When it comes to developing a product, two thoughts that come to mind are: meeting the needs of the consumer, as well as capturing their attention in a sea of competition. This is where package design becomes crucial. Packaging presents an opportunity; messaging ends up straight in the consumer’s hand, and often their home, where it becomes a constant reminder of that product or brand. Below are some tips and questions to ask yourself when producing a great package.
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Packages perform as vehicles for direct communication between brands and consumers, and should answer questions such as:
- What is the product?
- What are the benefits of using the product?
- What is unique about the product?
Packaging is often considered the last advertisement a potential buyer will see before making a purchase. Use graphic design to speak to how the customer should feel with color, typography, texture, and messaging. Consider the design of an Apple package. Each component is arranged with care, making smart use of the space inside. The clean white boxes ensure the focus is on the product itself. Written messaging gets out of the way and product photos dominate the front of the packages. The tech is the star here. Each part of the inner package is considered; from the way cords are wrapped to the origami-esque components that hold instruction manuals. Each choice speaks to how Apple wants their product to be received by the customer: important, good quality, smart, and well designed.
Good design lives at the intersection of creativity and functionality. Imagine a consumer carrying the product out of the store:
- How will the customer carry and purchase the product?
- How does your product fit into their life?
Packaging that can be carried, stored, and reused, functions to remind the customer of your brand and its value in everyday life. Quality components make lasting impressions, especially if a branded component of the package becomes part of their experience with the product itself.
How does the packaging feel in the hand? Weightiness, often psychologically, communicates higher quality. Choose a material that is pleasant to touch. It encourages customers to hold it longer. The longer they hold it, the greater the feeling of psychological ownership. This can help motivate the customer to purchase an item.
What do the competitor’s products look like? Does your product stand out without alienating the consumer? If multiple competitors are already using flashy colors and graphics, a product may actually stand out with a neutral palette and minimal design elements. It’s helpful to take visual stock at real stores to determine your competitors’ aggregated color stories and how your product will fit into that landscape. Is there a story missing from the spread? Does your product fill that gap? Be sure to tell your audience why you’re using thoughtful package design.
Packaging advertises a brand’s values. Audiences seek alignment with brands they purchase from. The ever-rising popularity of green products (which often purport sustainable practices, using recyclable/recycled materials, or using natural ingredients) is a reflection of this desire for shared values. It is also common to advertise other ethical choices such as:
- Workers’ conditions
- Whether you test on animals
- Political stances
These values can be advertised directly on the box to make you stand out from the crowd. Even if your stance may be an unpopular one, an honest advertisement will keep loyal consumers. Consumers desire transparency and are alienated by inauthenticity.
Packaging also answers legal questions. When selling products such as medicine, there are regulations regarding what information must be present on the packaging, like dosage instructions or a list of active ingredients. Poorly designed packaging can cause unwanted consequences. For example, if two medicines have similar boxes, a user may grab the wrong box by mistake. Or, if you design a child-safe bottle, does the mechanism do its job in keeping the right people out?
Especially in the healthcare field, where your target audience may be older, further considerations should be extended to determine if the product is assessable to those people.
- Are your labels legible to those with visual impairments?
- Is the bottle easy to find and distinguish in the store?
- Are dosages easy to dispense?
Which stores will you sell the product in? Do those locations speak to the values that the brand purports? If you advertise sustainable, ethically-sourced products, selling products in a large discount department store might create dissonance with the target audience.
You should also consider the product’s location in the store itself, potentially using:
- Point of purchase displays - These provide more physical space to convey messaging to the customer, as well as helping your product to stand out significantly (as it will no longer be on the shelves next to the rest of the products). Point of purchase displays can also encourage impulse buys when strategically placed.
- Endcaps are another great way to boost visibility. They provide a platform for you to advertise items together that may not normally be near each other. Paired products present a convenience to the buyer. They might not bother to find alternatives. A good example of this is selling office supplies together that share an aesthetic theme.
Packaging is an extension of your brand experience. Opening a product can replicate the joy and curiosity felt upon opening a Christmas present. There are many social media avenues where people share their unboxing experiences on camera, such as Instagram and YouTube. These present an opportunity for your product to gain organic engagement and generate sales. In this instance, the wrapper is sometimes more important than what’s inside. An especially well-designed or unusual unboxing experience will encourage people to share their experience with others. It can be a great choice to develop an eccentric package if you seek to tap into audiences in this avenue.
As with most designs, the foundation of your choices should rest on their authenticity to your brand identity and messaging. Be sure to tell the consumer specifically what value your product offers to their lives before they even open the box.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).