The principles of good product packaging design

Posted in Shipping and product management.

Product packaging is one of the first things people see when they see a product. For this reason, it becomes a sort of first impression. For you to ensure that consumers will buy your products and that businesses want to stock your product, you need to have a good design that will grab consumers’ attention and entice them to buy the product.

Furthermore, good packaging design is not just about the aesthetics. Good packaging is also functional. Not only should your packaging be something that grabs attention, but it must also be something that consumer’s won’t have a hassle figuring out and businesses won’t have trouble shelving. On top of that, good packaging is also economical. There’s no use shilling out copious amounts of money for a packaging design that isn’t going to be a great ROI.
So what is packaging? Product packaging design refers to the creation of the exterior of a product. That includes choices in material and form as well as graphics, colors and fonts that are used on wrapping, a box, a can, a bottle or any kind of container. It’s a practical tool, yes, but also serves as a gateway to your product for consumers allowing them to resonate with it.

Let’s look at some design principles that can help you create great packaging for your products.

Aesthetic Design

First, and foremost, your product should appeal to your ideal audience. Who are your consumers? They will determine a lot of the design choices, whether it’s purely aesthetic or also functional. Luxury items should give off the air of affluency and/or sophistication and products meant for the elderly should have information easily legible to them. Take Lindt, for example. The gold colours on their packaging and the cursive font gives off an air of luxury, and the advertisements enhance this feeling. Understand your target audience.

And just because I’ve given Lindt as an example, don’t take too much inspiration. Your product certainly needs to stand out unless it’s very intentional. You don’t want your product confused for another. Make it very clear what your product is and who are the intended consumers. Consumers are going to buy things they can understand otherwise they end up risking their money. One look at your product should tell consumers what it’s all about. However, make sure the packaging is representative of the product. Photos of the product should show what the product is about. Sure, it’s always best to put your best foot forward, but if the packaging shows muffins filled with raisins and the actual product only has one raisin, consumers aren’t likely going to buy that product again and off the shelves it goes.

Your packaging needs to invoke emotions in consumers. Factual information is necessary, but at the same time, product packaging is marketing in and of itself. Shampoos provide imagery of radiant hair and meal kits offer the option of ease and a delicious meal. Products aimed at kids give them the feeling of joy and fun or the feeling that they are “cool”. Understand the desires of your target audience and use that to invoke positive emotions associated with your product. Specific shapes, colours, and motifs will convey these subtle feelings. Emotions are linked to long-term memory formation and you want people to remember your products. This is important for brand recognition and the formation of recurring customers.

Memorable product packaging is more than just the 2D image on it, however. Thinking in 3D allows you to use artistic designs that allow a product to stand out from the rest. The Zen perfume by Shiseido is reminiscent of a floral smell and is created with bamboo. Cleverly enough, Shiseido packaged the perfume in a bamboo-shaped container. Green Berry Tea is a tea brand where the tea bags are shaped as origami figures. This gives the product a unique and memorable look. However, we can’t talk about the packaging’s structure without mentioning its functional uses.

Functional Design

The size and shape of your product’s packaging is for more than just looks. Your packaging should be convenient to use and to stock. Sweet packets are serrated so that they can be easily opened. Milk in a circular container is okay, but that makes it harder to store compactly. Keep this in mind when designing the packaging. The businesses stocking your product need to handle the logistics of it as much as the consumers so a convenient packaging is much more advisable.

The product should inform the packaging and not the other way around. If the product is delicate, then you wouldn’t want to have a lot of free space inside for it to move around. Large products with unorthodox sizes may warrant a custom solution. If the product is meant to be stored in the fridge, would it fit?

The materials that you use for your packaging should both match the design message of the product and be suitable. A paper-based packaging that shows off a minimalist style wouldn’t work quite well if the product was a liquid or electronic and the packaging fell apart after getting wet. A brand that is more environmentally aware should incorporate recyclable materials or design the packaging in such a way that it is reusable.

It is well and good to endeavour to create packaging that is unique. Everyone else puts their soup in a can so why not do something else? However there is good reason for this, and sometimes sticking with conventions are the easiest ways to get your product onto shelves. Think hard about the costs of the packaging you are creating and what such a design is going to do to benefit you. Sometimes just a little bit of artistic freedom is all you need.
Be careful not to overdo things. You can’t put every single message you want onto a product’s packaging. If consumers are bombarded with information, they may not find your product enticing. Stick the important things you want your product to convey and design the packaging around that. Less definitely is sometimes more. Let your packaging breathe. Even minimalist designs convey a message.

Ensure your packaging reserves space for important information. Foods in particular are required to include nutritional information on their packaging. Keep this space in mind as well when deciding where to include space in your design. Moreover, an easily edited design makes it much cheaper to produce other versions of the same product. A simple example are cool drinks with multiple flavours. The basic design remains the same, but for the most part, only the colours have changed between flavours.

Keep in mind the costs of manufacturing the packaging. Materials and labour will be the greatest costs and should be accounted for in your design. More complicated designs with expensive materials will make your costs per-item buildup. Keep in mind any filling you add to the packaging to keep the product secure. In order to make the best out of your packaging, fill as much of it with useful product as possible.

Once you take into consideration these factors and create a design for your packaging, people will be drawn in and purchase your product. A lasting impression will be left on them whether they know your brand or not. If you treat product packaging as another form of marketing, you may be able to intuitively come up with great designs. All that is needed is to incorporate the packaging’s structure and you’re set.