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From Concept to Completion: How An Idea Becomes Reality

by Deborah Michel July 22, 2019

From Concept to Completion: How An Idea Becomes Reality

A new product either comes together easily in only a few months, or it takes a few years. While everyone has their own creative process, for example, my Creative Team led by Bob and Tammy, first create story boards for what they feel is up and coming, I prefer to start with the art.

I first like to find a piece of art and have something in hand before I create the fragrance. But it’s rarely a simple or linear process. If I decide I want a pink grapefruit fragrance, it may lead me to also consider Meyer lemon, or more citruses in general. So I’ll start massaging those ideas by searching for the perfect art. I’ll go very far back in time because the best citrus art was created in Italy during the 1600s, and I’ll try to get the rights to the pieces I find. When something strikes me and I know I can work off of it, I’ll purchase it and build on what I’ve found. The process can take some time, and it can also be very pricey.

When we first started our business, I spent a lot time at print shows around the country. I worked with several dealers who knew me well, and they’d show me what they had. But these days, the Internet is such a nice muscle. I now have a guy in San Francisco that I work with a lot. He’s often my first stop. But, where it used to be rather hard to find art – I knew if I found the perfect raspberry I might be the only one to have it – the Internet has created this world where that raspberry image has now been sold over and over again. It’s become a challenge to be truly original, and I have been knocked off a bit, but originals are always out there. It’s just more work to find them.

I find great joy in my work. I tend to work late at night because that’s when nobody bothers or distracts me. I’ll sit down at my desk, which is an old, clunky carpenter’s table from the 1700’s, and build this house of cards in my mind. It’s similar to doing a crossword puzzle; I’m holding words in my head but not sure what I’ll find. As I begin searching for the imagery that supports my idea, I do something called lateral thinking.  My hunt for the perfect Meyer lemon may lead me to find an astonishing song bird. I might push this bird to the backburner and keep searching or decide that a yellow warbler could be another way to sell Meyer lemon.

Once I’ve selected the images I’d like to use, I scan them into my computer so I can layer, re-color and design the label. Next, I match the fragrance to the design. I’m very, very careful about this pairing. I believe the label has to demonstrate the fragrance, so I really, truly try hard. It’s crushing when it’s not working the way I’d hoped.

These days, I have a full team of impressive and talented artists who help me create new products. It’s been fun finding designers for this company, and even though it took me a long time to build, we now have an excellent art staff. Often, my job is to inspire them to do their best work and bring it into this world we’re trying to build.

When a product takes years to create, it’s often due to a technical issue or the cost. Sometimes, we’re trying to pull all the pieces together, and we have two pieces but not the third. Other times, we develop something that's just gorgeous, but it’s too expensive for my market and I can’t do it. Our products must fit within our brand, and our brand is all about affordable luxury.

Don't Forget to Try:

One of my very first fragrances was Lemon Basil. When creating the art and the scent, I knew I wanted a mature fragrance that was absolutely identifiable. The smell of lemon skin and fresh basil reminds me of cleanliness, and it’s something people can easily imagine. Once people try our Lemon Basil, they buy it again and again. We have many customers who are truly loyal to our version of this fragrance because it’s the best one out there. If you’re new to Michel Design Works, or even if you’re a long-time customer, I recommend you give our Lemon Basil products a try. It is one of our best sellers for a reason.

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