Lancashire Tea have taken a bold step by putting the redesign for their packaging to a public vote. Three design concepts were commissioned by The Rehab Agency, also of Lancashire, which were voted on by Facebook users.

More details are available from Packaging News and from the Facebook group’s page.

(click ’em for a larger view)

the current packaging:

first concept:

second concept:

third concept:

For what it’s worth, I fancy the second concept, although I have a certain connection to the first as well.

But here’s what I don’t like: This public vote may appear forward-thinking and very modern, but it’s a dangerous precedent for the design industry. The Rehab Agency competed for the work in an unpaid pitch — a practice I, and many other designers, find abhorrent. While they were selected for their local flair and first-hand knowledge of Lancashire itself, their expertise and professionalism are eroded when the design concepts are put out to the public. No doubt this was done to assuage client fear with reassurances from the potential customer base, but when agencies are not permitted to “sell” an idea and to council clients, their role is further marginalised. In this particular case, The Rehab Agency is receiving a “much reduced fee”, which also makes me grimace. Are schemes like these a further excuse for clients to skimp on design services? And more importantly from their point of view, will it produce better results?

While the 21st century may be well underway, some traditional business practices are still worth the time. Here I’m referring to those golden oldies called professionalism, research, market testing, relationships, and even a bit of well-calculated risk.

Unfortunately, the vote was only open for a short period of time, ending 01 Dec. The discussions are still visible via Facebook.

Which design do you prefer? What do you think about this quirky design process? Leave your comments below.