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5 Secrets to Great Packaging Design

April 13, 2017

We’ve all heard the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but when it comes to package design, consumers spend approximately seven1 seconds making their purchase decision, and those decisions are based on looks, so it’s imperative to make sure yours stands out.

But how? Here are five things to consider for creating an effective package design:

1 – Know the brand 
Like any form of communication, relaying information in a way that’s consistent with your brand makes the communication more on point, more compelling and ultimately more effective. The product name, the font selection, the overall look and feel and how your product differentiates itself from the competition is all about brand. In an environment where products are commoditized, it’s important to understand your brand so you can leverage it properly and articulate it in a way that creates stopping power.

Three Brothers Wineries & Estates’ high-end line of wines needed a package design that conveyed a level of sophistication


2 – Know your customers 
Are they old, young, male, female? Are they familiar with your brand and loyal to it, do they shop based on price? The more you know, the better. What words motivate them, what buzz words resonate with them, do they buy the product based on function or aesthetics? A good understanding of who is buying your product and what their motivations are will aid in the design and communication process to make sure your product not only grabs attention on the shelf, but also conveys information in a way that best connects with your potential customers.

Predominantly a female audience, Bombshell hard cider featured pin-up girls to pay off the product’s name and reach both women who aligned with the Rosie the Riveter cultural icon, as well as men


3 – Consider how it will be sold and displayed
Package design is changing. The days of having a product on a shelf where you can touch it, feel it, read every word and compare it to the competition is now blurred with having a product online with one front view. Whether it is the traditional retail model or the new online one, packaging needs to communicate from several distances. How will your product communicate from across the aisle, what will get attention when your product is displayed as a group? When customers stop and view your product from several feet away, what will entice them to pick up your package vs. a competitor? When they pick up yours to learn more, what information is going to convince them to buy? This traditional model changes with online sales and gives way to what communicates effectively in a smaller image online.

Three Brothers Wineries & Estates’ 4 Degrees of Riesling needed to quickly educate from a distance, but also provide a more in-depth explanation of the product when viewed up close


4 – Know its purpose
The main purposes of packaging are to protect a product and brand it. But it serves other uses, as well. Are you heavily marketing and advertising your product? If so, it should be quickly recognizable on a shelf. If not, perhaps your product needs to be more educational and differentiated to command more attention on the shelf. Your packaging can also drive consumers to learn more about your other products or your company mission and beliefs. And with new nutritional label regulations and a more health-conscious society, the role of packaging is quickly becoming more informational with nutrition-related callouts like “gluten free” prominently featured.

5 – Be aware of production limitations
Finding production partners and designing to your printer’s specifications can make the packaging process more effective and less costly. Such partners can show you new materials and printing techniques and educate you on what is and is not possible. And what might be considered a minor point could actually be a major one down the line when your product is being mass produced. Knowing key pieces of information, like whether the colors you’re choosing for your design will print well on your packaging material is crucial. It’s also important to have your packaging files created and released to your printer error-free in their desired format, and labeled with the correct version names to avoid costly reprints.

A company like Wegmans Food Markets has thousands of products, many of which come in multiple sizes with slight packaging variations to distinguish important product features like organic, gluten-free, etc.


1: Business Insider

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