Packaging design isn’t as simple as just creating an eye-catching concept; a successful product needs to be fit for purpose, safe and recognisable.
This requires the packaging process to be aligned with the rest of the business and wider trends, including consumer behaviour, regulations and marketing strategies.
While it represents a challenge, delivering products which tick all the boxes – while remaining visually appealing and cost-effective – businesses can begin projects on the right foot and avoid costly redrafts.
Here are five key considerations for your next packaging project:
#1 Understand consumer megatrends
The one ever-changing demand to contend with is consumer ‘megatrends’, which influence behaviours and buying decisions. First of all, these need to be identified and the be factored into a packaging project.
The trend for personalisation is growing year-on-year, following the success of campaigns from Coca Cola, Marmite and Function of Beauty to name a few. Turning everyday items into something unique and meaningful for the consumer and giving it the “shareability” factor is a clever way to stand out.
Shortening attention spans and information overload continues to drive another trend – minimalism. Minimalist packaging design sets brands apart from the crowd, dialling in on key aspects of brand identity and becoming instantly recognisable for consumers.
Inclusivity is also a global megatrend brands cannot afford to ignore. Creating packaging that’s intentionally accessible to all people – regardless of age, gender, disability or physical limitation – makes it universally appealing.
Eco-friendly packaging design is another trend with increasing demand. Consumers are ready to play their part by making smart and responsible purchasing decisions and packaging is a key arena in which sustainability can be realised, drastically reducing waste and driving behaviour change.
#2 Meet global needs
Historically, packaging reflected the values of the cultures within a distinct geographical region. However, with globalisation and mass branding, we’re shifting towards inclusive design, with regional differences disappearing.
Packaging design today must meet global needs while complying with regulations that can vary hugely between territories, particularly in the health and food sectors, and enduring cultural sensitivities.
Understanding these differences and how to tailor packaging (whether it’s through labelling or development) in the most efficient way possible is a vital step in the process.
#3 Nail your brand identity
Done right, packaging is a key marketing tool. Especially considering it may be the first exposure to your brand for consumers. It’s an opportunity to communicate brand identity and values, helping you differentiate from competitors and engage your target audience.
With packaging, first impressions count. So too does the experience of using the product, how it feels and performs.
Decorative techniques on primary packaging can help introduce your brand identity and values directly onto your product – such as etching (resulting in the loss of transparency on glass); metalisation (a metallic effect coating); hot stamping (a textured foil image); screen printing (durable ink transfers) and anodising (mechanically polished aluminium).
Value-added functionality – for example, providing water resistance, insulation, and added durability, or being reusable, child-resistant and easy-to-open and reseal – can give you the edge over competitors too, going above and beyond and allowing you to reach a higher price point.
#4 A safety-first approach
Packaging safety regulation exists to protect the public. Improper packaging can cause physical injury or illness, no matter the product.
There is a delicate balance to strike between ensuring child-resistant design while making packaging accessible for ageing populations.
Taking a safety-first approach is key in protecting consumers against physical and visual risks, making sure they are mitigated before investing time and effort in developing the aesthetic design of the product.
Development teams need to undertake comprehensive product and package risk assessments early on in any project’s timeline. This gives packaging developers and their partners time to understand and mitigate any hazards, working with the health and safety team to ensure compliance at every stage.
#5 Sustainable products
Sustainability is simply non-negotiable these days, with consumers now expecting businesses to play their part in the climate crisis as standard. However, producing green packaging presents its own challenges for design and development.
When it comes to the carbon footprint of a product’s packaging, it’s judged on the whole life cycle, from manufacture to waste.
From a sustainability perspective, it’s not just a matter of whether a product is recyclable or not. Every aspect of the design plays a role in making a product sustainable.
For example, the size of the packaging compared with its contents, the shape and how efficiently it can be transported, the materials it’s made from, how well it protects and delivers the product to the consumer, and what happens once it’s discarded.
Each point needs to be carefully considered during the design and development process to make sure packaging meets these eco-expectations without compromising on form or function.
Rich Quelch of global head of marketing at Origin.