MadeSmart Housewares Brand Refresh
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Case Study By

September 14, 2009–October 12, 2010


MadeSmart Housewares

Project Title

MadeSmart Housewares Brand Refresh



  • Jay Miller, creative director
  • Mike Schacherer, creative director
  • Colleen Meyer, designer
  • Braden Wise, designer
  • Darcy Clemenson, copywriter
  • Stephanie Wetzell, project manager


Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2011 “Making the Case” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.


The objective was to create a new brand for a well-established home storage-product company with a goal to be the style and innovation leader for home storage and organization solutions.

During its first 20 years, MadeSmart primarily provided product for private label. But as the economic environment changed, retailers were not as interested in private label opportunities. However, the years of providing product for licensing left the MadeSmart brand without a voice of its own. Its existing branding was not in line with what it was currently as a company and where it wanted to go in the future.

MadeSmart produces a collection of products for the home that work as well as they look—helping millions of people get their lives in order, in style. Their products make it fun and easy to organize your life and put everything in its place.

The target audience of MadeSmart is defined by the company as the “Modern MadeSmart Woman.” She is described as follows:

She’s always on-the-go with kids, work, sports, vacations and life. Her home—often referred to as Grand Central Station—is her domain, and she takes great pride in keeping it under control and in style. She’s a savvy shopper and gets into “the hunt.” She knows what she wants and needs, but sometimes not until she sees it. Her friends are always asking her, “Where did you get that?” She has an eye for discovering high-end products that are designed well, yet priced right. From Nordstrom to Costco, Ann Taylor to Target, she seeks both style and value, always finding the perfect mix to make her feel smart and satisfied. Having order in her crazy-busy, on-the-go life is a basic need. It keeps her balanced and sane. The act of putting everything in its place is therapeutic for her. It’s rewarding, fulfilling and brings her a sense of peace—and control.

In the home storage/organization market, MadeSmart’s main competitors are:

  • OXO
  • Rubbermaid
  • Umbra
  • InterDesign
  • Sterlite
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MadeSmart advertising and packaging copy with new brand tone. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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Brand DNA with old logo. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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MadeSmart in-store endcap concepts. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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MadeSmart identity system. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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Logo exploration. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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New logo. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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New packaging reflecting the refreshed brand feel and tone (Courtesy of Jay Miller)

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Historical logo. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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Old packaging with 6-color and product photography. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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MadeSmart packaging incorporating new brand voice and tone. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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The brand's single thought. (courtesy of Jay Miller)

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MadeSmart style guide. (courtesy of Jay Miller)




Our main source of research and information comes directly from our clients. They know their business better that we can ever hope to learn during the duration of a project. During our brand DNA process we are able to gather all information necessary to create an effective and beautiful solution. Our DNA process began with performing a discovery meeting with MadeSmart to define the distinctive differences that sets them apart from the competition in their industry. We accomplish this through a series of analogies and questions that helped us to define the essence of the brand tone, voice and personality.


After performing the brand audit, it was clear that the current brand tone, including logo, was not in line with the direction the company was going. Our biggest challenge was to get the owner to acknowledge this and to step away from the current logo that was created by her father 25 years ago. Sometimes the emotional connection to the past is hard to let go.

By performing the brand audit and laying out the DNA and seeing the list of words that described the personality of the brand, it was clear to the owner that the values and goals of the company were no longer being represented in current logo. From this, we received the green light to redesign not just the packaging for the product but to redesign and message the entire brand: the business system, advertising, direct-mail campaign, website, packaging, in-store POS signage and fixtures.


After reviewing the words from the DNA and the imageboard, it was clear that the existing logo no longer reflected the creative strategy. We went through a brand exploration to find a new mark that better represented the updated focus and aspirational feel of the brand. By defining the brand’s distinctive differences from the competition and then juxtaposing these differences with the desired responses from the defined audience, we were able to come up with the brand’s central message that spoke to both the form and function of the brand. Organize with style.

We also helped bring the new brand to packaging and direct mail. With the new MadeSmart brand tone, humor and wit were infused into the messaging, helping take the chore out of personal organization while reflecting the new direction of the brand in a simple and updated way. The tongue-in-cheek approach to the messaging helped to create an emotional connection to what could be an unemotional purchase of a utility item.


While we are very happy with the outcome of this project, we believe the best measure of the effectiveness of a project is through positive feedback from our clients. Below is the feedback that we have received from MadeSmart regarding their brand refresh.

Quotes from client:

The redesign of the MadeSmart brand and identity has had a large positive financial impact on our business. The old branding and packaging required photo shoots and thus continuous updating. Additionally, the old design was 6-color printing. The new ?design has replaced the photos with informative yet fun copy and is only 2-color printing. This new design has saved MadeSmart 26%, or $50,000, in printing costs annually and photo shoot expenses.

The new brand refreshed not only our products look on the shelf at national retailers but it also improved our overall presence as a company, strengthening our position against our large competitors like Rubbermaid and Sterilite. Our products are just as good as OXO and the others in our category and the new branding created an improved image that allows us to level the playing field. And the retailers have been generous with anecdotal feedback regarding how they love our new identity. It puts a smile on their face, reinforcing the power of making an emotional connection.

Since our rebranding process, we have also been featured in the local press. Our owner, Devee Joy, was interviewed on TV during the 2010 Maiden Minnesota event. Devee and MadeSmart were also nominated and won a small-business award from Twin Cities Business.

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