Did you ever want to pick the brain of a graphic designer? That's exactly what Julie does today with Kaila of Dox Design. She's got tons of experience building brands but specifically subscription box packaging!
A note from Kaila: Hey, Fur Friends! Kaila here—the crazy dog-lady behind Dox Design. I’m a proud fur-mama to three dachshunds, lover of all 70’s music, and the OG Swiftie (I’ve seen her on every tour, even as just an opener!)
After taking my first few years out of college in the traditional agency route, I felt restless… like my cup wasn’t being filled to the top. I wanted to take my two favorite things—dogs and design—and create something that nobody had done before. Something big, bold, and most importantly, drool-worthy. And so, Dox Design was born!
From e-commerce stores to brick-and-mortars, Dox’s team of designers is brand-focused (and dog-obsessed) in everything that we create. We transform boring brown boxes into experiences that elevate your bizz and create a lasting connection with your audience.
-Get A Brand Audit: https://calendly.com/kaila-1/1hour
-Have Us Design Your Subscription Box: https://dox.design/landing/subscription-box
-Follow Us On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dox.design/
-The brand that Kaila mentioned (headband story): https://wondermintgoods.com
Did you know that you have about three seconds for a customer to make a decision about your brand? That means that your packaging design matters more than you probably think it does. It can help make or break the experience your consumer has. So the more thoughtful, the experience, the more impactful it can be. Welcome back to subscription box basics. I'm Julie Ball. And in this episode, we're going to talk with Kayla from Dox design about just how much packaging matters. And some quick tips to implement for your own box. Let's dive in. So I have a very special guest expert joining me today named Kayla, and she is the crazy dog lady behind Dox Design. And if you're watching the video, you can even see all the dogs in the background. Welcome, Kayla. I'm so excited to have you on the podcast. Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to chat all things design and packaging today. Yes, and just for a little bit of background, you guys, Kayla and I met at the Ultimate Product Party. We had crossed paths online before here and there, but actually met in real life at Ultimate Product Party. And you guys know I talk about going to events all the time and the value in those and the relationships that can be built in real life. Not just online, like I know it's such an online world, but it was so fun to meet you, Kayla, to see you present and just to, get to know you. So I'm really excited to unpack this whole packaging, topic today. So, Yes. I love it. I know my husband always jokes with me cause I'm like, my, my friend, my business friend, yeah. My, this person this, and he's like, who? And I'm like, I've actually never met them in person before, but we talk every day online. So it's nice, like you said, to go to those events. Like actually like meet I r L. Yes, exactly. Okay. So let's start with an introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, a little bit about yourself? Yeah, of course. So, yeah, as you said, my name's Kayla. I'm the owner and creative director of Dox Design. Dox Design is a full service branding studio, so we do graphic design, branding, packaging design. I'm one of the lucky people who always knew what I wanted to do. Ever since I was little, I've always been very artistic, very creative. Was the editor of my yearbook in high school, did all that stuff. So I always was really good at layout and design and knew I wanted to go to school. School for that. So I went to school, got my bachelor's in graphic design, and you know, I was like, I'm gonna work in a big city. I'm gonna work in an agency with big brands. I'm gonna work my way up. And that's what I did. I ended up moving to grand Rapids, Michigan and worked one of the top agencies in the Midwest. Worked with brands like Target, Georgia, Pacific, Meyer and I, absolute. Absolutely hated it and I, it was so crushing for me to work with like big corporations and to just sit in an office environment every day. I felt like the least creative I've ever felt in my entire life. And I had a midlife crisis at like 22. I was like, oh my God, I just went to college like. Did all of this work. Like this is what I thought I wanted for my career path and like, I don't like it, so what am I gonna do? So I had three dachshunds. I still have three dachshunds at the time. And I was very ingrained in the dog community in Grand Rapids just from being a dog mom. And I was like, you know what? I like dogs. I like design. I'm gonna start reaching out to like my dog groomer and my pet sitter and people I know and working on their brand because. That is something I enjoy doing and it very quickly spiraled into an actual business. The next thing I knew, I'm filing an L C and starting Dox design. Flash forward six years. I now have a full team of designers. We work with all types of brands, not just PET anymore. That was, that's kind of our origin and how we started. And obviously that'll always be a big part of our DNA because I'm such a dog lover. But now we work with all types of product businesses, subscription box businesses. Obviously we're gonna talk about. Helping them bring their brand story to life through the power of visual storytelling. I can relate to that so much because I too am a corporate dropout. I spent about 10 years, I say it like I did time, like I did 10 years in corporate America, and it was one of those things where I, thought I wanted to climb that ladder and that's the trajectory I was going. And then when I had my daughter, McKenna in 2011, it was this massive mindset change. This shifted and so, It wasn't a plan to start my own business either back in 2011, so it's funny that you kind of, by chance, just started your own business as well. It lasted long than me. I lasted two years in corporate America, so, okay. Well you knew a lot faster than I did and I appreciate that because it's hard to take those risks to start your own business. I actually started my business me and my husband, we bought a house, got married, and the day before we got married I was like, by the way, I'm putting my job and starting business. I already got the ring. Like, we're doing it. Let's go. That's so funny. Oh my gosh. Oh, I can't even imagine what that conversation was. Okay, let's talk about packaging cuz that's what we're here for. You are an expert in packaging. So in your words, how much does packaging matter? Because I talk a lot about this with my students and some of them are starting on a very small budget, and there's a lot of ways that you can doll up a plain box. And of course then there's the custom route. So how much do you believe packaging matters? A lot, like so much, especially for subscription boxes. What I always say is you are essentially mailing someone what like your physical storefront would look like. You don't have a physical storefront for someone to interact with, so your box a lot of times is the only. Physical interaction that your customers are having with your brand. So you want it to wow them. You want it to really represent your story, your brand. It is a marketing piece for you. I can't tell you how many times our clients have come to us and do a custom box, and they tell me all the time like it was an investment in that investment paid off. Five tons because I get people DMing me tell me, oh my God, I love the box so much. Or because they love the unboxing experience so much. They take pictures of it, they share it, they tag them, which gets them more customers. So it's not only important from a standpoint of it represents your brand, but it's also a marketing tool that can get you more customers. It's a sales piece. So it's not only important for like sales and marketing, but also your brand. It just, I can't stress enough. How much you should be investing in the box. And even if, like you said, it's starting small, that should definitely, especially as a subscription box like that, is your, that's your whole thing. The word box is in there. It should really be putting the time and effort into that. Yeah, and I think you need to stand out amongst all the other packages. So say there's a packet, there's a pile of like five or six Amazon boxes, and then there's this hot pink box. You're standing out from the rest. And I only say hot pink cuz that's what my subscription box was colored. And it did stand out from the rest. And it's funny because I would carry it around with me when I would go to events and it would be super helpful because people would be like, oh, I know that box. And then it would give us a reason to start talking and then they would eventually become a customer. So it's, it is this extension of your brand that has so much power, and so there's a lot of different ways that you can use that. As you mentioned in photography, you can use it for all kinds of marketing and standing out from the crowd, but can you give us some quick tips about how they can implement box design with their own boxes? Yeah, so I think the first most important piece that people overlook is having an understanding of your brand. So if you do not have an understanding of like what your brand vibe is, what your whole story is, what your why is, you're gonna be like, oh, I'm struggling picking colors and fonts. I'm like, I don't even know where to start. And a lot of times people will, you know, get really excited and they wanna jump to like the, let's actually design the box part. But what I find is, The reason they're struggling is cuz they haven't laid down that brand foundation piece. Right? So, you know, you picked pink because I'm gonna guess that a lot of your customers were women. You know what? So like, you know, you gotta start to think like, how is this brand going to interact with my customers? Who are my customers? What other brands do the shop for? Like, what does their house look like? What do they wear? What type of music do they look like or listen to? You know, starting to think about your customer in that way. Starts to drum up some visuals already and you kinda know the parameters you're gonna put on yourself for your brand. So like, oh, I'm all about being natural, eco-friendly. Okay, we're probably not gonna use bright neon colors. We're probably not gonna use like super fun handwritten fonts. Like when you start at Square, one of like, who am I as a brand? What do I represent? Then it starts to narrow down the visuals for you. So I would say like step one, if you haven't done that exercise, is to do that exercise. Yeah, to actually carve out your brand. And I like to recommend when my students start their subscription box journey, that's one of the things that I recommend you hire out because you don't want to have an amateur logo, which is just gonna turn into an amateur looking box and an amateur looking website like that is one of the things that you really have to. Get it right and you might not get it right the first time. That's okay. There's gonna be tweaks along the way. I can't tell you how many tweaks we've made to our website along the way, and actually fun fact, The, we only used one design throughout six years of the box. Like it was almost like set it and forget it. We changed some words one time, but that's it. Yeah. And so it was one of those things where it's like, okay, I invested in the design upfront and I was able to use that until I sold my business. Yeah. So it was very, money well spent for the brand. Exactly. Yeah. And then I mean, if you already have your brand and you know who you are, the next kind of steps that I always say for, package design is going beyond the logo. So I see a lot of people they will just use like the brand color and the logo, which is a great step. Starting point, like you said, like using a hot pink box or using your brand color. But where I see brands really stand out in the subscription box is going beyond just putting your logo on the front, starting to incorporate brand illustrations, brand pattern, brand story. Like is there a place where like when you open up the box, is there like a little blurb and paragraph that explains like why you started your business, why it's so important to you? You know, the more personalized you can get with it. I've even had clients who make the box interactive. So one of my favorite stories to tell our clients, dogs, the term city they have a subscription box that they send out for like new puppies, dog birthdays whatever you name it. They have a subscription box for the dogs. And we designed it in a way, it was like this really cute pink box. The front said, you're gonna love this. And when you opened it up, it said, welcome. And then there was a line. For her to write the dog name in it. So it was like customized, you know? Yeah. And it was able for them to personalize it. And people love this. They would take a picture of their dog next to the box with the name because they're like, oh, it's okay. You know? And she's competing with things like BarkBox mind juice. So that little personalization piece made the boxes take off. I actually have a screenshot on my website of how many dms she got from people saying how much they love that box, how much they took pictures of the box, and she says all the time, that box is like, what launched your business? Because so many people love that little tiny special touch they put on it. And being a small business. Not bean BarkBox. You have the opportunity to do stuff like that. And that was all part of like who she was as a brand. So, you know, thinking outside of the box, she utilized the inside flap and did something really creative and fun and that really paid off for her. That is such a great story. I love the idea of personalizing and yeah, we are small businesses so we can take that extra step. I remember when I first launched my box in 2016 the first group of subscribers, they had to wait six weeks for their first box, cuz I had this extended pre-launch period and I sent them handwritten cards with a little $5 Starbucks card. It says, while you wait, have a coffee on me, but I cannot tell you of the 40 some that I sent. Probably at least half of them took a picture of it and shared about it because they were so excited to get a handwritten note, something personal it, and they were excited that it wasn't the same feel as a big box store, as the impersonal Amazon. Amazon's great for certain purposes, but when it comes down to we were serving women entrepreneurs in their business and we were telling them, you don't have to feel alone in your business because now you have a community. Well, getting that personalized note made them feel like they were part of something already and they hadn't even gotten their first box. I love that. That's a great story. Yes. Yeah. The more you can personalize, the better. And yeah, I think the more that you can push it in terms of like the creativity of how, like brand assets you're using, like is there fun little illustrations? I, see there's a box behind you that has like a really fun brand pattern. That's the one that keeps popping out to me. You know, like, is there a way to have a full brand pattern incorporated, you know investing in stuff like that I think really takes the box to the next level. So when we were at Ultimate Product Party, you told a story about some of, or it must have been one or two of your clients that used some of the design then and turned that into merch or tell, that story. Yeah. Wanna make goods. They are a jewelry maker, and she has a subscription box where she sends out like three earrings every month. So we completely rebranded her and as part of like rebranding, we always give our clients, you know, illustrations and patterns. So one of the patterns we created for her, we took all the shapes of like her bestseller earrings and made it into a full. Pattern for her, and that's what she used on her subscription box. It really has become a visual tool for her beyond her logo for her brand. So I just got her subscription box a couple months ago and she always includes like one little fun item in there with the earrings. She didn't even tell me she was doing this. I opened up the box and she made a headband. Using the brand pattern that our team created. And I'm like, what? And people are like eating up this headband. They love it. And there's not a logo insight on this headband, but it's using her brand pattern and it's creating a new product and a new brand extension. So when people are like wearing this headband, like it's cute. The pattern's obviously was designed very purposefully by our team to like, Communicate to her customers that they were gonna like it. Yeah. You know, the colors, the shapes and everything. And so they're like wearing her brand, repping her brand without it being like a tacky logo. It's like just a cute, like pattern head band. And it's her brand it, she was able to include it as a product in her subscription box, and now people are out there like repping this, loving it, sharing it, and I just thought it was so cool that she did that. That's such a neat story, and she could turn that into anything too. It could be on t-shirts, tote bags, stickers, that like what an easy way to incorporate your brand elements into it. Yeah. So that story really stuck out at me when you were telling it at the ultimate product party. Yeah. Oh good. I'm glad. Yeah, she actually, I think just like launched the coffee mug with it too, like one of those like tumblers. I was like, ok, she's really, I was like, I didn't even tell her to do all this. She's really using her brand elements to getting that investment. It. What was her business name again? I wanna look it up. Yeah. Wonderment Goods. Wunderman Goods. Got it. Okay. We'll put that in the show notes too for anyone who's interested in checking it out. So if you wanna drop any more tips or I, know there's one thing that I've been wanting to ask you about, like, what's one thing to avoid on packaging design? Yeah. So what of my tips I always say is kiss, so keep it simple, stupid. So that's, One of the things that I see people packaging dimes design specifically, is they like overload it. And I'm like, oh my gosh, we don't need five QR codes. Every single url, every single social media icon, like your logo, your website, like your other sub logo, the charity that you sponsor. Like keep it simple. Like, you know, if people like your brand, they're going to look up your website, they're gonna do some further investigation and see all that. So, Important things on the box and don't like overload it. So I think especially when people get like random elements and stuff like that, they like just get so excited and they wanna like throw everything in the kitchen sink at the box. So it's like that delicate balance of like, we don't want it to be like too oversimplified where it's just like your logo on a brown box that's that exciting, but you don't want it to be like so overcrowded that like everything gets lost and you're just like so overwhelmed by, in information. That's really, good advice. One of the pieces of advice that I always tell people is think about when someone has opened your box and they're doing an unboxing photo, like they wanna show off all the things that were in the box, that front, inside flap that's forward facing on that photo. I think that's a really, valuable piece of real estate to either put your website or a logo. Yeah. Or even like, are you talking about when you open the box? Like the box? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. That's what's gonna show in the photo. Yeah, I like when people have like some sort of like brand tagline too, or like some side of like little like snippet, like bigger headline of like what they are, what they do. And then yeah, at the end we, I usually like to have like website, social media, but also that's where I love when people tell the brand story part of things. Like if there's like a little like paragraph of like who you are, what you do, or like that personalization piece of it, I think that right there would be super fun. But yeah, that is usually the photo moment. Like you said. So, and a lot of times that would, was gonna kinda be my second piece of advice if people will completely overlook the inside of the box and they'll only invest in the outside of the box. That's usually my second piece of advice is, you know, even if you don't want to do a fully printed, like you could get a sticker or a label or you could do something like, do not be overlooking that inside flap, like you said, it's one of the most important pieces. So I think a lot of people will. I got my color box and I put the thing on it and then the inside is still brown. And it's like a lot of times that's where people's taking the photo. So to, yeah, put some thought there as well. That's really good advice cuz when you open it up, that's part of the unboxing experience and you can do that with inserts, but there's a lot of real estate there at the top inside of that box. Now, when I was running my box business, we had custom printed boxes, but we didn't print the inside until about four years in because of profit margins. But now in hindsight, as I think back, The profit margin could have supported some sort of sticker in there or stamp or something that, yeah, an insert. I'm like, the time people take that insert and throw, like, you know, do a sticker there instead. Or like, is there a way you can like make whatever that insert is? Can you like incorporate it in that, area there? Do you like tape the insert there? Sure. I think utilizing that space is really important. That's good advice. Okay, so obviously Dox Design offers this as a service. So where can our listeners follow you guys online and get more information about working with you if they're in the market for some branding elements or box design. And side note too if you guys haven't heard, Dox Design is a part of our dream team in Subscription Box Bootcamp now. So we have all of the Dox design information right inside. So if you're bootcamp or go check that out. But Kayla, where can they find you online? Yeah, so Dox, dox Do Design. That is our URL for a website that is our handle for Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, you name it. That is where you'll find us. We also have a special landing page, like you said, that is for you. So we'll have that link in the show notes. But I would say the best place is to follow us on Instagram. That's where we're showcasing all the current brands we're working on. We have a bunch of design freebies. Design tips we're always on there sharing. So yeah, give us a follow on Instagram and reach out if you guys are wanting some help or wanting some packaging design experts, an eye on your stuff. Perfect. And then you're listening and you're in those early stages. Go check out that Instagram because it's really great to see what other brands have done. What is already succeeding out there in the market, just to get inspired for what you might be building and then you guys can hire Dox design to help you get there. So Kayla, thank you so much for sharing some of those tips and your thoughts on design specifically for subscription boxes. You guys have so much experience in that industry. So thank you again for, spending some time with me today. Yes, thank you so much for having me. Thanks guys for listening today and we'll see you in the next episode. Bye.