Packaging Design Trends to Look Out for in 2021

Packaging design trends to look out for in 2021

🎨 Packaging design trends to look out for this year
Packaging Design Trends on the Rise
Tiny Illustrated Patterns
Fine Art
Simple Geometry
Vintage Unboxing Experiences
Story-Driven Packaging
Ongoing Packaging Trends to Keep in Mind

2020 brought a lot of abnormalities to the way we shop for products and has carried over into 2021 as we try to go back to normal.

With COVID-19 sweeping the world, e-commerce has been the saving grace for most businesses and the new norm for consumers.

Although displaying your product packaging in brick and mortar stores has become less of a concern during these strange times, this doesn’t mean that package design can’t be a priority for your e-commerce business.

If anything, 2021 will see brands striving harder to build authentic connections with their customers at an emotional level while maintaining high standards, and self-expression from the comfort of their customers’ homes.

example of packaging that appeals to customers.
Source: The Dieline

While 2020 saw an emergence of minimalist design, 2021 will build further on this concept through a variety of design considerations.

Typically when you think of high-value luxury packaging, the first thing that comes to mind is a rigid gift box. This article is not limited to that one type of box.

By utilizing these packaging design trends, you can create a premium experience whether you are producing a folding carton or corrugated box for your e-commerce business.

Remember, these are suggestions.

Be creative and take risks with your designs. It may be the impetus for success your company has been looking for!

As briefly mentioned 2020 saw a great emergence of minimalistic designs that sweeped the market and made a great impact on packaging industry trends.

However, in 2021, this idea becomes layered and done with more intent, especially in an era reliant on e-commerce businesses.

The short month of January has already built on the idea of minimalism in several different ways that we should be keeping an eye out for.

Tiny Illustrated Patterns

Patterns and illustrations can go beyond just adding extra embellishments to your packaging. It can reveal more about your product and brand story!

In 2021, we expect to see more intricate patterns and delicate illustrations that give you a better idea of the brand narrative while also giving customers a sneak peek of the product inside.

Illustrations can be very simple or quite symbolic of the product and brand initiatives it aims to communicate. These serve the purpose of evoking certain emotions and appeals for customers to resonate with.

Expect patterns and illustrations to take an artistic approach to communicate what customers should be expecting from the product.

example of illustrated pattern
Source: The Dieline

For example; a brand that packages tea may decorate their packaging with small anthropological illustrations of the ingredients inside.

This communicates and promotes the ingredients of the product without overwhelming customers with hyper-realistic illustrations or photographs on the fore-front of the packaging.

And, let’s face it, it’s really pretty!

Fine Art

Beyond tiny illustrations, 2021 will see an emergence of full artistic designs, turning packaging into art pieces.

Building off of minimalistic designs, packaging designers will be drawing inspiration from abstract paintings where playing with textures, colors and abstract shapes will become key in this approach.

This has mostly been seen with premium products and slowly gained momentum late last year.

However, in 2021 we may be seeing more of this on middle range products too!

Brand differentiation plays heavily into this design, especially in a world where our first and only interaction with a product is an image on the computer screen.

Having a product land on your customers’ doorsteps that feels unique to their unboxing experience is what will set your brand apart from others during this e-commerce boom.

Simple Geometry

Another packaging design trend to look out for in 2021 is simple geometric designs!

Again, branching off of minimalism comes the introduction of geometry.

We’ll be looking at simple yet eye-catching geometric shapes to enhance packaging designs.

Bright geometric shapes with neat lines and sharp angles have already made it’s impact late 2020. However, that was just the beginning.

2021 will be seeing more of this design as e-commerce businesses will compete for differentiation and unique unboxing experiences.

Similarly to tiny illustrations, this design aims to give customers a preview of what your brand stands for in an abstract and exciting way.

This design makes a bold and strong statement and think of it this way; it will be easy to spot in anyone’s shared mail room!

Vintage Unboxing Experiences

Moving back into your childhood homes and being cooped up with family day in and day out has definitely evoked some nostalgia for many people.

Although vintage inspired packaging has been a trend for some time now, this year will hit differently.

2021 will be seeing an emergence in vintage unboxing experiences that appeal to our childhood nostalgia.

It will move away from the generic feel of vintage-inspired packaging that we all recognize from recent years and move towards a more authentic approach to vintage packaging designs.

This design is not limited to the nostalgia of one age group, but for many different eras of packaging.

We’re moving away from the 1990s feel and going even further back than that. You’ll come across packaging that will be reminiscent of your grandparents and great grand parents era.

This idea is appealing to not only millennials and Generation Z, but to all generations that they have followed!

This means building beyond logos and labels but offering a full brand experience. We’re talking about everything from structural design, typography, materials and artwork designs!

Story-Driven Packaging

Moving away from minimalistic ideas, 2021 will see packaging designs that are more engaging and tells a fun story.

With quarantine came dull and repetitive days that quickly became boring, that’s why consumers are looking for something fresh and exciting.

In general, storytelling is a key factor for any effective packaging design and in 2021 this will become much more prominent.

example of story telling packaging
Source: Dribbble

Brands will aim to build a strong story for their business both for the purpose of brand differentiation and for evoking more positive emotions in their customers during these strange times.

We’ll be seeing characters that embody and showcase brand stories. Beyond your usual mascot, brands will be using characters to differentiate their products too.

It’ll be just like looking at panels of a comic book!

Instead of having to read the fine print of products to really engage with the brand story, the characters will be showcasing this without having to say a word.

Sustainability

This is not a new trend, but we continue to see the progress and adoption of new procedures and techniques when it comes to sustainability this year.

Customers are a lot savvier when it comes to eco-friendliness and waste, and they expect a certain level in packaging products.

Several efforts that continue to see a rise in 2021 include:

  • Stripping to the bare necessities: waste reduction
    Elimination of unused box space
  • A decrease in overall carbon footprint
  • Elimination of plastic
    Compostable packaging
  •  Reflecting culture and values that align with company and market
  • Upcycling

More and more brands are utilizing modularity (or multiple uses) in packaging, while also embracing creative reuse.

Examples include the use of packaging as a stand or display for perfume or even as a piece of art itself.

What has become apparent is that we no longer need to sacrifice design for sustainability.

The industry is at a point where box packaging companies can perfectly marry the two worlds into cohesive packaging that isn’t a casualty of compromise.

Focus on E-commerce

As briefly discussed the e-commerce train continues to spiral upwards, and you really can’t miss it!

With ‘stay at home’ orders followed a heavy reliance on online shopping for all things deemed ‘non-essential’.

In many cases e-commerce has been the only way retail businesses have been able to survive the economic downturn of the pandemic.

With e-commerce it’s all about smooth CPEX (Customer Packaging Experience).

In order to successfully execute this, brands must ensure that a package arrives at the doorstep undamaged and ready to offer a great unboxing experience.

example of ecommerce packaging
Source: Shopify

E-commerce packaging requires different design elements compared to shelf products to prevent theft, survive shipping and that pesky mail man that hauls your package at your door.

Forgoing bulky boxes for streamlined, space-saving packaging made of sustainable and/or reusable materials is the way to go in 2021.

Personalization

You want to build an amazing brand reputation, right?

It starts by making your customers feel special.

Smaller businesses, for example, can capitalize on this by going with shorter runs that offer greater customization.

Again, personalization is the name of the game.

With the advent of different printing technologies and targeting specific audiences by adding that extra touch of communication and design on packing slips, receipts, and cards is easier than ever.

Promote Shareability and Be Unique

Anyone can build a box to satiate the bare minimum, but the best brands tell a story, as briefly discussed.

Whether through the use of engaging text, images, textures, colors, shapes or mascots, your packaging should communicate the passion and mission behind your brand.

Aside from providing a wonderful individual experience, luxury packaging should be optimized for social media sharing.

Think: How will it affect positioning?

How will the design translate via smartphone images uploaded to Instagram and Facebook?

Also, remember that you don’t need to base your packaging on the competition.

Do your own thing! This will provide massive Return on Investment!

Make your brand unique, and help to guarantee a genuine connection with your customers.

High-value packaging provides a sense of authenticity, reliability, and value.

example of sharable packackaging
Source: The Dieline

Cementing brand identity and loyalty in the hearts of customers who will keep coming back for unforgettable unboxing experiences will keep your brand on an upward spiral.

As you can see, there are myriad ways to build amazing packaging in 2021.

It can be a little overwhelming, but with the help of a great packaging company, you don’t have to design in the dark.

Remember to not be afraid to experiment and see what packaging design trends stick for your brand.

Your efforts will be rewarded with lasting brand loyalty and a reputation that you’ve always dreamed of, even with the pandemic stopping you from living your best life.

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