Joe Boxer 

Joe Boxer began as a very simple idea: What would happen if the most basic element of men’s clothing (underwear) was remade to reflect humor, fashion and popular trends in American culture? The ensuing years of the company saw incredible growth and expansion into a lifestyle brand that spoke to all genders and ages. At one point, Joe Boxer had 77% brand recognition, which opened doors to opportunities for marketing partnerships with brands such as Virgin Atlantic and General Mills. Nick Graham's tagline, “The brand is the amusement park. The product is the souvenir.” was the process by which we created memorable user experiences.

PROBLEM: The consumer products sector needs constant attention. New and improved this; remember the good ol’ days that. While the Joe Boxer track record of pleasant oddities was cause for admiration, innovating on these laurels made for a non-stop roller coaster ride. The whimsical nature of the brand conceived by Nick Graham was like a moving target. I loved that guy’s energy. Nick surrounded himself with people who could execute and commercialize very outrageous ideas. In a sense, you survived as an employee (or licensee) by living the brand, anticipating the WAY out-of-the-box thinking that was required for success. How could the company monitor market and fashion trends, yet be true to itself, while it continuously produced its unique offerings as it expanded its line of products?

SOLUTION: Consistent with the “credo” (list of values like: Fun, Inspired, Weird, Irreverent), all products and activities as a collection embodied the qualities listed.

RESULTS: Expansion of the brand into a mainstream big box (KMart) achieved a greater distribution through which the products could delight even more people. Extension of apparel and home categories saw revenues double to $200M in the first month of launch. Strict controls were still necessary to maintain brand essence and maximize adherence to foundational values. But playing was the name of the game, and was perfect for an adult kid such as myself. On top of the normal things a design studio would do, our brand communications and product design teams (I was a contributor in both) met frequently to discuss trends and various moods that would inform our work. Our robust peer review ensured high-level brand consistency. We’d look at what other people were doing (or going to do) and not do that. The holy grail was to get a reaction. Our packaging, hangtags, and signage was bold and distinctive, always showing fun freedom. Naming was an important component to the customer experience so our team took extensive methods to generate hundreds of options, along with creative instructional copy, for all of our SKUs. A staff colleague paid me the highest compliment when I was trusted to “Joe Boxerize” things... I didn’t know that was a verb. The design and brand departments worked well in concert to support cutting-edge marketing efforts and events, clever merchandising, and our earned brand recognition was the reward for our good process.


REFLECTION: Brands are living, breathing representations of a company or organization. It’s important always to remember why yours exists and to stay on top of the needs and dreams of your targets. Assume nothing. Joe Boxer filled a special niche in the marketplace, accessing the funny bone in everyone.

PERSONAL ROLE(S): graphic design, art direction, packaging, brand management, in-store signage/POP, copywriting, naming, textile design, event promotion, photo shoot production