Since 1974, we’ve developed more than 20,000 packaging designs. We in Rotterdam don’t like to brag, but we really do have huge experience in this area.
And what kind of people would we be if we didn’t share that with you.So here are our 15 tips for good packaging design.
Good packaging is more than just attractive; the ultimate goal is to entice your primary target group to buy – and keep buying – your product. And that might not be the same as the personal preferences of the marketer and designer. Thinking like the consumer in our packaging design has made Harlekijntjes the best-selling liquorice in the Netherlands.
The average supermarket has between 10,000 and 20,000 packaged products on its shelves, from the nondescript to the iconic. Truly good packaging is iconic, with its own, recognizable ‘face’. It is unique and based on a big idea, giving it bold character and a soul. Like the coffee packaging that we designed for Fair Trade Original.
For more and more brands, packaging is the primary channel for communicating with consumers, making packaging a Brand Design instrument for brand association too. Obviously, the brand logo needs to stand out and the packaging needs to fit in perfectly with other brand touch points, such as the website, special offers, shop materials, etc. Good packaging is good for brand association and a stronger brand. And the other way around, the brand does the same for the packaging.
Good packaging design strikes the perfect balance between shelf appeal and a design that feels great in your hand. The aim of shelf appeal is to ensure that the packaging stands out among the other packaging on the shelf. And communicates its attractive offer in a split second. In other words: to scream ‘grab me’ with a clear promise. And you can devise a good ‘block strategy’ to boost that shelf appeal even more.
Next, hand feel must communicate the product’s relevance, value or function in a subtler way. Rather than screaming, this time the packaging talks to the customer: ‘Put me in your shopping cart and take me home; I’m worth it.’ This can be achieved through the quality of the photography, the packaging material (thick, mat, white plastic feels different than paper or cardboard) and special printing like die-stamp or metallic colours.
Products are increasingly sought out and purchased online. The packaging in many web shops is often too small or not displayed at all. That’s a pity, because that’s what special interactive 3D online packaging is for: to give consumers a ‘feel’ for a product or brand online. We as a modern packaging design agency take account of that from the very beginning of every new packaging design project.
Some brands like to turn their packaging into a present. Apple has been doing it for years now, as can be seen in all those unboxing videos on YouTube. Sometimes packaging can have an extra entertainment function, such as when it can be displayed in the kitchen or on the table or can be given to children to take to school. This is where a fun character and a comic strip can work wonders.
Packaging is the ideal owned medium for telling the story of your brand or product to millions of consumers a year. Since that takes place within the context of enjoying the product, the text also becomes extremely believable and can be positively linked to the brand. In some product categories, like pet food, a person’s love of their pet can really boost their need for extra information about the product and its ingredients.
Strong brands are relevant, differentiating and credible, and that’s what good packaging design communicates. So rather than stating every imaginable USP, focus on what’s important to your target group in purchasing and using the product. The trick is for the packaging to communicate this clearly in pictures and text, like in our packaging design for Tomorrow’s Kitchen.
Horizontal connections show us the similarities and differences in a range of packaging for different products within the same brand. Is the brand like a family of brothers and sisters who look alike or is it more akin to cousins with bigger differences? And then there’s the vertical hierarchy: the order of ranking between the visual elements. For example, first you see the logo, followed by the product name and product photo and then the additional information and maybe some marks of quality.
People are increasingly concerned – and rightly so – about the huge amount of packing material used today. Our advice is to see whether we can make do with less of it. What’s the point of packaging something in a pouch, inside a shrink-wrapped product box, inside a carrying box?
There is a growing supply of sustainable packing materials, such as with biodegradable plastic film or green inks. BTM is certified in accordance with ISO 14001 (CSR and environmental management) and is happy to provide inspiration and advice in this area.
The average packaging has a life of three to five years, after which it often has to be restyled to keep it fresh and differentiating. Sometimes you as a marketer will take the initiative; at other times you will be forced to do it because your competitors have introduced a new design, successfully. But how far should that new visual step go? Evolution or revolution? We always aim for the ideal balance between modernization and recognition, so you can attract new users without losing your existing customers.
Packaging design that’s hard to produce will never be successful. So if you want to succeed, your digital file for the printer’s has to be perfect. It’s not always necessary to print in lots of PMS colours. And perhaps the printing plates can be used for multiple products (it can save you tens of thousands of euros!). This makes the design agency’s expertise and experience in printing techniques crucial. Just like its knowledge of legal aspects such as minimum body height, mandatory warning symbols, etc. With 43 years of experience in packaging design, BTM knows more than anybody what you need to get it right.
Good packaging design can be used for years, making the money spent on packaging design and development not so much an expense (for a year) as a long-term investment. Which is why smart businesses and marketers spare no expense on development, the quality of the photography and choice of packaging material. It always pays off in the end in the form of stronger shelf appeal and a design that feels better in your hand.
The more functions that packaging can fulfil, the more successful it will be. Packaging design can promote many different functions: