Holistic, sustainable consumer experiences, created the Enlisted way

Collage of products created the Enlisted way.

By Beau Oyler

Posted on 06-28-2021

In the piecemeal agency world, companies tend to work with an assortment of different partners to each make an individual piece of the puzzle that they hope will emerge on the other end as a truly great brand experience for their customers. Today, with so many customer touchpoints, it’s even harder to find an agency that looks at the entire picture.

At Enlisted, we decided to shake up that status quo. Walk into one of our studios and you won’t just see concept boards (although we’ve got plenty of those). You’ll also notice a half dozen 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, workbenches, prototypes, packaging, and all different types of designers and strategists creating amazing consumer products.

Our mission is to create next-level consumer experiences for the world’s most sought-after brands. But doing that today is easier said than done because the consumer experience is no longer linear. It happens anywhere and everywhere. What sets us apart from other agencies is a commitment to be multidisciplinary — not just in our approach — but who we are. You’ll find strategic brand designers working alongside industrial design, packaging, and user experience. But it’s not the melding together of multiple disciplines that makes next-level consumer experiences, it’s how they all come together. It’s the single point of view.

That single point of view isn’t just ours, either. We enlist our clients and make them an integral part of the design team at the beginning of every single project. This is something we reinforce at kickoff with a black sealed envelope with everything they need to collaborate with us — pens, sketch pads, and some swag to help them feel part of the team. They, in turn, enlist us into their business. Creativity is more than the big picture, it’s a two-way street paved with trust.

This year we’re honored to earn 16 of the industry’s most prestigious awards. Fast Company recently recognized us as one of the top design companies in the world. Yes we love awards, but I believe it’s only validation of our process. The proof that collaboration works. From first idea to product launch, here are a few of the principles that guide us.

Violux, founded during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, partnered with Enlisted to quickly design, develop, and launch a brand, specializing in unique countertop appliances that eliminate 99.9 percent of all microorganisms using UV-C light.

3D at every part of the design process

The majority of the experiences we create have a physical, three-dimensional element to them because most product interactions are three dimensional at some level, whether it’s the packaging or product experience. Even touches, taps, and swipes are 3D. If agencies only think in 2D, they’re missing the point of the experience itself.

By working in digital 3D, we’re able to understand how a customer interacts with a product, how we can bring joy to that experience, and also how we can design physical packaging experiences sustainably. All of our designers — whether they specialize in packaging, visual, or industrial design — use 3D. We also present all our design work in 3D. This is handled by our visualization design team that creates incredibly immersive 3D visual experiences. Our client Owlet is a fun example of how an immersive 3D experience can create consumer connection and drive sales. We helped them envision a DTC web shop that brings the brand to life while simultaneously creating an engaging shopping experience, resulting in a material lift in online sales.

People need to interact with three-dimensional objects, so we make sure that every presentation features 3D mockups and immersive 3D visualizations that bring the product to life. Owlet Sock Shop Animation.

In addition to 3D tools, we use Adobe Creative Cloud apps every day, all day long, and make sure our designers have remote access to the right tools — wherever they are — to deliver on the final product that will help the client’s business grow. We can’t function without our Adobe tools. Nor would we want to. They literally enable us to create.

Sustainability as a design principle beyond table stakes

We’ve been pushing sustainability at Enlisted for years. But sustainability isn’t something we’ve had to sell clients on. We reached a turning point where today clients are coming to us specifically to help them create sustainable design.

For us, sustainability is not a goal, it’s table stakes. We’re going to face the consequences if we don't act now, and the majority of consumers are more aware and engaged than ever. In fact, research shows that 83 percent of consumers among younger generations showed a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging. Today, there’s more room than ever to create products and packaging that have a positive influence on the world. And clients and their customers have never been more willing to take part.

For example, we’re currently partnering with Chris Sacca’s Lower Carbon Capital to help solve the coal burning pandemic that three billion people face every day. We’re creating Ecosafi, a newly launched brand based in Nairobi, Kenya committed to helping billions of people abandon their reliance on coal for cooking for a regenerative model that uses wood pellets instead. Because the pellets are sustainably sourced, packaged in recycled materials, and emit no carbon, they are the most sustainable fuel source available to Kenyans. The stoves are safe, and free to subscribing customers — and they’re paid for by corporate carbon offset credits. This business model not only provides a way for design to create a world-saving brand experience, it also creates a microeconomy for Kenyans to sell and use a sustainable solution within their communities. This cyclical model is what our managing director, Nick Barrett has coined “Regenerative Sustainability.” With similar approaches to sustainability, brands and their agency partners can do more than stop the bleeding. We can work with corporations to actually reverse the damage.

Renderings and photos of Ecosafi in action.

Recently, Allbirds approached us to design a packaging experience for Dasher, their new performance running shoe made with natural materials. We wanted to create something that was true to their brand as sustainability leaders in their industry. The result was custom sugarcane pulp molded packaging, using 100 percent compostable materials, that we developed in collaboration with Voion USA. Because of its design experience and true sustainability, it received the Red Dot, Best of the Best Award and First Place in The Dieline awards.

Enlisting = true collaboration for a better future

Next level is more than an altruism for us or a slogan we hang in our conference room. It’s a constant reminder and a promise we make to our clients to create brand experiences that account for the entire picture while staying true to their ethos and vision. No matter where a brand is going, it’s our job to create experiences that people love along the way.

With just under 50 employees at Enlisted and studio locations in Oakland, CA and Salt Lake City, UT, we’re keeping things small, so that collaboration doesn’t become lip service. Mutual trust and working together defines the partnerships we build with our clients. And it creates an environment where we can bring world-class design and a better, more sustainable future to the world.

At Adobe, we believe technology can transform lives, lift up communities, and create a more sustainable future. We are proud of the reach of our products across every dimension of life. Find out how to use our tools to create in 3D and read up on our corporate responsibility efforts.

Topics: Customer Stories, Insights & Inspiration, High Tech, Creative Cloud, Sustainability, Creativity

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