The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” is a bit misleading; in many situations, that’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Often, the only interaction we have with a product before deciding to buy is with the packaging, and that interaction has an impact. According to Ipsos, 72% of U.S. consumers say packaging design influences their purchasing decision, and that number jumps up to 81% when the item is a gift.
Part of this is the massive sum of goods available to us; we can’t inspect every option, so we either buy what we know or buy the item that catches our eye. Long story short, for a product to sell, it has to be a household name or it has to stand out. That’s where the packaging design process comes into play; when you can balance aesthetics, functionality, and creativity, standing out is a given.
What To Consider In The Packaging Design Process
The role of a packaging designer is unique; from first glance to the act of opening an item, packages provide more than just storage – they provide an experience. Accordingly, artists should consider a few critical components of the consumer’s experience during the review phase of the packaging design process:
The importance of aesthetics can’t be overstated – they are what draws us towards a product in the first place. Beyond that, though, aesthetics allow the brand to communicate with the consumer; they convey a message (whether it is the intended message or not).
Perhaps the most important aspect to consider in package design is whether or not it reflects the brand. Most companies will have some form of brand guidelines, including iconography, typefaces, and colors. Keeping these elements consistent allows consumers to recognize the company immediately, and recognition is the first step towards loyalty; once people find a brand they like, they tend to stick with it. What’s more, consistency builds trust, as it lets the consumer know what to expect when they purchase from the company.
Of course, packaging aesthetics can do more than just build a brand; they can also strategically communicate a product’s unique benefits to the consumer. The first aspect of the message is what you are saying; does the packaging convey luxury, fun, relaxation, urgency…? The second component to the message is who you’re saying it to. The question to ask here is, “does this appeal to the target audience?” Keeping these two questions at the forefront of your mind during the review phase of the packaging design process will help ensure that the design communicates the right thing to the right people.
The use of color can help set the tone for the product, as color has the power to elicit a near-instant emotion from its viewer. According to Canva, warm colors (yellow, orange, red) convey optimism, enthusiasm, and passion, while cool colors (green, blue, purple) convey peace and relaxation. Neutral colors (black, brown, grey, white), on the other hand, exemplify purity and sophistication, or when paired with green, health and sustainability.
White space, the area between elements, can also be used to send a message. Designs heavy in white space tend to convey luxury, cleanliness, and simplicity. However, some white space is still a good thing even if that isn’t the message your product is going for; white space makes the elements you do include (text, images, etc.) far easier to spot and digest.
Then, there are the words themselves. This piece of the message is more direct; the copywriter can explicitly state what they mean (with some artistic flair, of course). There are a few things about the copy to remember during the packaging design process: clarity, hierarchy, and appeal. To start, barring any purposeful reasons for vague design, the copy should be in a font and size that people can read. On a similar note, part of legibility is a clear hierarchy; the design should draw the viewer’s eye to the most important elements first. And of course, the phrasing should entice people to buy, which is often done by highlighting the product or brand’s benefits.
Functionality is the reason a design exists in the first place, it’s how that design meets a need or accomplishes a goal. When it comes to function, packaging design tends to hold multiple roles; it’s protection, advertising, and an informative guide all at once.
First and foremost, packaging designs must take into consideration the product itself. A cardboard box covered in holes would be a terrible way to store shampoo, just as an airtight plastic bottle would be a terrible way to store live insects – the packaging has to make sense for the item it holds. However, that isn’t the only thing to take into consideration; the packaging also has to make sense for the way consumers purchase the item. Shipping, especially if the product is fragile, tends to require durable outer layers and cushier internal packaging to protect the product from breaking. On the other hand, if the product is being sold primarily in stores, the best packaging may be something that stands out from similar goods and fits easily on a shelf.
Next are the materials – what the package will actually be made of: glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, wood, etc. There are a few elements to account for here, and often, the highest priority for the company is cost. A plain cardboard box sits at the lower end of the spectrum, while packaging for luxury products, such as a rigid box, tends to be a little more expensive. In addition to cost, the packaging should also factor in the target audience. For instance, an eco-friendly beauty product packaged in styrofoam likely won’t appeal to anyone; those interested in an environmental product would be off put by the package, and those willing to buy a non-recyclable package may not care to pay extra for an eco-friendly product.
Labels, Warnings, And Regulatory Requirements
Not only is a package tasked with housing the product and convincing people to buy, it also must relay any essential information – or at least, the information that’s required by law. For example, packaging for food items typically requires a list of ingredients, nutritional information, and relevant warnings. While not all labels you see in stores are required by law, some may be worth considering in the packaging design process anyway. Certain labels (ethically sourced, cruelty-free, organic, etc.) could reflect positively on the brand to its target audience, or even sway them to buy.
There’s one more thing to consider during the packaging design process beyond aesthetics and functionality – creativity. In order for a product to sell, it needs to have something that sets it apart from the competition. And, considering FMI found that the average supermarket sells 28,112 items, there’s a lot of competition to stand out from.
That being said, creativity needs to be balanced with clarity. If the packaging is too creative, to the point where no one can recognize what the product actually is, people likely won’t buy. That doesn’t mean packaging designers can’t think outside the box, they just need to make sure the end result isn’t misleading.
Packaging That Found The Balance
One example of a brand that found a way to balance unique design with clear messaging is Boxed Water. Water almost exclusively comes in a bottle or jug, but the brand successfully proved that it doesn’t have to; the large copy on the carton clearly communicates “water,” so there’s no confusion around what the product is.
Nike Air Shoes
Nike low-material packaging design proved that sometimes, less is more. The air cushions they utilized instantly conveyed the message that Nike Airs are light, highlighting a huge selling point (and the icing on the cake is that the design used far fewer materials than traditional packaging).
Chobani created packaging for their yogurt that kept functionality front and center. The package contained a side section with the toppings, which could easily flip up to pour the contents into the yogurt. This made the snack a quick and an easy option for consumers; they could prepare it in seconds (plus, they didn’t have to worry about the toppings getting soggy since they were stored separately)
Festina Diving Watch
To show off the fact that their new diving watch was entirely waterproof, Festina chose to package it in a pouch of water. While plenty of companies have created waterproof watches before, this memorable design demonstrated the benefit in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Perfect The Packaging Design Process With Ashore
The review phase of the packaging design process looks a little different than the typical project. There are a lot of factors to consider; you’re not only looking for a design that matches the brand, sends the right message, and is visually appealing, you’re also factoring in functionality. Making sure that a design has hit the mark in each of these areas often requires multiple iterations, multiple opinions, and a great deal of feedback; it can be time-consuming, to say the least.
Luckily, we can streamline the process with proofing and approval software. With automated workflows, markup tools, contextualized comments, and countless integrations, Ashore has all of the tools necessary to get the final product in top shape, approved, and ready to share with the world. Thinking of improving your review and approval process? Start your 14-day free trial of Ashore today!