Locals We Love: Miriam Brafman Makes Packaging Oh So Chic
When you love a company’s packaging, you know that the brand has your best intentions in mind.
For Packlane's CEO and Founder, Miriam Brafman, those details shouldn't be overthought or forgotten. Finding the balance and duality led her to start a company with nearly 45 individuals, $7 million in revenue and go on to work with brands such as Google, Shopify, and HP. Both Packlane and Miriam exercise that "great things come in custom packages, whether they’re small cartons, large printed shipping boxes, or anything in between." We caught up with the millennial founder in Hayes Valley to discuss her humble beginnings as a N.Y.U Graduate, Founder/CEO, and being listed on Forbes' 2018 30 Under 30: Manufacturing & Industry. // packlane.com; photography by Anthony Rogers.
So tell us, why packaging? It's a pretty simple question but we're curious.
Packaging exists to protect and preserve a product, food item, or group of objects. It’s something that’s found everywhere in daily life and has an enormous impact on consumer psychology and buying habits. It’s become the ultimate physical expression of a brand and therefore it’s one of the most ubiquitous visual mediums we’re exposed to in our culture. Packaging offers an opportunity to create another touchpoint with consumers and remind them of the brand behind the product. It’s also one of the largest components of municipal waste, so it has a substantial environmental footprint as well, so there’s a lot of innovation directed towards minimizing the impact of packaging as well.
And even broader, tell us more about you! How, where, and why did you get into the field?
I got into this field because I was genuinely interested in packaging. I have a graphic design background, so I’ve had an interest in packaging design ever since I can remember, and wanted to find out how I could manufacture and print my own designs. When I started searching, there were no solid resources or options that catered to designers or brands that wanted a fast and inspiring way to order packaging in small volumes, and there certainly weren’t any manufacturers that seemed to really care about and understand design, which is really what makes packaging so important and interesting to me. Once I noticed that gap, I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity to build a very dynamic, creative, and competitive company around this field. I started doing research to learn everything I could about the industry, the customers, and the problems and challenges. The more I learned, the more enthusiastic and confident I was about building a great company that could fill a real need that customers were looking for, and I felt that I had the right mix of technical, creative, and business skills to make it succeed on my own. I ended up launching Packlane in Berkeley, California in February 2015.
So in your own words, what makes the perfect package?
The perfect package really comes down to great graphic design fundamentals. Things like color, branding, and typography are critically important. It doesn’t have to be highbrow or trendy design either—I love old iconic packaging designs that stick to your brain and carry some nostalgia, like that cereal you picked out as a kid because you thought the box had the best colors. Minimal waste and biodegradability of material while simultaneously protecting the item is also key. I think the best packaging actually comes from nature—certain fruits and vegetables are brilliantly packaged and don’t need any sort of branding to sell themselves. But for man-made packaging, the printed design is what brings a lot of magic to the experience if the design has character and soul to it.
What is one moment in your career/life you felt the most successful? Can you elaborate on it?
I don’t know that I can pinpoint a particular moment in time, but I think when more mainstream recognizable brands started ordering from Packlane organically without any sort of outreach or sales pitch, that was a really incredible validation. I think it was actually Vistaprint that became our first large customer. I also remember the moment we had Mark Motherbaugh order some boxes from Packlane. I’m a huge fan of his work, so this was a really special milestone that I got super excited about.
What's coming up on the horizon? Whether business or personal you'd love to share?
My main focus right now is just heads-down building a great team and hiring. Aside from that, we’re planning to expand our manufacturing capabilities at our Louisville, KY facility and launch some new packaging products to our customers that we’re really excited about!