Grow: Designing our future
TEXT: AMANDA OTTOSSON | PHOTOS: GROW
When your entire business is about creativity and innovation, it can sometimes be hard to create a straight-forward definition of what it is exactly that you do. Grow continuously redefines the scope of what it means to be a forward-thinking creative business partner, brand and experience transformer as well as an innovative industrial design agency.
Building the business on an ever-expanding offer, Grow started life in 2004 as a brand development agency. It’s since grown into an international business with offices not only in its native Stockholm, but also in Helsinki, London and Vancouver. Teaming up with a sustainable pulp and paper innovator early on the journey ignited their passion for sustainability, with the opportunity to create packaging that doesn’t cost the earth.
“BillerudKorsnäs approached us to work together specifically on their future-focused projects,” says Isabelle Dahlborg Lidström, head of design and creative director. “They had grand ideas and a need to get closer to their brand owners. They wanted to approach a crisps company to see if there was an opportunity to create paper-based packaging, but they needed someone to make that a reality. They gave us free reign to conceptualise what we thought it could look and feel like.”
This holistic way of understanding their own role as creative catalysts has informed the journey from the start, and has meant that the business has kept transforming. Today, Grow offers support throughout the whole journey, from brand and experience transformation to designing products and services. Their offering spans the whole spectrum from brand strategy and concept creation, product and packaging development, marketing and communication, through to UX and digitalisation.
“We’re privileged in that we get to be a part of the whole process. We often come in well before the product is conceived to guide the client throughout the whole process. We’ll advise on what sort of machinery is needed to create the product and the packaging, and
we stay with the business on that whole journey to bring it to the end consumer, as well as what happens after that. There aren’t a lot of agencies that get that opportunity,” says Axel Brechensbauer, director of concept design.
Four years ago, the business teamed up with Digitalist to expand their digital offering. Rather than being a design firm that can help brands create beautiful branding, Grow wants to work at a higher level and help their clients in achieving sustainable growth.
“We do a lot of very high-level future innovation,” says Dahlborg Lidström. “We also work a lot with sustainable concepts; it’s important for us to see how far we can push our visions and imagination. For example, we innovate with new, sustainable materials made of cellulose and then enter international awards for the world to see them – purely as an imaginative exercise and to push the packaging industry. Our angle is ‘we know this might not be possible right now, but what sort of ideas is it giving you?’ And, actually, we found some new clients that way. And they started working on developing those innovations and bringing them to life.”
Brechensbauer adds: “We’re working on things that create a roadmap for the next 30 years. So while many of those innovations may not be achievable right now, having that vision reassures us and our clients that we know what we’re talking about and that we can help them build the future.”
With a future focus, it’s no surprise that sustainability is one of the key pillars the business is built on. Rather than only analysing consumer behaviour, Grow is also looking to help brands get ahead of legislation and guide the public conversation. “It’s a bit of a red herring to say that individuals need to act more sustainably,” Brechensbauer says. “Brands and governments have a real opportunity to guide behaviour and create a whole new way of thinking about it.”
With opportunities to shift consumer behaviour in the physical world, and to design in the digital world, there are new opportunities for innovation every day. “It used to be quite difficult to get clients to understand our thinking,” Dahlborg Lidström says. “They weren’t quite ready to be thinking as far ahead as we wanted to be. But there’s been a real shift in the past couple of years. Legislation and the urge of sustainable solutions are catching up. Brands want to get in ahead of that, where they’re seen as innovative and ahead of the curve. That’s where we fit in. It’s a really exciting and interesting time to be a designer and innovator!”
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