The Chocolate Cult: Interview with Sharon Klein

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Interview with Sharon Klein

Sharon Klein
Today we are changing things a bit on The Chocolate Cult to look at an issue which is very important to the chocolate industry: branding. According to the encyclopedia of the online magazine Entrepreneur, branding is defined as “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products” Today to talk about what branding is and how it connects with chocolate, is Sharon Klein, of Sharon Klein Graphic Designs, LLC.

Welcome to The Chocolate Cult, Sharon.

Let’s begin by talking about how you became a graphic designer. What type of education and training were required for your business?

I was always into art in school and decided to study Graphic Design when a friend suggested it. I attended two different colleges for Communication Design, Carnegie-Mellon University and then switched to Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. It was really a stroke of luck that I studied design. The business end I learned by experience.

You have your own company now, Sharon Klein Graphic Design.  Why did you decide to start your own business versus working for a company?

I started my own business from scratch after working in-house as a designer for a number of years at creative firms. Myself and a friend who I last worked with left together and shared an office. That gave me the chance to start lean. I didn’t feel a great sense of respect working for my different bosses, I believe that is what inspired me to go out on my own.

On your website you have a long list of projects you’ve worked. I see several food companies are listed. Which food business did you first work with as a graphic designer?

My first was an olive oil package and label  for Ferrara Foods of Little Italy in NY. 

Soon after that I worked on a German milk chocolate bar design which truly launched my early chocolate habit. 

Out of the food related companies, I notice a large percentage of them are chocolate. Did you seek out seek chocolate or did you get a good reputation with one brand and that turned into others seeking you out?

As a chocoholic it happened naturally - I got involved in it by starting to meet people in the business and then being recognized and recommended. 

What is the biggest misconception you’ve encountered with you chocolate business clients?

Not just my clients, but overall with bean to bar makers - not realizing the impact of professional packaging and branding, that it needs to be an important and integral part of their business plan before they even make any chocolate! Often they are caught off guard about that aspect of the business. 

If your product doesn’t stand out on the shelf, it is literally, lost. 

Heirloom Chocolate box, labels, wrappers
Can you give us a brief rundown of the process you go through to create a brand?

At least 2 meetings and much prefer face to face. I have to get a good grasp on who they are and who their competition is. I ask them to bring along samples of packaging, websites, ads etc. that they’re attracted to. 

We often brainstorm in the meeting to come up with an agreed upon direction that helps focus my process of design. 

In addition, I do my own research and then start creating. Next I do a presentation which includes a number of unique designs. From the feedback, I either create more designs or typically, begin the revision process and then present round two. 

On your blog you have several entries about attending chocolate related events as well working with chocolate companies. What is your favorite type of chocolate -- white, milk, semi-sweet, darker?

I am securely a dark chocolate fan. The lowest I will go is 72%. For a period of time I couldn’t eat sugar, so I was on a quest for the best 100% bars and found a few great ones.  

Finally, do you think that branding is going to become more important as more people turn to the Internet more often for shopping?

It already is. I think Apple products, along with their packaging, ads and promotional collateral have had a great influence on the general public's appreciation of good design. People today are much more brand aware. 

I love designing logos and transforming a company’s “face” with re-branding. 

Thank you, Sharon, for answering our questions. Hopefully our readers will leave comments with other questions for you.

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