Wandering aimlessly aisle by aisle, something catches
your eye. It sparks interest; it captures your attention
for that brief moment when curiosity kicks in. It is
just enough motivation to make you turn around
and pick it up. After examining it, you decide this
product fits in your life. You love it. You need this
product. So you buy it. What is this series of events
called? I refer to it as “the power of packaging.”
Unlike other areas in graphic design, packaging
is the direct physical link between the brand and the
consumer. While package design is often considered
a niche area, the truth is it has never been so relevant
in the design field, and so vital in the marketplace.
Essential in today’s weak economy, the role of welldesigned
packaging is ever increasing. Companies
are relying on the package more and more to sell the
product, to give their business a competitive advantage
from competitors, to stand out on the mountain
range that is the store shelf.
Ultimately, packaging is one of the most important
factors that determine a product’s success or
failure at the retail level. Packaging matters because
consumers really do respond to well-designed wrapping—and that translates into sales.
Well-designed packaging is not more successful
because it is pretty or because it looks cool. It’s
because the thought, concept, ideas and elements
designed into the package have the power to directly
trigger the emotions of the consumer; it’s what
makes someone fall in love with a product, or even
hate it. Great packaging adds more than just monetary
value to a product—it adds emotional value.
It’s that emotional connection that convinces a consumer
to buy your product.
So what can you do to ensure your packaging
is a success? First, analyze your competitors. Learn
why their products have success on the shelf, how
the consumer responds to them and how they can be improved. While it is crucial to find out what your
competitors do, it is more important to find out
what they don’t do.
You must consider whether a reason exists for
why competitors do things a certain way. Why do they
always use that same bottle shape? The same colors?
A certain size? Find that out now, before beginning
any initial package designs, as this will lead to fewer
problems in the future. Also, by examining where your
competitors are lacking, you can be sure your packaging
grabs attention, rather than blending in. Don’t
mimic the competition. What’s the point if everything
looks the same?
So how do you differentiate your packaging?
How will it be unique? What will be so special
about it? There are myriad ways to differentiate your
designs. Here are some of the most important, timetested
methods, as well as the most popular factors in
the packaging world today:
Uniquely shaped packages are a great way to make
your product get noticed. Packaging with a distinct
shape has a certain quality that makes you want to
pick it up and play with it.
Sweet’s award-winning twist packaging has made a
big impact in stores. Utah Paper Box, the paper box
supplier for the candy, and the creative shop Struck
partnered to create the clever look. The box has two
ends that twist, mirroring the twist ends of the taffy
inside. Who wouldn’t want to take one for a spin?
A new entry into the crowded bottled-water market,
Y Water certainly raises questions. Y is a vitamin-enriched,
low-calorie water with flavors such as
Muscle Water, Brain Water and Bone Water. The playful bottles—designed by Yves Behar—actually
double as toys; they can be locked into crazy structures
that communicate the concept of the ingredients
within the bottles being the building blocks of
Lil’ Bowl Blu and Le Scrub hit store shelves this
year. The packaging—designed by Method’s inhouse
team—features some clever and innovative
design. Le Scrub’s packaging is highly functional
with the top of the bottle serving as the storage
space for the included cleaning pad. Lil’ Bowl Blue,
the company’s first toilet-bowl cleaner, is designed to
both be functional and make cleaning the toilet as
fun as possible.
MAKE IT FUNCTIONAL
Factoring the intended use of the product into the
packaging can turn something ordinary into something
Activate is a new health beverage just launched in
Southern California. The drink’s vitamins are stored
as powder in a chamber inside the cap. When you
twist the cap clockwise, a small plastic blade cuts
the seal in the chamber. Simultaneously, a small
armature opens the chamber, allowing the ingredients
to drop into the water below. Vitamins and
other healthy ingredients deteriorate sitting in water.
Storing the ingredients separately inside the cap
keeps them fresh until the moment they’re released, for maximum potency. All aspects of the brand
were designed and developed by Denver- and Los
All in hand
K2 Sports has recently launched a new line of suncare
products designed for outdoor sports. The
packaging features molded grips for one-handed use
in active conditions. The goal behind the packaging—designed by BoomBang—is to be functional
in the outdoors, thus encouraging young men to
become proactive in protecting their skin.
BREAK WITH TRADITION
Just because it is always done a certain way, doesn’t
mean it has to be. Mix it up a bit.
Before Grain, a new line from Merrick Pet Foods—designed by 29 agency—breaks with tradition in the
category by not only having sleek, matte black packaging,
but by also not using images of animals on
the packaging and relying solely on typography.
Hit the pot
The design firm biz-R has recently completed a
naming, brand-direction and packaging project
for U.K.-based Clive’s new “Pot of ” range of fresh
organic meals. “Our approach
was to challenge packaging design in this market,
currently saturated with uninspiring international
brands and bland own-label products, and through
distinct differentiation, to assist Clive’s as they expand and diversify their product range,” says Blair
Thomson, creative director at biz-R.
MAKE YOUR PACKAGING PREMIUM
Bring it up a level. Make it refined. You can easily
elevate any basic product and turn it into something
extraordinary, all through packaging.
Est unus modus verus
The classic-style crest for Right Gin is composed
of everything from stags, Socrates, a crown and a
motto that translates to “there is a right way.” Right
Gin packaging was designed by Walton Issacson.
The packaging by Duffy & Partners for the Kimono
Rose line by Thymes pairs pastel patterns and flower
illustrations to draw consumers’ attention.
Make your packaging humorous. The cliché “a
little humor goes a long way” is certainly true in the
world of packaging. It’s a great icebreaker between
the product and the consumer, so throw in a laugh.
Aromatherapy Interventions has created a line
of 19 candles to cover almost any need. Aromatherapy
has been long known to provide many
healing and therapeutic benefits, and Aromatherapy
Interventions pushes this concept to the extreme.
With candles such as Panic Attack, Unwedded
Bliss and Co-Dependent, they certainly have
Wash Away Your Sins by Blue Q is an
example of when the packaging is the product.
The company works with some of the world’s best,
as well as up-and-coming artists and designers,
and considers the packaging vital to the success
of the brand.
MAKE YOUR PACKAGING DO GOOD
Good for you. Good for the earth. Sustainable.
Ethical. Responsible. Whether it is sustainable packaging
or profits contributed to charity, the idea that
your packaging can do “good” seems to be gaining
Nothing to sneeze at
Traidcraft has recently launched a new line of recycled
tissues. Traidcraft is
a U.K.-based charity which was set up in 1979 to
help fight poverty in developing countries through
practice and promotional approaches. They build
lasting relationships with producers, work to bring
about trade justice and provide support to help
people get out of poverty. According to designer
Susie Blackburn, “Most recycled-tissue brands show
images of nature because that is what their products
are helping conserve. They can’t say anything else,
as they don’t do anything else. Traidcraft does a lot
more, and that is their point of difference. They
can say a lot more—this is why I designed the packs
using speech bubbles to communicate directly with
Green and clean
Clorox launched Green Works earlier this year
in order to craft a greener image. The products—designed in-house—are 99-percent natural and
are packaged in stock, recyclable bottles. “Our
brand-marketing team wanted a label design that
would create shelf-pop versus traditional cleaners and communicate the brand promise of ‘powerful
cleaning done naturally.’ … The Gerbera Daisy
design is a visual icon for what Green Works is
about: ‘Natural, Simple and It Works,’” according
to Clorox’s site.
Climate Change Chocolate, by Bloomsberry & Co, is an eco-conscious
approach to the chocolate bar. Bloomsberry teamed
up with TerraPass, a green energy broker. The chocolates’
wrappers have 15 tips on how to reduce your
carbon footprint on the environment, and each bar
has included in the sale price enough carbon-energy
credits from TerraPass to offset the carbon footprint
of one person for one day.
MAKE IT WORK
Whichever direction you choose, keep in mind
the time and effort you invest into your packaging
really does pay off. It is all about conveying a message
and a viewpoint, not simply just what looks
good. Your choices as a designer directly impact
not only the sales of the product, but the hearts and
minds of consumers.