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The Dos & Don’ts of Good Packaging Design

The Dos & Don’ts of Good Packaging Design

Graphic design
March 23, 2022
8 minutes

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Are you still slapping a sticker on a cardboard box and calling it a day? Then you’re ignoring a powerful marketing tool. Tap into the potential by learning all about the dos and don’ts of good product packaging design.

If you’re browsing through products and find a box that doesn’t clearly state what it is, would you buy it? Or if you bought an expensive cream but the flacon leaks, would you purchase it again? Chances are you switch to the competitor with better packaging in a heartbeat.

Whether it’s the box your favorite cereal comes in or the tub that holds your moisturizer, the exterior of a product is important.

Packaging is a creative medium that fulfills many roles. From identification and protection to marketing, things in this dynamic field get complicated fast.

In this article, we’ll go over the following:

  • What is packaging design?
  • How important is packaging design?
  • The process of packaging design
  • Tips on how to create a product packaging that sells

Let’s grab the bull by the horns and start with the definition.

What is packaging design?

Packaging design is the process of creating the exterior of your product. It’s more than just a practical tool. It’s an often-overlooked marketing asset that engages potential buyers through multiple senses.

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How important is packaging design?

Effective packaging design makes the exterior protective, attractive, informative, and different.

  • Protection - The main function of product packaging is protecting the product. It should make transport easy and sit on shelves of a store nicely. So naturally, you want your packaging to be sturdy and reliable.
  • Attraction - With an attractive exterior, you grab your audience’s attention, which is pretty crucial, considering the thousands of products on shelves you’re competing with.
  • Information - What’s in the box, how do you use it, and who is it for? Product packaging should inform potential buyers what to expect from the product inside.
  • Differentiation - You don’t want to be just another product disappearing in the endless sea of options. The outside of your product is where you can get creative and show that you’re different from other similar products.

Your product package not only holds power to be a dealbreaker in the buying process of potential customers. With effective product packaging design, these are the other opportunities:

Create a solid first impression

Anyone in marketing knows that first impressions count. Your packaging is the first chance you have to win customers over, whether that’s on a shelve or on eCommerce websites.

Support your brand identity

Your brand tells a unique story - one that you can enhance with your product packaging design. Display elements like your logo and your brand’s color palette to make potential buyers recognize you.

Communicate with your customers

Apart from creating a solid first impression and showing off who you are as a brand, you can grab the undivided attention of a potential buyer. And in our fast-paced environment, that’s a luxury you want to take advantage of.

What should they know about the product they’re holding in their hands? With the packaging, you have a unique opportunity to convey your message.

The process of packaging design

Creating the exterior of your product is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, you now know how important the exterior of your product can be. These are the stages of product packaging design:

Do your research

Before jumping into things, there are a few questions you have to answer.

1. What is the product you’re selling?

It may sound like we’re kicking in an open door here, but it should be your main consideration. Specify the measurements of your product, what it’s made of and whether that affects certain materials. Obviously, you wouldn’t put any liquids in a cardboard box. And if you have perishable items, you may want to consider insulating packaging.

2. Who is buying your product?

Design packaging with your ideal customer in mind since that’s the person you want to appeal to most. If you have an established brand identity, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

3. How are people purchasing your product?

Is your product sent across the globe? Then you want to consider sturdy packaging that keeps stuff from rattling around. Or maybe it’s sold in your nearest boutique? In that case, eye-catching visuals are more important.

Is it crystal clear what you’re selling, to who, and how? Then you can move forward to the next phase.

Understand the layers

Depending on your product, you may need one or all layers of product packaging: outer packaging, inner packaging, and product packaging.

The outer packaging is the first thing your customers will see. Think about the shopping bag your product is put in at the store or the box it’s shipped in.

The inner packaging keeps your product nestled in the outer packaging, like a box that holds a scented candle or a vacuum-sealed bag to preserve freshness.

The product packaging is directly on the actual product, like the labeled bottle of your favorite skincare.

Pick the right type

From a simple cardboard box to a vacuum-sealed bag or a glass bottle. Picking out the right type of packaging can be a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s not. Consider your budget, the type of product you’re selling, and check out your competition.

On the one hand, picking a unique packaging type can help you stand out from the crowd. Like socks in a can. But on the other hand, it could cause implications or add unnecessary costs.

Printing possibilities

You can have the most unique, creative idea for your packaging, but if a printer can’t create the design, it will remain just an idea. That’s why it’s essential to consider the limitations early in the process.

Connect with a printing company to discuss your design and see what’s possible. This way, you’ll avoid hiccups along the way.

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Create information hierarchy

Especially if you’re an established brand, you may be the proud owner of a witty tagline, cool action shots, raving testimonials, and multiple logo options.

Sure, the odd customer may look at your elaborate description, but most consumers will only notice one thing. What do you want that one thing to be?

Pick one thing that’s the centerpiece of your design. Your brand name, a product picture, anything you want to reel people in with. Then, create a hierarchy in your design with 2 to 3 other elements to seal the deal.

Evaluate your design

Now that you’ve got the fundamentals to base your design upon, it’s time to evaluate your plan. A great way to do this is by creating a mockup or a 3D design of your product packaging.

With your 3D version, ask yourself the following:

  • Is it clear what product I’m selling?
  • How does the product look compared to competitors?
  • Is the packaging an honest representation of the product inside?
  • How will the product look in stores?
  • Is it clear who the intentional buyer is?

Collect feedback

Before running off to your nearest printing company, make sure to run your design by your actual audience. Consider both people who know your product and people who have never heard of your product.

Being zoomed in on your design for an extended period may cause you to overlook certain details. Ask your audience questions to determine whether your design is effective. If it’s not, you may want to consider going back to the drawing board.

Tips on how to create a product packaging that sells

Hopefully, you’re already getting excited to create the best packaging design for your product and appeal to the masses. Here are some design tips to set you up for success.

Consider all available space

There are many creative ways to utilize the available space of your packaging. Of course, you shouldn’t overcrowd your design. But showing the inside of your box some love, for example, can turn your design from mundane to upscale.

Take a look at the holographic interior for these macaroons, courtesy of Anagrama Studio.

macaroons packaging design.png

Learn how to create a stunning visual brand

Pick your plan

Complement the product

Are you selling a natural product? Design packaging in a way that represents and complements this feeling.

Below is an example of an eco-friendly product with eco-friendly packaging, designed by Fulya Kuzu.

toothbrush packaging design.jpg

Play with senses

People will physically touch your product, so why not make it feel interesting? You’ll utilize their sense of touch and leave a lasting impression.

This bamboo packaging of rice by Praewarin Bussayajirapong is not only sustainable, it also utilizes the sense of touch.

bamboo rice packaging design.png

Show don’t tell

Instead of describing elaborately what your potential buyer is holding in their hands, show off a little by adding a see-through element in your design.

This granola bag design gives you a sneak peek of what you’re buying, created by invade design.

granola bag packaging design.jpg

Use a sense of humor

Got the opportunity to make customers chuckle? Use it! Make your packaging fun to look at. Use the product itself, as artist Simon Laliberté did with paintbrushes, or scribble in a little joke at a surprising spot.

paintbrushes packaging design.jpg

Limit the resources used

In short: packaging costs money. If you don’t need excessive packaging, don’t use it.

These soap bars only have a small piece of paper wrapped around them. Still, it’s instantly clear what you’re looking at. Designed by Arthur Borsokov.

soap bar packaging design.png

Consider the experience

A good unboxing experience is so satisfying. The simple act of layering your packaging can add that luxury aspect to your product.

This chocolate box folds open and then slides out, making this a great example of both an experience as well as a minimalistic design. Via Behance.

chocolate box packaging design.png

Don’t fret minimalism

Sometimes, simplicity is key. A minimalistic packaging style shows you have faith in your product and give a simple yet elegant look.

Final thoughts

Need a bit more packaging inspiration? Here are 40 more creative packaging design ideas. Or feel free to give it a rest if your head is spinning after all this information. The options are endless when it comes to designing packages; that is one thing that’s for sure.

Design packaging correctly, and it can become what ultimately sells your product. Spend a little time and effort to give your brand the professional looks it deserves, and stay on top of your game!

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Guest Writer: Simone Timmers

March 23, 2022

Simone is a writer, dividing her time between native Netherlands and 'home away from home' Malawi. Whenever not stringing words together, she's either on her yoga mat or exploring any off the beaten track she can find.