From Product Designer to Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo

Mauro Porcini product designer and CDO of PepsiCo

In 2012, PepsiCo appointed Mauro Porcini product designer as its first Chief Design Officer. He is responsible for the company’s innovation by design strategy across all product platforms and brands. He has designed virtual and physical brand manifestations for Pepsi, Lay’s, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Tropicana, Doritos, Cheetos, Quaker, Aquafina, Life Wtr, Naked, and SunChips, among others. In publications and books about design and innovation, Porcini has been recognized. In 2018, he was awarded the Knighthood (Cavaliere) by the President of the Italian Republic.

In 2012, PepsiCo appointed Mauro Porcini as its first Chief Design Officer. In his newly created position, Mauro has integrated design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and is now responsible for the organization’s innovation by design strategy across product platforms and brands. Pepsi, Lay’s, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Tropicana, Doritos, Cheetos, Quaker, Aquafina, Life Wtr, Naked, and SunChips are only a few of the numerous products and brands available. In addition to physical brand expressions, he concentrates on virtual brand expressions, such as product, packaging, events, advertising, licensing, retail, architecture, and digital.

Mauro has been featured in publications such as Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business 1000,” Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking rising stars, Ad Age’s “Creativity 50,” GQ’s 30 Best Dressed Men, and numerous books on design and innovation from around the world, such as Creative Confidence, Jugaad Innovation, Il Minimo Sostenibile, and Win with Ideas.

In 2018, Mauro was awarded the Knighthood (Cavaliere) by the President of the Italian Republic.

Your path from product designer to SVP and Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo has been remarkable. When you reflect on the past, how do you feel?

It has been a wonderful voyage, so I am quite delighted and content. I’ve always desired to affect history and the lives of others for the better. As a designer, I have also had the opportunity to influence the lives of numerous individuals, a diversity of professional fields, numerous enterprises, etc.

Since I work for a company with millions of consumers, I am able to make indirect contact with individuals. I began with one endeavor, then switched to another, and the journey continued from there. My professional journey began with an investigation into how to establish a meaningful position for design, for myself, and for my teams within this organization, utilizing design thinking and providing immense value to society, individuals, and the business. It is true that we have transitioned from a single project and a single designer to a number of projects and activities that have an impact on the lives of numerous individuals inside and outside the company.

It has been exceedingly, extraordinarily thrilling!

Each journey consists of a series of quick, forward-moving movements. How are these duties carried out on a typical day at PepsiCo?

There are obstacles and exploits at every turn. There are a variety of barriers to creativity. Because we are constructing a new capability within an existing organization, the initial obstacle is integrating design into the routine operations of the business. The recent addition of design capacity to our well-established company is an innovation initiative unto itself. Undoubtedly, a sense of acquiescence exists.

The second has to do with the essence of our endeavors. Innovation is a challenging process by definition. You are operating outside your routine and comfort zone. To obtain feedback from customers on your actions, you must communicate with them. Risk-taking is essential for innovation and altering the status quo. Then, what is the optimal division between the two worlds? achieving a balance between the concept and the outcome or solution without compromising the concept’s integrity. I can guarantee that it is more difficult than it first appears. The nature of innovation and design initiatives is fraught with obstacles. In these, you encounter numerous obstacles daily; it’s part of the game. Because of the nature of the company and the organizations, you have access to many people, and you have confidence in your ability to succeed.

This is the difficult portion, then. In contrast, the thrilling aspect of progress is the ability to reflect on where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. And this motivates you to work harder because it provides you with an incalculable sense of purpose, vitality, and optimism.

Similarly important is the ability to take a step back. If the focus is on day-to-day work and you become bogged down in the particulars, you may lack the ability to routinely evaluate the project’s big picture and evolve your capability. YOU and the two dimensions are crucial components. All of these things can be lost in a single second, and then catastrophe ensues.

Constantly thinking extensively is the most essential thing to do because it motivates you to alter the game’s rules. In addition, it gives you the energy and optimism you need to face the challenges each day presents.

Let’s discuss inspiration sources. Between 2012 and 2018, why was the DESIGN + INNOVATION BOOK published?

We valued both internal and external communication.

As designers, we have recently been exposed to a vast array of products, businesses, services, and experiences. Numerous individuals are oblivious that all of our brands are owned by Pepsi due to the fact that we have so many distinct and independent brands. In order to provide a wide variety of thrilling encounters and narratives through diverse product experiences, numerous facets of work, all of which were delivered by a single team, were never the subject of a single, consistent narrative. Therefore, we decided to compile everything into a graphic novel.

We did not wish to spend too much time explaining the history of any initiative or brand. Instead, we chose to concentrate on conveying unique stories about our perspectives on work, the significance of design innovation, and social transformation. We are emphasizing the crucial role that “design innovation” can play in generating corporate and community benefits.

The combination of theory and practice is always what lends something its strength. As a result, the majority of the book describes activities, initiatives, and products that were brought to market, following a few theoretical sections that also discuss the team’s and company’s objective. This publication is intended for both our internal consumers and a large group of inquisitive individuals. The book is about individuals who are drawn to our story and ultimately desire to join us on our voyage.

How does PepsiCo use the impact of design to engage and appeal to people’s emotions?

A skilled designer can readily construct anything that evokes emotions, but scaling up anything that does so can be difficult. In order to elicit and develop an emotion, the product must disrupt the inertia of the status quo. When a user undergoes a change, an emotion, or an unanticipated new state, your product’s design and other features reinvigorate them. Thus, you are producing an element of astonishment.

It is necessary to polarize in order to elicit emotion and surmount inertia, but this could be risky for the business as it could go either way. Finding a method that allows us to press the envelope further each time, or establishing a balance between the many factors, is the key to success in this scenario. It is essential to take risks, attempt a few things, observe the differences, and then advocate for additional changes. Additionally, during the transition from the portfolio to the commodities to the brands to the corporate level, you can expand the execution scope. It is always necessary to be creative and think of something on the moment. As they all elicit emotions, this is how we can utilize the power of design.

I am about to pose my favorite query of all time. What role do you believe art plays in elevating the significance of branding in design?

When it comes to art, creative individuals are free to experiment without being constrained by too many manufacturing constraints, having to please too many people, or having to consider an affordable price point for the general public.

Therefore, art is essentially uncharted territory that should be actively explored. Consequently, all designers can draw inspiration from art.

You may investigate and draw inspiration from any artistic medium. Unlike art, product design is constrained by commercial and market factors.

Moreover, in the realm of art, it is essential for a designer to be able to draw inspiration from it and comprehend how to convey its allure, lessons, and hints that can be applied to the creative process. Therefore, every design or production can find inspiration in the gorgeous world of art.

How does PepsiCo strike a balance between usability and visual design when developing a brand or product?

This is a very astute inquiry, as it represents the typical challenge for any designer. How can one achieve a delicate equilibrium between passion and logic? If you prioritize functioning over emotions or vice versa, you risk failure. It is not simple, and it begins with individuals communicating with one another and generating design-relevant ideas. To discover the emotional and logical balance that defines a product’s success, begin product design, create a prototype, and then revisit the target audience to verify ideas, eliminate incongruent ideas, iterate, and create a new prototype.

Like everywhere else, there is no specific formula or method that guarantees success; it all depends on the assignment at hand. My former place of employment, 3M, created products such as Scotch tape dispensers and Post-it note dispensers. A group working on novel designs desired a weighty dispenser that could be operated with one hand; let’s refer to this dispenser as a one-hand dispenser. In addition, there are dispensers for post-it notes and illuminated Scotch. These dispensers are pocket- and compartment-friendly. Several conceptions were developed for various audiences. One was shaped like a shoe, and the other resembled a person ascending a desk.

It was quickly determined that it would be nearly impossible to attain the desirable shape and weight for a single-handed dispenser. Thus, we enhanced the emotive component while decreasing the practicality. In this location, marginalized individuals were the primary focus. In this design, we prioritized emotion over functionality. A dispenser’s emotive connection with consumers was prioritized over its price or functionality. This is an example of how functionality can be reduced while consumers’ sentiment is increased. As in other situations, the challenge is to strike a balance between practicality and emotional resonance.

new product designs at PepsiCo

You considerably contributed to Pepsi’s emergence as a large and flamboyant brand. Please describe the transition and the emotions you experienced during that time!

The undertaking was challenging for a purpose. In numerous regions of the globe, Pepsi has distinct visual identities. In a number of these areas, the brand was incredibly powerful and effective. Therefore, these corporate entities in China, the Middle East, and Russia had no reason to alter the brand’s identity or replace the “refreshment cues” with a flat, intensely saturated, and brilliant blue hue.

Although the requirement for a global visual identity was adopted, there was little room for error, and the company’s operations were unaffected by the modifications and web color schemes. Due to the lack of restorative signals, customers may be confused by the brand’s new identity and fail to notice our products. It required integrating multiple disciplines, organizing the design around the principles, and effectively communicating using examples of products from around the globe. The corporate business executives enjoyed the concept and aided us greatly in securing sponsorship for the game and promoting it. Design has proven to be an effective instrument for enhancing an organization through its achievements.

What abilities and characteristics do you consider are essential for a design team?

A holistic approach to design is applicable to more than just commercial, graphic, and interior design. The team must have business acumen and a holistic design perspective, particularly the leader and the leadership team.

Since design is about more than just designers, one must understand the business consequences, be able to articulate how design changes will impact the business, and, most importantly, have a high emotional intelligence (EQ). The essence of design is the capacity to bring our experiences, innovations, R&D, marketing, consumer insights, and all the numerous departments associated with innovation challenges with us.

If we are to advance concepts that initially appear controversial, we must have compassion for colleagues within the organization as well as clients and partners. We require individuals who are highly resilient, receptive to novel ideas and design principles, optimistic about future outcomes, and inquisitive.

Curiosity compels one to read, engage in discourse with others, travel, and observe the world with the spirit and vision of a child.

The source of genuine inspiration is intentionally and persistently exposing oneself to new experiences and adopting a fresh perspective. These are the essential qualities of design firms and designers in general.

What does the concept of design innovation mean to you long-term?

Historically, designers concentrated primarily on graphics, packaging, and products. Traditional design gave numerous businesses, such as fashion, consumer electronics, and textiles, a competitive advantage and was essential to their survival. Design now encompasses a much broader scope and is emerging as a significant competitive advantage across a variety of industries.

The evolution of product experiences has garnered increased interest and significance in two domains. when developing new identities. Design is unquestionably the future and will play a crucial role in marketing, R&D, fostering innovation, and brand development, not only as an enabler, but also as a collaborator and a leader at the core.

What innovative and intriguing initiatives is PepsiCo currently engaged in?

The Itinerary iteration platform is where we invest the majority of our resources. By interacting with an app on your smartphone, recently developed equipment allows you to customize the amount of carbonation and flavor combinations in your beverage. When you are in close proximity, the device scans the QR code on your phone and provides instant access to your customized settings. Likewise, you may do so with your own vessels.

A QR code on the container eliminates the need for the consumer to use a mobile device. To make the procedure as simple as feasible, the machine will detect the bottle and the customer’s preferences immediately. This is the first product we’ve released in the United States that emphasizes hydration with a healthful solution, and we’re making it as sustainably as possible.

To promote sustainability, we have stated that our entire “bubbly portfolio” will be packaged in non-plastic containers. As a result, we eliminated the plastic container entirely. To gauge customer interest, we are transitioning to aluminum cans; if they are interested, we will continue to do so. It is anticipated that over 8,000 tons of virgin plastic and over 11,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided. This is the most recent of our organization’s extremely audacious sustainability achievements.

Your fashion statement reveals your appreciation for design and how you live. So, would you mind sharing your thoughts on the latest fashion trend?

I like to dress up! Fashion is a personal interest of mine and a means for me to differentiate myself, define my brand, and establish my identity. Yes, it is normal for me to use a small portion of my aura to accentuate my creative abilities. Again, these are essential elements of my personal brand. I am capable of altering and enhancing it, and I do so.

I can be more refined in certain situations. I toy with the notion that I should dress in a manner that demonstrates to the business community that I am a member of both the business and the community. Consequently, the overwhelming majority of people will be wearing outerwear.

To convey a sense of equanimity, I wish to remind everyone that while I am one of them, I am also a creative individual who is distinct from them. The skepticism of others must be dispelled, and I do not want people to view me as merely another businessperson. Obviously, there are additional requirements, such as the ability to engage in business-related conversation and then, as a creative individual, provide insight and adapt the message to the context of each interaction.

In the end, we are all capable of becoming brands. Personal branding is comprised of the visual signals that represent your individual style.

Would you mind sharing your personal success mantra, given that you’ve received over 800 awards?

I’d like to condense this into the following components:

Prior to focusing on one’s own accomplishment, one must comprehend how to facilitate the success of others. It could be your own company, the company you work for, a coworker, or your supervisor. You will become indispensable to others if you help them achieve success. Your efforts will be fruitful because of this. Achievement is highly dependent on happiness, but happiness encompasses much more. In the end, I care about the consumer. Everyone around you should encourage you to act ethically toward clients. Therefore, you should always think in this manner.

Second, constantly consider new methods to innovate and disrupt. Always pose difficult queries to yourself. Understanding the fundamental causes of a demand or problem is required for innovation.

As stated previously, curiosity is the third characteristic.

Never, ever, ever neglect to be engaged learners. Never cease to learn.

If you can do these three things, you will be very successful in everything you do, in my opinion.

For further information

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