How Target’s Back-to-School Products Make the Grade

July 29, 2014 - Article reads in
Find out how Julie Guggemos and her Product Design & Development team create Target's back-to-school

With the back-to-school season upon us, we wanted to know how far Target really goes to create the most practical and trendy items, from backpacks to glue sticks. Julie Guggemos, senior vice president of the Product Design and Development (PD&D) team who oversees home, apparel and accessories, let us take a peek into her team’s A+ process.

They travel the world:
The PD&D team travels the world year-round, searching for product inspiration. They’re constantly on the lookout for things that are not only stylish, but also functional. By looking near and far, they’re able to incorporate the best of the best into Target’s products.

They do their homework:
For all back-to-school products, the PD&D team researches to understand what kids need for a successful school year. And throughout the entire design process, from prototyping to sampling, Julie’s team reviews products with guests to make sure they’re heading in the right direction.

“There’s an art and science to our design team’s approach, and while we spend a lot of time talking about the latest trends, our focus is always on our guest,” says Julie. “We check in with them regularly to ensure products that we’re developing will hit the mark.”

They test to create the best:
Ever had a super cool binder that falls apart halfway through your first week of school? To avoid binder blunders and the like, the PD&D team works with the people who will actually be using their products. As Target hones back-to-school product designs, students, parents and teachers get to test out items from previous seasons and not-yet-released merchandise. Guests provide insight that Target then uses to make supplies better.

Take up & up glue sticks: Teachers said they were too soft and not sticky enough, so Target went back and made the chemical compound stronger, added a new cap that was easier to remove and more — talk about taking constructive criticism and running with it!

They keep innovating:
Another insight from Target’s savvy guests: “Our up & up crayons were too waxy, dull and broke easily,” says Julie. “We tweaked the wax formula to ensure the crayon colors were more vivid and enhanced their wrappers for added strength.”

Small changes like this can pack a big difference on all back-to-school products, especially on backpacks! By adding an easy, front-carry handle on backpacks, the PD&D designers are making it easier for kids to pick up and go. They also added larger openings and hidden expandable zip pockets on the bottom for gym clothes and sneakers. Students still need to do their math homework, but separate compartments will keep it smelling fresh. Is there extra credit for that?

Shop more fun, back-to-school product innovations now at

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