Good packaging is defined by more than just shelf appeal — it's also a science. In some cases, the package design may be considered even more important than the product itself. Here are 10 quick tips for packaging design, including basic criteria and utility rules to consider for all new package designs.
1. Fit Your Brand and Customer
Consider your target customer. What do they value? Where do they spend their time? For example, if you produce baby diapers, you're targeting parents. Match industry expectations — soothing color palettes, baby imagery, easy-to-read fonts — with your ideal customer's expectations. If your brand is all about being eco-friendly, merge that with your customers' existing expectations of pale greens and earthy tones with soft plant imagery and eco-friendly packaging materials.
2. Sell and Tell
Your product packaging should sell the product while telling your brand and target customers' stories. Let's return to the eco-friendly example. If you were an environmentally conscious shopper, would you be more likely to purchase a product from an "eco-friendly" brand wrapped in layers of plastic and nonrecyclable pieces or one sourced from sustainable and renewable recycled ingredients? Nuances aside, product packaging should tell the consumer your values so you can help them express their own.
3. Choose Colors and Fonts Carefully
All fonts in your logo, product description, instructions, ingredient labels and other written parts of your design should be easy to read from a glance and fit with your industry's expectations. You probably wouldn't use a fancy curved font on car part packaging, but you might consider it for a health and wellness product — as long as it's legible.
Although specific colors have positive and negative associations, warm hues generally radiate enthusiasm and energy, while cool colors are calming and harmonizing. Neutrals are ideal for backgrounds, as they don't draw attention to themselves and let your logo or images do the talking. Colors should enhance the packaging's message, not hinder it. For example, you wouldn't want to print packaging with navy blue text on a black background, or your message could get lost.
4. Be Honest
Packaging should showcase the product use and brand story and help the customer see how it will fit into their daily life, but you should never oversell or undersell to your consumer.
Overselling in packaging might look like bold claims printed on the side of a vitamin bottle or misleading statistics on a piece of exercise equipment. Underselling a product means the consumer can study the packaging in the shopping aisle for several minutes and might still be unsure why they should choose your product over one of equal or lesser cost on the same shelf.
5. Make Sure It Works Everywhere It Needs To
You're selling to the consumer, and your packaging should make it as easy as possible to choose your option over another. Packaging should always:
- Protect the product inside throughout shipping and transport.
- Be easy for the average customer to pick up, carry and open.
- Minimize small and complex parts or pieces.
Balancing practical packaging with visually appealing aesthetics is effective packaging design.
6. Fit the Package to the Product
You probably wouldn't package baby powder in a squeeze tube or put shampoo in a cardboard box — but you might package baby powder in a cardboard container with easy application holes and put shampoo in a water-resistant squeeze tube. Packaging can and should be eye-catching, but it should also make sense for the product inside.
7. Make It User-Friendly
In many cases, the packaging is the product, like with cleaning supplies. A bottle of window cleaner needs to have clear safety instructions and directions for use, but the nozzle or applicator should also consist of durable material that distributes the product evenly.
If product packaging is intentionally complex to protect the product inside or save space in the shipping container, include instructions for removing and assembling the item correctly.
8. Consider the Environment and Be Eco-Friendly
Half of participating consumers intentionally buy items with minimal or eco-friendly packaging, according to PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey. If you're advertising a product or brand as eco-friendly, avoid greenwashing — the term for companies jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon as consumer trends lean that way. Take the initiative to analyze all parts of your operation and packaging to minimize environmental damage.
Examples of eco-friendly packaging practices include:
- Choosing sustainable or recycled resources over single-use plastics.
- Minimizing how much unnecessary packaging is included.
- Using biodegradable materials.
- Including recycling or reuse instructions inside the packaging.
- Using nontoxic dyes and adhesives.
9. Preserve and Protect
Packaging should protect the contents inside from breaking, spilling, separating, falling out during shipping or getting damaged in any way. For some products, this might mean you need insulated linings and soft inserts, like packing peanuts or bubble wrap. For others, this could look like tiny ties holding electrical cords in place or sealed lids on liquids.
10. Make It Stackable and Stock-able
While the end-user is your priority during package design, don't forget the essential middle step — retailers. Your product should be easy for retailers to stock and display, meaning packaging shouldn't be in unusual or hard-to-fit shapes or be excessively large or small.
Conduct market surveys of your retail partners for better insight into improving your packaging design to appeal more to the customer and avoid in-store damage or confusion.
Contact QPSI for Effective Packaging Design
At QPSI, we have over 40 years of experience creating diverse solutions to solve our customers' marketing and design challenges. Contact us to learn how QPSI can deliver solutions for optimizing your package design!