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Cuticone Design: Makeover Challenge Concept & Strategy Unveiled!

The design company owner brought his passion for aquariums to the project.





Joe kept in touch the most,” says Kayla Halchak, membership manager, South Carolina Aquarium. “Every two weeks, we would have a meeting, whether it was 10 or 30 minutes. During these meetings, I could tell that Joe was really listening to our feedback, and sure enough, Joe would make changes based on our feedback.”

Joe Cuticone, founder and creative director at Cuticone Design, remarks, “The opportunity to work with the South Carolina Aquarium meant so much to me personally because I have these memories of going to the Brooklyn Aquarium as a kid. When I found out that this year’s competition would help deliver a similar experience for children, at a time when going to visit an aquarium might be out of reach for many kids, I wanted to be part of that opportunity to give back.”

The high level of collaboration and interaction helped Cuticone Design understand the nonprofit brand as both a mission and a business. Cuticone Design put that knowledge to use when making material decisions and determining how much of the concept would require new products. For example, most subscription club boxes are full-color corrugated boxes printed on the outside and inside. Instead of choosing a similar shipper design, Cuticone Design proposed a shipper design to be printed one-color on Kraft and converted to a pillow box. A choice, Joe Cuticone concedes, might not attract Makeover Challenge voters’ eyes as quickly or easily as the more common full-color shipper box, but is aligned with the spirit of the contest of treating the Aquarium like a paying customer and he says will ultimately better serve a Kids Club launch.

The brand appreciated this. “We love the idea of a colorful shipper box, but realistically, those boxes might be too expensive for us to print,” Halchak explains. “Joe took that feedback, and he found some approaches that might work better for our near future. He suggested using a pillow box and a colorful shipping label instead, which reduces the packaging manufacturing costs by a lot. We also liked that pillow boxes are made with less material, so they are very eco-friendly. Actually, we love how Cuticone Design was mindful of being eco-friendly.”

The shipper’s graphic design also gives prominence to potential future Kids Club sponsors by designating a primary sponsor space on the top panel. All agencies were also asked to put their own logos on the shipper as part of South Carolina Aquarium’s recognition of the agencies’ donations. Cuticone Design, like the other agencies, chose to put the aquarium’s needs first and place the agency recognition area on the back panel. This wasn’t the only business-led design decision.

“Another thing that Joe did was base his characters on animal plushes that are part of our Adopt-an-Animal program,” Halchak says. “This would be very easy to implement because Joe took something we already have, and his concept also creates a potential revenue opportunity with the Kids Club package.”


Joe Cuticone explains, “During one of our first meetings, I started asking about their aquarium store and how that store helped the aquarium earn income and what is sold in the stores. When I found out about the different mascots in the aquarium, I knew they should become part of the Kids Club project as illustrations and as part of the logo. This empowers the aquarium to create a different animal ‘theme’ for a lesson, which can help kids learn about that specific animal and create excitement about the aquarium’s merchandise.”

As a further opportunity to optimize the Kids Club logo, Cuticone Design also integrated the South Carolina Aquarium’s existing logo into the Kids Club logo in a fun way by using the current aquarium’s wave icon as the dot for the “i” in Kids Club.

The character-and-logo mashups also serve as the stamps for a Kids Club stamp book, which encourages further explorations, and the characters play a large role in the homepage concept for the Kids Club website.

“Then Joe went above and beyond what we asked for in the creative brief,” Halchak remarks, “he took all these different pieces and had an animation created for our social media. Animations can’t be fully experienced on a printed page in the magazine, so Joe did this purely for our benefit.”

Linda Casey is the editor-in-chief of BXP.

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