4 Elements to Consider When Designing Product Packaging

Design product packaging

“You should never judge a book by its cover”, or so runs the popular advice. But there’s a reason that these words are so often-repeated; we often need to remind ourselves that first impressions aren’t everything. Whether we’re meeting a new person for the first time, or picking up an unfamiliar product, our natural drive to form a snap judgement is often irresistible.

Of course, the fact that so many of us are innate cover-judgers makes proper presentation essential – not only for book publishers, but for anyone looking to sell physical products of any sort.

Great packaging makes a promise that excites exactly the required audience. If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll already have formed a concrete idea of your target market and what they expect from your product. This information, if deployed in the right way, will help you to develop the sort of packaging that’ll attract repeat custom.

We’ve identified four elements that contribute to great packaging. Our focus has been on marketing considerations, here: the factors we’ll discuss are those that will attract new customers, rather than the practical ones that’ll keep your product intact (though, as we’ll see, there’s a little bit of overlap between the two.)

Our criteria are the colour, texture, shape of your box, bag or case, as well as the style and visibility of its most important marketing element: the logo. Let’s get started.

1. What Colour Should My Packaging Be?

Colours allow marketers to tap into an entire range of associations and emotions, and it’s the first thing your customers will notice when they clap eyes on the packaging.

If you decide that everything you produce should come in luminous orange, then you might put across that your brand is bold and uncompromising.

If you’re shipping children’s toys, power tools, or super-sour sweets, this might be desirable. If, on the other hand, you’re making highly-refined oak furniture, you might prefer to go for something a little subtler.

That’s not to say that you can’t defy your customer’s expectations. If every competing product is following a similar colour palette, then breaking from the norm might help yours to stand apart – and that might be exactly what’s required if you’re trying to break into a crowded market.

For example, KRK’s decision to make their speaker cones bright yellow ended up making their products unmistakable in a sea of blackness.

2. What Shape Should My Packaging Be?

The shape of your package will naturally impact the way it looks, but it’ll also have practical ramifications. If you’re shipping something irregularly shaped, you’ll often limit its ability to stack and add to your costs. But in some cases, this might be justified.

Some materials lend themselves to being re-shaped. The best example is probably glass – head down to the spirits aisle at your local supermarket, and you’ll find a varied assortment of shapes.

A bottle of Maker’s Mark looks entirely different from a bottle of Jack Daniels, and neither could be mistaken for a bottle of Grey Goose.

Even occasional drinkers would be able to tell these drinks apart if presented with them in silhouette – and bottle-shape thus represents an integral part of the branding of each.

It’s telling that when these sorts of products are shipped, they’re often crammed into cuboid boxes. Just think of the traditional crate containing six wine bottles in rows of three. This illustrates that you can play around with the shape of the product inside while still keeping things practical when you come to shipping.

3. How Should My Packaging Feel?

One aspect of a package that’s often overlooked is it’s texture. The way it feels when handled can, for better or worse, be tremendously impactful.

The visual nature of the internet only exacerbates this. Just think of the number of times you’ve looked at something on an online shop only to be surprised when it arrives.

Some types of good demand glossy packaging, while others can get away with simple cardboard. For example, when we order high-end electronics, we all tend to expect the same sort of high-colour card on the outside, with polystyrene on the inside.

Prestigious manufacturers like Apple might vary the formula a little with custom indentations and perfectly-shaped sleeves and manuals – but then, their products cost a great deal more than those of their competitors.

Products which are intended as gifts should, naturally, feel that little bit classier than their bog-standard counterparts.

In some cases, it might make more sense to go with plain brown envelopes and cardboard. If you want to get across to your customers that every last penny of the retail price has gone into the product itself, you might elect to shun fancy packaging in favour of a plain envelope or jar.

This is especially worthwhile if the product is consumable, as is the case with loose-leaf tea and home-made jams.

4. Should I Include a Logo on My Packaging?

If you don’t incorporate a logo prominently on your packaging, then you’re throwing away an invaluable opportunity to remind your customers of who you are and what you’re doing for them.

Your logo should be simple enough to be easily taken in and remembered, and yet distinct from the competition. You don’t need to make it enormous, just large enough to be noticed. Its role is to communicate everything that your business is about in a fraction of a second.

Ideally, your logo should provoke a little bit of excitement as your customer recognises the symbol and sees where the package is from – but you can only get to this stage if they already associate said symbol with the good things that your product can deliver.

This is achievable only after consistent, regular exposure. While it will be the product itself that ultimately ensures this association (you can’t get people excited over just anything), you can’t afford not to have your logo present every time they unpack – whether you’re selling marmalade, jewellery, a musical instrument, or anything else.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Laura McLoughlin of Printed Packs in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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