May 14

10 ways to improve your package design

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Featured | Typography | Uncategorized

Package design is no doubt a multi-diciplinary occupation. To succeed you need knowledge in many fields of activities. Here is a summary of the ten most important.

1. Understand the consumer
To find out what the consumer likes or wants, first of all think of yourself. What would you like ? A pack easy to open, a back panel text easy to read, a brand you trust, a clear product denomination, a pack easy to hold in your hands and easy to dispose of or recycle ? It is not more complicated. Forget buzz-words like insight or focus groups, just use your own intelligence and common sense! With this you will get at least 80% right and that is more than enough to achieve great packaging.

Packages are first of all designed with the consumer in mind, secondly only for the trade, the legislator or the boss.

2. Understand the meaning of simplicity
The person who best formulated this was Coco Chanel some 80 years ago when she coined the now famous phrase : “Always reduce, never add” and the architect Mies van der Rohe who also coined the often repeated, but seldom followed sentence : “Less is more !” Enough said. There is no doubt too much (useless) information on today’s packages.

3.  Understand positioning
Call it what you like : genetic code, DNA, spirit, core value, brand essence, big idea, etc., a package design must strengthen the idea behind a brand (or product). There must  be a synergy effect. A package design is always part of total communication and has therefore to be in line with the abovementioned idea or positioning. The idea must be simple and powerful.

4.  Understand hierarchy
There is always something that is the most important. It is very rare that two things matter the same, especially in package design. The responsible person for a package, be it the Marketing Director, the Big Boss or the Technical Director must be able to make a hierarchy list to follow for those who develop the package design. This is very seldom done and therefore the final result becomes ‘a little of everything’ which is equal to bad packaging.

It is obvious that nutritional information is the key information on a product like an infant formula milk for a newborn baby while for a teen-ager chewing gum an advice like “don’t smoke” would be the best choice.

5.  Understand legislation
This is the area where things often ‘go wrong’ as we do not make a difference between a must (i.e. a legislative decision) and a guideline or rule or best practice. Furthermore, a law can be interpreted in more than one way. For instance, does the front panel on a carton mean only the front or also the side panels ? It all depends upon which angle you hold the pack. In order to not fall into the trap of printing ‘almost everything’ which means small illegible texts, ask yourselves obvious questions like ;

  • • does the consumer really need this information?
  • • does this information help to sell more ?
  • • is the information understood ?
  • • does the consumer really need a GDA on a can of CocaCola or a small bag of peanuts, and what about the carbon foot print (CO2 emission)

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

6.  Understand material
Have you ever held in one hand a can of juice and in the other a carton pack (Tetra, Combibloc or Purepak) fresh from the fridge ? Well, do it once and you will understand why the aluminium or steel cans feel colder. One of the first decisions to take when developing a new package is what material or which material conbination should be chosen to best express the uniqueness of the product inside. It is just common sense that carton packages with transparent windows have today become very popular as most consumers want to see what they buy. Even paperbags have today a transparent window.

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

7.  Understand layout
There is a deep rooted syndrome among most marketing people. It is called ”the upper left hand corner syndrome” as marketing executives believe that a package is seen as a book and that one has to start ‘up left’ with the corporate brand. Nothing could be more wrong. A package design can have ANY layout. It is the product idea that dictates the layout and visual impact that should be achieved.

The French MAGGI “Panier de légumes” soup sachets are good examples. The layout could not be better. It has a 3D layout starting on top with the ingredients, a clear product denomination in the middle and a soup ladle at the bottom.

However, I will never understand what the text “Energy 83 kcal, 3 servings, etc.” has to do on the front panel. This type of information should be on the back leaving more space for the real call-to-action sales message which is “riche en fibres, vitamines et légumes” (in this order).

8.  Understand ecology
Today we are ‘bombarded’ with nutritional messages often too complicated to be understood by the average consumer. At the same time we learn about global warming, the dangers of CO2 and the depletion of the ozon layer. Would it not be a good idea to use the packages to educate the consumers about ecology (not only recycling!) and how we all, by changing our life style, could participate to make this Earth an even better place ?

9.  Understand 3D
A full-fledged package designer cannot be only a graphic designer. He or she must fully understand shapes, forms and how to achieve them.

A thin corrugated shipper needs a strong rigid retail package and vice versa. A great and interesting point-of-sale unit can work marvels even with a rather simple retail package. Before starting a package design project decide where to put your money !

10.  Understand total packaging, i.e. the SYNERGY effect
Until this day when I am writing these lines, after more than 40 years in package design, I have never been at a meeting where all of the following responsible persons were present :

  • • project leader (normally a brand or product manager);
  • • package designer;
  • • technical packaging engineer;
  • • advertising account executive or, even better, thecreative director;
  • • legal adviser;
  • • someone representing the trade.

As mentioned above total packaging is both a marketing and technical issue. It is a matter of retail package, display unit and shipper as well as taking the key decision up-front as to what the main visuals should be (form, colours, logotype, etc.) to be communicated through all packaging and media !

To do this is not an easy task. I therefore often say : “Do not wish it were easier, wish we were better !”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses



Leave a Reply

Packaging Sense by  wordpress themes