4 Principles to Effective Packaging Design

Your marketing team is right – packaging is a critical manner in which your brand communicates with consumers.

These four easy to follow Principles to Effective Packaging Design will insure your packaging stands out and creates a memorable consumer experience. Even if you’re not a designer understanding these 4 principles will inform how your team considers the value of package design.

Packaging Must Compete on Shelf

In order to compete, you need a plan. Compare, identify, and act. Compare the size, shape, and color of competitor’s packaging. Identify and document any common threads across adjacent packaging. Discovering commonalities presents the opportunity to zig when they zag. Act upon the results discovered by drawing attention to your packaging with structures that break the shelf. Breaking the shelf, is when your competition has flat fronted boxes and you design an angled box, a jar, or create a custom shape to break the flat planes of the competitive shelf. When your product is surrounded by white minimalist packaging, it’s time to incorporate color and bold graphics. Be different, that’s the value you bring to the market.

Kellog’s decided to break the shelf by executing a packaging design language that simplified the insanity of the cereal aisle. By creating a similar feel with a central focus point across their products. Kellog’s has essentially launched a billboard in an aisle known of color, characters, and utter confusion.

Capture consumer’s attention through design. Direct consumers to engage with your brand’s packaging through subtle cues to action.

Packaging Must Engage Consumers

Unboxing is the engaged process in which a product is freed from its protective packaging. In order to engage with consumers you have to understand who they are, why they’re buying your product, and what they’re not getting from the competition’s unboxing. This insight will allow you apply graphics and create well-timed key messaging opportunities with consumers. What are well-timed messaging opportunities? Professional packaging designers will map the user experience identifying where consumer’s eyes will land at each phase of the unboxing. By mapping the steps in the unboxing you can determine the appropriate position for messaging, branding, and regulatory.

Wine brand 19 Crimes claims that every bottle has a story. Consumers engaged the criminals depicted on the labels with their phones to watch them come alive and tell their own tales. With over 1 million views collectively on Youtube, 19 Crimes shows how to engage consumers by doing something different in your industry.

Address the concept of ‘what’s in it for them’ within the first two interactions with your packaging. ‘What’s in it for them’ can range from surprise and delight, to inform and educate.

Packaging Must Connect & Communicate with Consumers

Communication IRL requires few things, know who you’re speaking to, delivery method, and having a point. Communicating with consumers via packaging is no different. Knowing your target audience is a given, you have to know if you’re speaking to a child, an adult, brazen, timid, etc… and of course you have to have a point, a call to action, branded message, subscribe, something worth saying that benefits the reader and builds your brand. Communication isn’t always language based you can communicate through texture, color, and imagery. The most important thing in communication is to know what you are trying to convey and then making a plan as to how you will make that point deploying all the tools in your arsenal.

Men’s grooming brand Harry’s deploys nostalgia and fun with their new Mystery Item packaging. Knowing their target audience is men of a certain age, they can deduce that a large portion has encountered baseball cards, bazooka Joe bubblegum, and are familiar with comic strip illustrations. Harry’s packaging takes the consumer through a 5 panel adventure culminating in the discovery of the mystery item inside. The nostalgic aspect to the design, the heightened sense of anticipation, and personal discovery of the item all work to bridge a deeper connection to the brand.

The more mass market your product, the more important it is to communicate with consumers.

Gone are the days of delivering multiple layers of unboxing, now are the days of delivering an unobstructed hero product presentation with sustainable material selections.

Packaging Must Deliver a Memorable Out of Box Experience

OOBE or Out of Box Experience begins the moment you commit to opening your pack. The term originally referred to what happens after the product has been unpacked and plugged in, “out of the box” after it’s been removed. But today the term has been adopted by brands to include the unboxing of the product from the packaging.

Creating a unique first-use experience begins in the box and how it is opened. Delivering an organized way finding helps to inform consumers of all ages how to assemble, how to return, and what to do next. A memorable experience begins with fit and proportion, limit the number of packaging elements to a minimum. People buy for product not for packaging. Use color to compliment the product, remember the product is the hero and packaging is there to compliment it. Remember that it’s always on-brand to design with fewer materials and make sustainable choices.

In the instance of Apple, the 3 second delay due to the vacuum created when the lid separates from the base develops a branded moment of anticipation. The product is revealed and ready to go, what happens after it has been unboxed is the start of a beautiful friendship with a product. But in those 3 seconds Apple has engrained in the client how everything should work from this point forward. Smoothly.

Take Away

These 4 easy to follow Principles to Effective Packaging Design will insure your pack stands out and creates a memorable consumer experience. Packaging must compete, engage, communicate, and deliver a memorable out of box experience.

What a memorable unboxing experience is will depend on your product, your brand’s demographic, and the context of each user’s unboxing. A .99¢ chocolate bar vs a $10 bean to bar chocolate will have a very different consumer expectation, as will a $39.95 set of headphones vs a $495.00 pair. Material selection, color choices, and product fit are all critical in creating unique packaging design. These 4 Principles are a great place to start and measure your packaging’s effectiveness.

Evelio Mattos - Creative Director

Named “One of the 200 Best Packaging Designers” by Lurzer’s Archive, and Graphic Design USA's "Designers to Watch", Evelio is an industry recognized packaging design expert. He's a creative producer known for strategically bridging package design and sustainability, with flawless manufacturing. Evelio’s passion for designing and engineering memorable unboxing experiences for global brands and consumers, can be seen in his creative collaborations with some of the world's most sought after brands.

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