Former Kraft Design Head Talks State of the Industry

FUSE Radio Interview Explores Designing for Strategy, ROI and Why Design is Key to Magical Brand Experiences
By Marc Dresner, IIR

Editor’s note: Both the author and the interviewee have long been and remain devoted Kraft fans.

In preparation for its split, back in January Kraft announced plans for about 1,600 North America job cuts, which included its design function. By included, I mean more or less gutted.

As Director of Design and Innovation when the decision was made, Ellen Craven was among those affected by the cuts.

A self-proclaimed “design evangelist” and brand builder with experience at top organizations like Kraft and P&G, Craven has unique insight into the role of design at major corporations.

She doesn’t believe the cuts reflect a lack of appreciation for design at Kraft or among companies, in general. But she does suspect that in many cases, companies don’t realize design's potential to contribute strategically.

“The design industry would say design is a strategic discipline. It’s bigger than just packaging,” said Craven. “But, internally, a lot of companies see design as just packaging. They want both. They want great packaging and they want great brand experiences, but the reality is they don’t always understand what it’s going to take to get there.”

Craven views design as an investment in creating extraordinary consumer experiences—a mix of art and science whose return can be difficult to measure.

In this exclusive two-part interview for FUSE Radio, Craven addresses challenges facing the design industry, with a particular focus on corporate/client-side functions, and shares her philosophy on designing for strategy.

Craven also outlines her three-part blueprint for brand building and explains why the industry needs to do a better job of promoting itself and speaking with one voice.

Lastly, she’ll weigh in on trends in outsourcing design. Which way is the pendulum swinging?

Listen to Part 1 of this episode of FUSE Radio

Listen to Part 2 of this episode of FUSE Radio

Download an interview transcript: Part One, Part Two.

Editor’s note: If you would like to hear more from Ellen Craven, she will be speaking about infusing design and branding fundamentals in a company's DNA in a presentation titled “Raising a Creative Culture: What We Can Learn from Nature and Nurture” at the 2012 FUSE conference and exposition April 18-20 in Chicago.

For more information or to register, please visit us at

Marc Dresner is an IIR USA communication lead specializing in audience engagement. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.



Most Popular