From Concept To Ultra Chocolate - The Process


Ultra’s Holiday Chocolate started as a simple idea more than 30 years ago: create a uniquely packaged chocolate gift for our friends and clients during the holiday season. In the beginning, they were light-hearted, chocolate parodies of existing brand entities like Ultra Chockers, a playable checkers game, or a box of Ultra Kreme Chocolates featuring a dozen solid chocolate donuts.


Early versions of Ultra's Holiday Chocolate were parodies of existing concepts or brands.

Over the years Ultra Chocolate evolved into something more, the holiday gift became an opportunity to showcase what Ultra does best.

Everything about our annual confectionery creation is based in an original idea. From chocolate form to package design, brand name to back story, it all starts by identifying meaningful cultural trends and using that inspiration to craft something that truly surprises and delights year-after-year.

This kind of carte blanche work is a huge treat for our creative team, which rotates in a few new members each year to keep perspectives fresh. Every season presents new creative challenges, but the ‘how’ of our process remains essentially the same.



A few pages of our 2018 trend list. Highlighted concepts had more than one entry.

From CBD to true crime, biohacking to 90’s art – our multidisciplinary team scours the earth, the internet, and their mindscapes to bring forward any and all trends from the past year. As team members begin to share, macro themes and buckets form organically. Ultimately, those cultivated categories are curated further into key areas to focus our attention and enthusiasm.


A collection of images tacked to a wall for Ultra Chocolate's trend exploration.

Our pinning wall with 2018's chocolate exploration.

Taking our top thoughts from our trend scrape, we begin to gather fuel for each little fire by clustering all relevant content; articles, artists, packaging, photos, forms, and illustrations on our pinning wall. From there, we collectively buildup, rejigger, remove, or realign these assorted elements to enhance the overall tone and approach, highlighting each area’s inherent value.


Taking the top three concepts with the most zeal and natural oomph, we begin to flesh out the entire experience. The ideas start to take real shape via form and initial rough designs. We bring in thoughts on how to play with printing techniques and tricks to amp up the delivery. As each concept gets elevated, it creates its own set of challenges, but in this stage, questions that were unanswered get closer to being resolved.T


The chosen conceptinvigorates fresh focus from the whole team. Each person takes on a specialized role, engaging in aconvergence of attention, which brings both scrutiny and refined problemsolving, blue-sky thinking and down-to-earth practicalities, includingbudgetary considerations.

We pushthe concept into the most appropriate spaces for additional engagement,considering social media, microsites, videos, and the like. Each mediumpresents new questions and new ways to unfold the story, we try to select thebest way to further bring it to life.


2014's frendbox - showing concept scrape, mock-ups, and final execution.

We engage printers, chocolatiers, and any other vendors we may need at this time. We work with them to help convey the idea and further push the concept’s features and direction.


All cylinders are firing at this time: design, production, copy, and sourcing. Each of which is honing the concept’s design and refining the budget. Team members primarily work in their lanes but gather for heavy brainstorming and creative thinking sessions as we work through prototypes, materials, and technique challenges. We huddle up when costs come in, we hit a roadblock, or structural designs need tweaks.

As we perfect the design, it is applied to mock-ups, supplied by the printer, inching ever closer to the final dieline. We experiment with ink coverage and techniques to get the best effect for our budget. We’re on hand for press checks and fulfillment meetings, directing the outcome for optimal results.



2018's gift - Recollection.

It’s a huge moment when the team gets their first collective glimpse of the final design, put together and buttoned up. Everyone on the team takes their time to experience it, relishing the details we pored over, and the craftsmanship of the printers and fulfillment team. It feels exhilarating and satisfying, a closing moment to the 6-month creative journey as it leaves Ultra for clients and friends.