Digital designs for a physical world.
Of 3D designs created in days instead of weeks
Saved in photography costs
Of all creative completed in-house; eliminated need for outside agencies
“We are the guardians of a 135-year-old brand. Our goal is to preserve the spirit of creativity and design that has endured while building a foundation for creative innovation for another 135 years.”
Global Vice President of Design, Coca-Cola Company
Timely and timeless design
From the curves of its signature glass bottles to the swooping “C” on its red and white logo, Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. While the brand has evolved, many of the core elements can be traced back to 1886 when Dr. John Pemberton served the world’s first Coca-Cola at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.
“When you look closely at Coca-Cola, you can see that design has been a part of our story from the beginning,” says Rapha Abreu, Global Vice President of Design at the Coca-Cola Company. “From finding the perfect balance of water, syrup, and carbonation to our careful approach to designing the bottle, there was a lot of intention around how the product was crafted and designed.”
Fast-forward 135 years and the world has changed dramatically. Today, the Coca-Cola Company is one of the biggest beverage companies in the world, selling hundreds of brands to consumers in more than 200 countries. Jacob’s Pharmacy is long gone, but just a few miles away stands the global Coca-Cola Company headquarters — a testament that some things always stay the same.
“The current global design team is one of many in a long line of amazing design teams,” says Abreu. “We are the guardians of a 135-year-old brand. Our goal is to preserve the spirit of creativity and design that has endured while building a foundation for creative innovation for another 135 years. I will be happy if I can contribute just one brick to our brand story.”
Designing for a physical product in a digital world
From yogurt-flavored Fanta in Japan to cumin-flavored soda in India, Coca-Cola brands tap into local tastes to influence everything from product development to marketing to design. According to Abreu, the global reach of the Coca-Cola Company is what keeps the company fresh.
“Massive global enterprises typically move very slowly, but we use the fact that Coca-Cola is everywhere to our advantage,” says Abreu. “We have people worldwide who understand local consumers and inspire us to grow the brand in new and creative ways. I love the sense of diversity and inspiration. It’s fundamental to creating better designs.”
Global and local design teams use Adobe Creative Cloud apps to create all of the designs for every Coca-Cola brand. Designers handle every aspect of branding, from logos, websites, and billboards, to bottles, labels, and packaging. When global teams all work in Adobe Creative Cloud, they can easily share files and collaborate on design ideas to support the company’s strong global brand.
“It’s a digital world, but Coca-Cola will always be a very physical product,” explains Abreu. “A lot of our design involves things that people will not just see, but things that they will pick up, feel, open, and taste. That’s why 3D design is so important for us. We can create something that you can pick up for a closer look. It brings the hands-on element of design to a digital world.”
When exploring a new or refreshed brand design, the global design team traditionally relied on a very handcrafted process. They would print out digital designs so that they could wrap labels around an aluminum can or hire an agency to create physical mockups. In recent years, the team moved towards digital mockups to create 3D renderings to better explore designs, share ideas, and invite feedback from business units operating around the world.
But for the launch of one of the company’s newest brands, the global design team took a completely different approach, called virtual photography: They designed the product entirely in-house producing brand ideation, visual branding options, and virtual photo shoots using 3D renders created in Adobe Substance 3D Stager.
“3D is a crucial part of how we explore the brand in a digital workflow. Adobe Substance 3D Stager takes the barrier of entry out of 3D design by enabling us to skip physical mockups and look at feedback faster. We’ve been able to bring digital design entirely in-house.”
Global Manager of Experiential Design, Coca-Cola Company
Using 3D for virtual sprints with a global team
Topo Chico is a crisp sparkling mineral water with a strong cult following. Bottled near Cerro del Topo Chico, a mountain in Monterrey, Mexico, Topo Chico’s unique blend of natural minerals and carbonation have made the drink a refreshing favorite for generations. The Coca-Cola Company decided to build upon this brand by launching a new range of alcoholic hard seltzers in tangy, tropic flavors.
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer is a new venture for the Coca-Cola Company, as it’s the company’s first alcoholic beverage released in the United States. But Abreu saw this leap as an exciting opportunity for the global design team. “With smaller and newer brands, we have more freedom to experiment with the design,” says Abreu. “We wanted to be agile and use tools to bring design concepts to life in fast, compelling ways. Adobe Substance 3D Stager was a big part of our success.”
After receiving the creative brief, the global design team immediately got to work developing a brand identity for Topo Chico Hard Seltzer.
“Our goal was to do everything in-house, utilizing all of our design resources and global talent,” says Benny Lee, Global Manager of Experiential Design for the Coca-Cola Company. “We spent a few days working on design sprints, coming up with a dozen different concepts.”
Designers worked with Adobe Illustrator to create ideas for the logo and can design. But rather than printing out the designs or relying on an agency for mockups, designers imported the Illustrator file directly into Adobe Substance 3D Stager and applied it to a virtual can.
“3D is a crucial part of how we explore the brand in a digital workflow,” says Lee. “Adobe Substance 3D Stager takes the barrier of entry out of 3D design by enabling us to skip physical mockups and look at feedback faster. We’ve been able to bring digital design entirely in-house. All of our directors and designers quickly learned how to combine 3D models and realistic lighting to create a high-fidelity render.”
Once the concept was brought to life in Substance 3D Stager, designers could quickly share their ideas, get instant feedback, and start iterating on designs. The 3D stages were passed around the world, taking advantage of designers working in different time zones for 24-hour collaboration and even faster sprints. Everything from the assets, lighting, and camera angles were preserved for each stage, allowing for a more seamless handover.
“The Adobe Substance 3D collection is just the latest example of how Adobe innovates. By making 3D design more accessible, Adobe opens up new digital playgrounds where we can explore designs for new products and markets.”
Global Vice President of Design, Coca-Cola Company
Not all designers have formal 3D training, nor do they have the time to model assets to fill out their scene. Adobe Stock filled the gaps to fully realize designers’ visions, providing access to a diverse library of high-quality photographic assets to complete products shots with just a few clicks. Smart Search in Adobe Stock powered by Adobe Sensei helped designers quickly narrow down searches to find just the right assets.”
“With a huge library of high-fidelity 3D models, Adobe Stock helped us find the assets that we needed to explore branding and set up realistic scenes in hours,” says Lee.
During the first meeting with the global design team, less than a week after delivering the creative brief, brand leaders and managers were surprised to learn that designers had twelve different design concepts ready for presentation. Each design was fully developed, including brand design, target personas, and possible sponsorships.
“In just few days of using Adobe Substance 3D Stager, we accomplished work that might have taken us weeks without it,” says Lee. “You can’t be afraid to fail in design. Working with Substance 3D Stager, we could fail fast, which led to more experimentation, more iterations, and ultimately better designs.”
For the launch of Topo Chico, the product was designed completely in-house with a new, digital workflow that included 3D renders created using Adobe Substance 3D Stager.
The global design team used Adobe Illustrator for the logo and can design. Illustrator files were imported into Adobe Substance 3D Stager and applied to a virtual can for quick feedback, faster iterations, and better designs.
Using Adobe Substance 3D Stager, the team had a dozen design concepts ready in less than a week. The Topo Chico launch set a standard for a new way of working, showing that a small, internal team can accomplish results faster with less cost.
Professional, photorealistic results from a desktop
The Topo Chico Hard Seltzer launch set a precedent for a new way of working digitally for the Coca-Cola Company. The global design team proved that a small, internal team can accomplish high-quality results a lot faster at significantly less cost.
Even beyond the initial design sprint, Substance 3D Stager revolutionizes the photography process. The 3D renders were so realistic and artistic that the results were on par with traditional photo shoots. Since one-third of a traditional marketing budget is typically spent on photography, switching to Substance 3D Stager has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars per campaign.
“I couldn’t believe when we launched Topo Chico Hard Seltzer and our renders were all over the news,” says Lee. “It really changes how we work on launches and lets us focus on quick creative iterations so we can home in on the perfect designs for products.”
“I’ve worked with Adobe applications my entire career, and there’s a level of trust there,” says Abreu. “The Adobe Substance 3D collection is just the latest example of how Adobe innovates. By making 3D design more accessible, Adobe opens up new digital playgrounds where we can explore designs for new products and markets. Working with Adobe applications supports our goal to design for today’s world, but also develop designs that will stick with us for decades to come.”