Smith Design Something old brings something new

Move to renovated 19th-century building in Morristown brings different capabilities

Andrew Sheldon//February 15, 2016

Smith Design Something old brings something new

Move to renovated 19th-century building in Morristown brings different capabilities

Andrew Sheldon//February 15, 2016

After 37 years of business, it’s hard to imagine getting a fresh start. Especially when you move into a 19th-century building.

But that’s exactly what the heads of Smith Design Associates feel they got when the company moved from Glen Ridge into a renovated old textile mill in Morristown at the end of December.

The company — which aids companies through the branding process, from early consumer research to the design of its packaging and its production management — made the move to Morristown to enable it to bring all of its services under one roof.

Jenna Smith, managing partner at the firm, said the new location already is helping the strategic design agency.

“We do everything from strategy, consumer research, branding to anything that is supportive of the market experience, whether that be the package design, advertising, point of sale, trade show, e-commerce or website,” she said. “One of the benefits of moving to our new space in Morristown is we’re able to offer more turn-key services to our clients

“There were a lot of things we weren’t able to do internally, but now we have, behind the glass, formal research, informal consumer mixer space (and) a new professional commercial kitchen.”

Smith Design represents several well-known products, including Bic, Skippy, Ortega, Snuggle and Axe. The company does consumer research, branding, copywriting and can design the packaging for a product or an entire line.

The new location, next to the new Whole Foods, includes areas for photo and video shoots, including a new kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances.

Exploring the new space
With the new office, Smith Design Associates has brought all of its services under one roof. Some of the features in the new office include:

  • Commercial kitchen:
    Modern design, filled with top-of-the-line appliances for use by the firm’s stylists and photographers. It also includes a large island that seats eight comfortably for product tastings and consumer research contrasts.
  • Photography studio:
    A large area with 14-foot ceilings, access to natural light and double doors that lead to an outdoor loading dock.
  • Market research facilities:
    “Behind-the-glass” forums for traditional focus groups with video recording are available. But for companies attempting to tap the millennial market, there are also rooms for more informal, “millennial-friendly” settings.

One thing that makes the firm stand out within the state is its consumer packaged products services, from designing the package to the production management.

Smith said the upgrade was necessary to keep ahead of the competition — while enabling Smith Design to give a big city feel in a suburban setting.

“The majority of our competitors are in the major cities,” she said. “When we go in to present to potential clients, our main competition is coming from New York, Chicago and San Francisco, so in that respect, we’re a little more niche within this area.”

The agency was founded in 1978 by Smith’s parents, James Smith and Laraine Blauvelt. And even though the company works with nationally recognized clients, it attempts to maintain the personal touch that comes with a family business.

“James and Laraine are still involved, they act as an advisory board when we need them for a higher-level perspective,” she said. “Being founders and entrepreneurs, there was a time when they were working seven days a week, but they no longer have to, and I’m happy they don’t.”

Smith feels the company’s greatest asset is its ability to tailor its services to the needs of the client.

For instance, the work Smith Design did for Ortega’s steak taco kits involved packaging design, displays and shippers.

Biz in brief
Company: Smith Design Associates
Founded: 1978
Founders: James Smith and Laraine Blauvelt
Employees: 22
One more thing: Smith Design is a certified woman-owned business and has been actively involved in the funding of academic, scholarship and mentoring programs.

Conversely, its Garden of Eatin project included work in the arenas of consumer research consulting, naming, brand identity, food packaging design, graphic design, copywriting, photography, illustration, production management and realization.

Depending on these variables, a project might last years for the firm.

“We can work on a project anywhere from six months to two years,” Smith said. “If we’re rebranding or doing some consumer research, which is validating it with (the client’s) core consumer, all those things tend to add to the overall timeline.”

Because of the nature of these jobs, the company works with its clients on a per-project basis instead of on retainer.

It’s one of the things Smith says keep its clients coming back, some even after 37 years.

“They return based on the results,” she said. “The return on investment that they’re getting from the work that we supply speaks to the level of work that we’re producing for them.”

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