Building a Better Box
Looking at Think Packaging’s portfolio, you might imagine that the Auckland, New Zealand–based structural packaging design company is a bustling shop with several designers working busily with styluses and knives. But in reality, Think Packaging is run by one man—one man passionate about making things out of cardboard.
A JOURNEY INTO PACKAGING
An artist whose favorite medium is cardboard, Bogust stumbled into his life’s work at age 17, at which point, he (like many people) hadn’t really thought about how boxes are designed—or imagined that designing boxes was a viable career path.
“I was 17, in England—I’m formerly British; I’ve been in New Zealand for 15 years—and I’d left school,” Bogust remembers. “I loved photography, and I was also thinking about being a furniture designer, because I loved making things. And the school’s career advisor said, ‘Don’t be a photographer; that’s a waste of time’— which looking back was a pretty shit thing to say. Not a very good career advisor! Anyway, they said, ‘You could be a furniture designer.’ But then I was set up doing some work experience with a joiner, and they just had me hammering fences all day…. And I said to myself, ‘Well I don’t want to do this.’”
He continues, “So I was at home one day, and my dad found an ad in the paper for a ‘structural-packaging-designer-slash-sample-maker’ in a local town near me. I went for an interview, in my best shirt tucked into some chinos, and walked up to see this dude in an office full of cardboard, and I was like, ‘So what is it?’ And he showed me. He drew out an idea on CAD and printed it out as a template, and then cut it out in front me and made it up—and I was sold. I said, ‘Shit, that’s my jam, this is it!’…So I really fell into it. Luckily I was good at it.”
Bogust feels fortunate to have found this apprenticeship, which put him on a path to mastering his craft: “I was done with studying; I wanted to make stuff,” he says. “So this was a perfect opportunity for me.”
A HOME ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
About 15 years ago, Bogust and his now wife left England together—intending to explore the world and “see what happens.” The pair saved up their money and bought one-way tickets to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; from there, they traveled through South America and the whole of Australia, before landing in New Zealand, where they’d planned a snowboarding trip. The couple fell in love with the country and decided to stay.
The couple and their children call Auckland home now, and it’s from Auckland that Think Packaging serves clients from around the world.
But the company wasn’t exactly an overnight success. “I couldn’t really find a job doing what I did,” says Bogust. “Structural package design didn’t seem to be a big thing here. So I did a few other jobs, and I used to last about two months in each; then I’d have to say to my wife that I’d quit my job again, I’m sorry. Eventually she said, ‘You need to start your business; just do it.’”
A CONTINUING SUCCESS
A post on The DieLine earned him his first international client, Jasper+Black, an American stationery company. “I was a bit shocked to get that first call from America,” says Bogust.
But eight years later, Bogust reckons there aren’t many product categories that Think Packaging hasn’t worked in. He credits his success in part to focusing on his craft and being smart about collaboration—“Stick to your knitting, do what you’re good at, and don’t try to do everything” is one of his personal mottos. He explains, “People have often told me that they were looking for someone like me: I just supply dielines, so you can produce your job wherever you want. And I don’t do branding and artwork, so agencies have said to me, ‘You’re the missing link!’ They can use me for my bit and then finish it in their department. I found quickly that having synergy like that was the key.”
Every project is different, but Bogust typically works in three phases. Phase one is ideation and research, which he uses to create quick sketches that he can submit for client feedback. With that feedback, he and the client or agency flesh out the ideas.