5 min read

The Essential Starter Guide to Packaging Design

Published on
May 18, 2023
Plain cardboard box packaging boxes lay against a green background
Leah Camps
Marketing Executive
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Welcome to the wonderful world of packaging design! This comprehensive guide will take you through everything you need to know about designing packaging that not only looks great but also delivers results.

Understanding the Importance of Packaging Design

First things first, we need to talk about why packaging design is so important. You might think that a product’s packaging is just a dull box that houses the actual product, but it really couldn't be further from that.

Good packaging design can make or break a product. It’s the first thing a customer sees when they walk into a store or browse online and can heavily influence their purchasing decision. Packaging design is not just about aesthetics, it's about making a statement. It's about telling your brand's story and creating an emotional connection with your customers.

But what makes a packaging design successful? It really starts with understanding your target audience. By knowing who you are designing for, you can create a design that resonates with them and speaks to their needs and desires.

The role of packaging in marketing

Think of packaging as your product’s wingman. A successful packaging design will not only catch the customer’s attention, but it will also communicate your brand’s message and values. Packaging creates your product's personality, and a well-designed personality can make your product loveable and recognisable.

For example, take a look at Coca-Cola's iconic red and white packaging. It's simple, yet instantly recognisable. The design has remained largely unchanged for over a century and has become a symbol of the brand's values and heritage.

How packaging design impacts consumer behaviour

Did you know that the vast majority of purchases are made subconsciously, only driven by visual stimuli? That means that the way your product looks can be the deciding factor for a customer choosing your product over another. Clever packaging design techniques can help influence buying decisions and make customers feel like choosing your product is the best decision they ever made.

Take the example of Apple's packaging design. The sleek and minimalist design of their product packaging creates a sense of luxury and exclusivity, which makes customers feel like they are buying a premium product.

Sustainability and eco-friendly packaging trends

Today, customers aren’t just concerned about what’s inside the box, but also what the box is made of. Sustainability and eco-friendliness are hot topics in packaging design right now, and rightfully so. A thoughtful design and the right materials can make both your customers, and the earth, happy.

Brands are increasingly using sustainable and eco-friendly packaging materials such as biodegradable plastics, recycled paper, and plant-based materials. For example, the Body Shop uses recycled plastic in their packaging, and Lush uses biodegradable packaging peanuts made from potato starch.

So, in conclusion, packaging design is not just about creating a pretty box. It's about creating a design that communicates your brand's values, resonates with your target audience, and makes a positive impact on the environment.

The Elements of Effective Packaging Design

Now that we’ve established why packaging design is so important, let’s talk about the key elements that make a packaging design effective.

Colour psychology and its influence on consumers

Think colour isn’t important? Think again! Colour is a powerful tool that can evoke emotions, influence customer behaviour, and even set the tone for your brand. Making informed decisions about your color palette can make a huge difference in how your product is perceived.

For example, red can evoke feelings of excitement, passion, and urgency, while blue can create a sense of trust, reliability, and calmness. Green is often associated with nature, health, and growth, while yellow can create a sense of happiness, optimism, and friendliness. Understanding colour psychology and its effect on consumer behaviour is crucial in creating an effective packaging design.

Typography and font selection

Selecting the right typeface and typography can help your product stand out from the crowd and can also showcase the mood you want to convey. Choosing the right font not only increases readability but also the legibility of your messaging. Remember that less is more in typography; use just enough to get your message across- there's no need to overload it.

For example, a sans-serif font can create a modern and clean look, while a serif font can create a more traditional and elegant feel. Script fonts can create a sense of luxury and sophistication, while bold and heavy fonts can create a sense of strength and power. Understanding typography and font selection is crucial in creating an effective packaging design.

Imagery and visual elements

The old saying “A picture's worth a thousand words” is entirely true for packaging design. While typography is vital, visuals can create strong associations and trigger emotional responses. The choice of imagery can have a significant impact on brand recognition and can make your product stand out even among thousands of others.

For example, using high-quality product images can create a sense of luxury and exclusivity, while lifestyle images can create a sense of aspiration and inspiration. Using illustrations can create a playful and whimsical feel, while abstract graphics can create a modern and artistic vibe. Understanding imagery and visual elements is crucial in creating an effective packaging design.

Material selection and texture

The right materials can create a positive association with the product, and tactile textures can elevate the sensory experience of handling your product. Moreover, choosing materials and textures that are sustainable shows your commitment to the environment and provides an added value to your customer.

For example, using eco-friendly materials such as recycled paper or biodegradable plastics can create a sense of responsibility and care for the environment. Using embossing techniques can create a sense of luxury and sophistication, while using matte or glossy finishes can create a sense of elegance and refinement. Understanding material selection and texture is crucial in creating an effective packaging design.

The Packaging Design Process

Being able to conceive of a beautiful packaging design in your mind is one thing, but bringing it to life is entirely another. The packaging design process, like any design project, requires time, effort, and a solid understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

Defining your target audience and brand identity

Before any design work can begin, you have to define who your ideal customer is and what your brand stands for. Understanding your target audience is crucial in creating packaging they’d be attracted to, and brand identity aids in creating packaging that aligns with your brand's goals and core values. Don’t skip this step - understanding your customers is essential in creating packaging they’ll feel drawn to.

For example, if you're designing packaging for a new line of organic skincare products, your target audience might be health-conscious individuals who are looking for natural and sustainable options. Your brand identity should reflect this, with earthy colours, minimalistic design, and eco-friendly materials.

Researching competitors and industry trends

Being aware of your competition’s packaging designs and learning about the industry’s latest trends can give you a big head start, and help you to create a unique and relevant design. But, don’t forget to keep it original and come up with something that sticks out from the crowd.

For instance, if you're designing packaging for a new line of energy drinks, you might want to research the packaging designs of other energy drink brands. You might find that most energy drink brands use bold and bright colours to convey energy and excitement. However, you could stand out by using a more minimalist approach, with a sleek black and white design that emphasises the natural ingredients in your product.

Developing a creative brief

A creative brief is like a roadmap. Writing one up will help you define the project’s objectives, scope, budget, and other essential information. It’s a collaborative document, so share it with your team, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Your creative brief should include details about your target audience, brand identity, and any research you've done on competitors and industry trends. It should also outline the specific goals you want to achieve with your packaging design, such as increasing sales or improving brand recognition. Finally, it should include a budget and timeline for the project.

Collaborating with a design team

While designing the packaging on your own is possible, it is highly recommended to seek professional help. Collaborating with a design team will give you access to expertise and resources that might not be available to you otherwise.

Your designer should be able to take your creative brief and turn it into a stunning packaging design that meets your goals and resonates with your target audience.

Overall, the packaging design process can be complex and time-consuming, but with the right approach and team, you can create packaging that stands out on the shelves and resonates with your customers.

Designing for Different Types of Packaging

Finally, the last and most fun aspect of packaging design - designing for different packaging types! Each product category is unique, and so is its packaging design.

Food and beverage packaging

Food and beverage packaging has to be attractive, yet functional. The packaging has to maintain the food's freshness and quality, and the design has to be visually appealing enough to make the customer feel hungry, thirsty, or both.

Cosmetic and personal care packaging

When it comes to cosmetic and personal care packaging design, big and bold is preferred. It should speak to the customer - making them feel beautiful and luxurious. Packaging design in this category should not only be visually appealing, but it should also provide information about the product’s ingredients and functions.

Electronics and technology packaging

Other than making its contents stand out on shelves of gadgets and computers, - electronics and technology packaging has a larger responsibility_ to protect the product well. Moreover, it should communicate efficiency, durability, and innovation, all features the customer seeks in electronic products.

Clothing and fashion packaging

For clothing and fashion packaging design, the packaging should be an extension of the brand itself. It’s an opportunity to showcase your brand’s design and aesthetic along with further enhancing the customer’s shopping experience.

That's a Wrap on Packaging Design!

And there you have it - a fun-filled guide breaking down everything you need to know about packaging design. From understanding its importance, mastering the elements of effective packaging, to designing for different types of packaging - you got this!. Remember, good packaging design impacts more than just sales; it creates a good impression and ultimately helps to build a strong brand.

Leah Camps
Marketing Executive
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Need help with design work?

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