the name brainstorming process for new product lines, such as ‘The Jar’ and ‘TTK Tea’.
During my work experience, I also assisted on a couple of product photoshoots, both on location and in the studio, as well as helping to set up flat-lay shoots. This allowed me to experiment with composition, lighting and framing, while paying attention to the emotion, setting and atmosphere to mirror what was being photographed. This then led me to practice my photo editing skills on Photoshop, brightening, adjusting the colour and highlighting the most prominent sections.
I was given the Pantone colour book to work with to match the product colour to the nearest Pantone colour. This allowed me to understanding more about the book, how it works and how to use these on Illustrator to get the exact colours in preparation to meet the printer’s requirements. This is similar to that of the Api Hot Metallic Foils colour book where I was able to select metallic foils to complement the colours chosen for the sticker, while making them even bolder.
My proudest achievement was possibly when my truffle box designs got chosen to go into their catalogue for S/S 2020. This was the project that I spent a large proportion of my time on. I hand-drew the painterly outer designs, combining the bold colours from the Garden Party trend I identified with the Watered Dye finish and colours transitioning into the next. For the inner box design, I opted for a more linear, minimal approach and style taking key colours from the outside and using Subtle Craft’s use of simple shapes on block colour backgrounds to create the pattern. The bolder design on the outside creates a great impact. The product mock-ups I created in Photoshop allowed me to see where adjustments to the pattern were needed to ensure each was unique and impactful. This involved pulling out the key colour for each box and making this the central feature of each pattern design; my final ones were the images used in the catalogue.
These boxes formed the concept of a collection for Spring and Summer 2020 exploring holiday destinations and the truffles inside would mirror this. Locations were chosen to match that of the outer design and colour palette of each box. Mountain, city, sea, sand and rainforest created the five locations.
I really appreciated being given complete design freedom on some of the in-house projects and my time at TTK showed me how software can be used simultaneously to complement each other and achieve the best results. I also enjoyed getting professional feedback on my work to improve my designs and likewise learning from their expertise.
My mono-chrome pattern designs were originally created for a TTK range chocolate bar, however, they were chosen instead for the outcome for Wilko’s Every Day range in the form of three chocolate bars and three pouches of sweets. If these get fully signed off, it would be amazing to see my designs in-store.
I was not expecting to be given the responsibility to work on a live client brief; however, towards the end of my placement at TTK, I spend my time working towards a Wilko brief for their Easter 2020 range. I was presented a very basic brief which only included the products and what they want to see in terms of packaging, but the design was entirely left to me and my interpretation. I began looking for visual inspiration and categorising this into three mood-boards showing slightly different themes. The boldest and most vibrant colour patterns were chosen and from this I began to design the patterns using the boards as stimuli. I developed six patterns and applied these to a couple of Easter box designs and a swing tag cutter. I received feedback from these and made adjustments according. This was all part of a short four day project, working towards a Friday deadline when all inspiration and art work suggestions were send off for Wilko to approve. Again, I have very much valued the opportunity of taking a brief through the visual inspiration stage, idea generation and on to an outcome design for a project.
TTK is a dynamic creative expanding business, whose actions mirror that of the fast-passed sector - they are always on the lookout for up-coming trends, especially in flavour, packaging, pattern and fashion in general and how they can put a TTK spin on things, as well as solving problems they have observed in other brand’s outcomes, packing and design. All of their end results are forward-thinking and innovative, tailored to the chosen target consumer and brand’s values; it is always clear which products belong in the same collection and/or sub-brand.
Now having worked in a successful growing business that operates with a small team of specialist individuals, I feel that I would love to start off my career in a small, up-coming brand where I can grow with the brand, get involved with a large proportion of the processes, understand the entire business model and be immersed in the dynamic environment. TTK was an amazing opportunity to get involved in the whole visual communication side of the business and experience working in an exciting workplace. I certainly now have contacts that hopefully will serve me well in the future.