Key ingredients for great packaging design

It might not seem like it at first, but every day packaging design influences the decision making process of millions of consumers. Making it every brand and designer’s dream to create a design that stays accurate, is resistant to shifting tastes and ultimately becomes a brand touchstone for generations.

But what is the key to creating that iconic packaging that will continuously beat the competition?

1: Less is more

We all know the old saying, “less is more” and it couldn’t be more true. Consumers are busy and don’t want to waste precious time comparing products. That’s why most iconic brands focus on a strong visual focal point that makes your brand, product, and packaging easy to remember. The key is to combine different fonts, colors, and illustrations without losing simplicity, clarity or consistency. So while your letting your creativity go wild, don’t forget to take a step back and reflect on whether or not your design might confuse consumers or detract attention. Afraid you might have overdone it? Take it to the test! Describe your brand to a five-year-old, send them in a store and if they can easily find your product, you’re on the right track to create a distinctive brand design.

2: Design with clarity

If you cannot figure out in less than 4 seconds what the product is for, it is unlikely you’ll make the purchase. The average consumer only dedicates a maximum of 4 seconds to a product before determining whether they will buy it. This means that the brand and benefits of the product should be clear with a 2 seconds glimpse. Good design is self-explanatory and makes the product talk. The typography should be easy to read and the color of the font should be compatible with the overall look of the packaging. You would think this is common knowledge, nonetheless, many products fail at having an effective design. Next time you go to a supermarket, take a glance at the products on shelf. You’ll probably notice a lot of products that clearly show the brand name but have a poor design. Or the other way around, the design is eye-catching but the product’s benefits are a complete mystery.

3: Make a product useful

Many businesses focus on the appeal but practicality is often overlooked. Looks are not the only thing consumers are after; ease of use and efficiency are also important. Good design makes a product useful while guiding users towards the needed interactions. The shape, size, and functionality of packaging are there to optimise the user friendliness of the product. Packaging can make sure that the product is easier to use, carry, and store at home. The product should always be able to sit on its own and fit within the average shelves in each household. Sometimes packaging can even have a second life, think about Babybel for example. Which kid hasn’t played with the red wax that wraps Mini Babybel? While the packaging mainly functions as cheese protection, it also happens to be an entertaining toy for kids, giving parents an extra incentive to choose for this particular cheese.

4: Pay attention to detail

Considering that the outside reflects the quality inside, the way your packaging feels and looks will go a long way in influencing purchases. Good design is thorough down to the last detail, nothing is left to chance, from the outer packaging to the appearance of the product once unwrapped. Every detail should match the brand positioning, including choosing the right materials that align with the brand image and the shelf impact the design will have. A great example of the effect that eye for details can have is Coca Cola. The signature flowing curves of the typography and bottle shape might seem random at first, but the whole bottle design is actually designed in such a way that your eyes automatically focus on the center of the words. This will subconsciously grab the attention and prompt consumers to pick up this specific product out of rows and shelves with the same or other items of the same group. Also make sure that the product is easy to remove from its packaging. Because afterall, the brand and product are judged on the total of all experiences. Think about a new pair of scissors for example. You tend to need a pair of unpackaged scissors already at hand to remove the thick plastic they are often wrapped in. Leading to big frustration, dissatisfied consumers and making it very unlikely that a repurchase will be made.

5: Be honest

Packaging should present the product in the best possible way, however, it is important to make sure consumers don’t feel mislead. Good design is honest. It reflects the product and doesn’t make a product more valuable than it really is or manipulates consumers with promises that cannot be kept. Although this might boost initial sales, consumers will feel cheated and mislead which will result in bad word-of-mouth advertising. Be honest, we’ve all experienced disappointment in buying a product and opening it to find something a little different from what the box showed, how many people did you tell about this? It’s very likely you told over 10 people who are now very unlikely to buy that product, talk about bad advertising. Even worse is that it will take 14 good experiences to overpower that one bad one. Disappointment is clearly something to avoid so when releasing a product, so make sure to be 100% honest about your products function and looks once it’s opened. Additionally, great packaging doesn’t just represents the product inside, but it also manages to adequately reflect the brands values and market position as well.

6: Make it environmental friendly

Sustainability is a trend that isn’t going away any time soon and tapping into it is definitely a must. Eco friendly packaging is not only the responsible move to make to reduce global warming and help improve the environment as a whole, but it will also gain the attention of a constantly growing environmental conscious clientele. Over 50% of shoppers are already more likely to choose a sustainable brand and they are willing to spend a bit more for environmentally friendly packaging. These numbers are expected to continue growing, which makes it a key factor when designing long-lasting packaging.

7: Tap into timeless values

Last but not least, great design doesn’t blindly follow passing trends but it taps into timeless values that trigger emotional engagement. It uses visual equities that focus on the brand and product but also make consumers feel something that transcends both time and cultures. It is often a design that may not seem revolutionary at first, but is memorable, unique, and can be used in a wide range of communication. Adding that timeless feel will help build an iconic status.

Although these seven tips might seem logical, you’ll quickly discover that combining everything while keeping it simple can feel somewhat paradoxical. Nonetheless, keep your eyes on the ball and you’ll end up with solid results. After all, if it were easy everyone would do it…


This blog is part of “The Magnificent Seven”, a series that explores the impact and influence of design with a weekly dose of must know. If you have any questions related to design, send a message to hello@reggs.com and we’ll write about it.