Tips on Creating A Great Packaging Designs
There are over 40,000 different kinds of items in your average American supermarket. The only way any product can hope to stand out in this crowd is to have some really great packaging design.
Design packaging is not like your normal forms of graphic design. It’s an industry unto itself. Multinational design agencies, including CBA’a, Landor, and Coley Porter Bell, have hundreds of designers whose sole focus is packaging design.
Packaging designs require a lot of thought. No two products will have the same packaging requirements. Those requirements are determined by a number of things, from customer preferences to legal regulations. Here is our guide to how to create great packaging designs.
Clear and Simple
Go pick a random item off a shelf at your local supermarket. Take a look at few random products and ask two questions:
- What is this product for?
- What is the product’s brand?
It can be amazing to see how hard it is to answer this question in less than four seconds, especially for products sold in simple, ordinary boxes.
Most consumers won’t take any longer than four seconds to determine whether or not they’re interested in a product.
A lot of products will provide a list of benefits without a clear brand label. There’s many that have really wonderful looking boxes, but they offer no explanation of what’s inside or why you should buy it. There are even cleaning products that have packaging better suited for cartons of children’s juice.
There are certain types of products that an air of mystery can work for, like perfumes and other similar luxury items, but as a general rule, the mystery is going to be a negative point for potential customers.
You need to make sure the product is identifiable by usage, content, and brand identity. Without these, it likely will not sell very well.
Beginning designers and clients alike try to depict the product in the best, most perfect light imaginable. Everything on the package will look rich and fresh (fresh fruit, warm bread), but the truth is that the product looks nothing like that, or contains little to none of the ingredients shown.
Showing products looking much better than they actually are is misleading. This will ultimately disappoint consumers. Sales will fall, and the brand image will be badly damaged.
Listen, consumers don’t mind simple and inexpensive products as long as they can tell what they’re buying. They expect and are not annoyed by a degree of “face-lifting”, but you should make sure your product is never displayed as something entirely different than what it actually is.
Packaging designers should always try to show off a product at its best, but consumers deserve to be treated well and not lied to. Think of how it would feel if product packaging were to happen to you.
If you are unsure of how you should design the package design for the product, check out a bit of inspiration. It always helps to see how the top designers in the industry have done it.
What Do You Need to Know to Create a Great Packaging Design?
Is your product a standalone item or is it representing an already established brand? If it needs to be a representative of a certain brand, make sure you know hat that aesthetic consist of.
Get the proper CMYK values or Pantone Matching Values (PMS) for printing (since those formats are specifically meant for printing). Hex code is also fine.
Get the right fonts and know what their usage instructions, like kerning or weight, are.
Get the vector file of any logo you need to add in. Vector files can be easily resized without any loss of visual information and are ideal for printing.
This varies from product to product. There may even be a lot of variation depending on the region the product will be sold at since many of these requirements might be legally required depending on what the product is.
You’ll need written copy. Written copy consists of anything from the product’s name to instructions for its use. It’s basically any text on the packaging.
You may want to include photos on the packaging. Have them ready to use before you start the design process and make sure they can be printed without too much trouble.
There might be marks that you are required to place on the product, depending on what it is or what the industry is. You might need to include items like barcodes, nutrition info, and association marks.
There may be temporary content that needs to be added, like expiration dates or batch numbers. These are not normally printed on the packaging because it changes frequently.
Often these items are placed on the package via a sticker or stamp. You should, however, leave space for this info specifically on your packaging design.
Packaging design costs can be sorted into two categories: one-time costs and per item costs.
One-time costs consist of things like paying for the original design work, purchasing a stamp, and print plate setup. These costs are paid up front and are only paid once per design.
Per item, costs are usually for labor and materials. Every package will cost a certain amount of money. People have to be paid to put it together, as well.
Get a general idea of what the project’s budget is before you even start the design process. This will give you a sense of what you should go for.
Cheaper is not always the best choice. Sometimes saying a bit more for materials can work out better for your selling price and make the product stand out a bit more.
Ask yourself (and others) a few questions you near the end of the design process:
- Are the product’s benefits prominently displayed?
- Is all the copy legible?
- What element stands out the most?
- Is your packaging design right for the product’s price point?
- Is it “too unique” and won’t fit right in the store it will be sold in?
- Is it unnecessarily awkward to move, store, or carry?
Your packaging design is essentially a “shelf billboard”. It’s one of the best forms of advertising. Make sure it tells the right story for both the product and the brand.
About the Author!
Bogdan is a designer and editor at DesignYourWay. He’s reading design books the same way a hamster eats carrots, and talks all the time about trends, best practices and design principles.