You can walk into almost any supermarket in the country, (if not world) and you’ll have no problem finding the playful and witty work of Dan Germain, creative director of Innocent. Founded 16 years ago Innocent now sells over 2 million smoothies per week. Dan Germain has been a part of the team since the very beginning. Nowadays he’s responsible for overseeing all creative from design and copy for ads to digital to books to packaging. In 2014 Dan was named Designer of the Year in the UK, beating Apple’s Sir Jonathan Ive and Sir Paul Smith among others.
Outside of Innocent Dan has worked as a visiting creative director at Wolff Olins London and Method in San Franisco. Dan also works as a consultant and speaker, some of his clients include Dyson, BBC, John Lewis, Coca Cola and many more.
We had a chat with Dan about the success behind the Innocent brand, what it’s like having his two young daughters critique his work and why they stopped the brilliant fridge magnets.
D.A.D: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living?
Dan: I work at innocent, and have done since we started the company in 1999. Specifically, I’ve helped build the brand from scratch, writing/creating/designing things along the way, as well as building teams and nurturing our culture.
D.A.D: How many kids do you have and how old are they?
Dan: I have two daughters, aged 10 and 8.
D.A.D: Innocent has always been recognised as a great example of successful branding and it doesn’t appear to have changed since you launched 16 years ago. Can you tell us what the original ideas were and why you believe it’s withstood the test of time?
Dan: The original idea was to make drinks that make it easy to do yourself some good. That was our first motto or purpose or whatever you’d like to call it. I’m not sure that we ever thought it was a ‘purpose’ when it was written down, but it still holds true today. I think it’s stood the test of time because people have become more and more aware of what they should be eating and drinking since we’ve been in business. So what we do and make has only become more relevant.
The other big idea was to have a good time. When you start your own business, you do it so that it’s done your way. Our company culture, tone of voice and design style just emerged from how we were as people, how we spoke to each other, and the values we held. That seems to have been a pretty solid foundation to build on.
D.A.D: It certainly looks like you had a good time creating the packaging especially for the kids products. My two love the different games and stories probably just as much as the drinks themselves. They were heartbroken when the fridge magnetic alphabet cards stopped! Was it always in the plan to create a range for children?
Dan: At the beginning, we didn’t have a plan to start making drinks for children. But after a few years of making smoothies, we started to get a lot of feedback that parents were giving our smoothies to their kids, in order to sneak fruit into their diet without them noticing. So we figured that we’d better make some drinks specifically for children. They’re a personal favourite of mine – my kids still drink them. On a different note, sorry about the magnets. We did them for a few years and they were much loved. They may well be resurrected at some point…
D.A.D: Being one of the founding members, I’m guessing that your fridge is always packed full of the healthy drinks and snacks. Is this something that your kids take advantage of or do you still have to encourage them to eat well?
Dan: I think that my kids are frighteningly normal. They need to be cajoled into eating broccoli, but they eat more fruit and veg than I did as a kid. Away from the world of delicious natural nutritious stuff, they really like burgers, Quavers and biscuits like most kids. What I have noticed is that they know more about where their food comes from and which things are good for them, which is due to it being part of the curriculum these days.
D.A.D: On the subject of education – Do your girls understand what you do as a job and have either of them shown an interest in design at home or school?
Dan: They understand parts of it, but my job title has the word ‘brand’ in it, and trying to explain the concept of ‘brand’ to a kid is quite painful. They’re happy to know that I’m involved with helping to make sure that things look and sound great. And they love coming to the office – they’re really proud of the fact that I have worked there since the beginning. I think they get the fact that it’s more than a job to me.
In terms of their interest in design, I wouldn’t say they have an overt interest. One of them loves making films, and the other one likes to act and tell stories. And they like watching telly and eating sweets. Pretty normal young people.
D.A.D: Do you run the designs by your kids or any other children for than matter to test the games, puzzles and funny stories on the kids packaging?
In the past I have tested all sorts of things out on my daughters – packaging, adverts, the designs for our magnets, and most importantly, new smoothie and juice recipes. They are pretty blunt in their feedback. And I know that our team always test everything out on as many kids as possible. We have a ‘mums&dads’ email group at innocent that we use for this purpose too. The business is built on a bedrock of honest feedback from our drinkers. Without it, we are nothing.
D.A.D: Do you have a favourite place to take your kids or a particular activity you all enjoy doing together?
Dan: I had to think about this one. So I asked them. Here’s what they said:
Violet (8): Going on holiday and playing with the dog.
Ruby (10): Going out for breakfast, going to Devon and watching family movies.
I would say all of the above. And maybe my favourite moment recently was taking them to Hamburg. I was doing a speaking event, and they came and hung out with me. They were excellent travel companions, came out for a couple of swish dinners with creative types, and became best friends with esteemed foul-mouthed illustrator Mr Bingo. They think he is REALLY cool.
D.A.D: What would be your one tip for new fathers?
Dan: Be helpful. Take naps. Say yes to your wife or partner. Sleep. Remember that the tiring bit will be less tiring quite soon. Then have another nap.