What Is Packaging Design?

⭐️Top considerations for creating a successful packaging design.

The way a product is packaged matters to consumers; there is no doubt about it. You can create a fantastic product with lots of market appeal, but you won’t see real success if the packaging doesn’t quite work. 

Effective packaging design is about balancing form and function, ensuring that it looks good while keeping it easy and straightforward for customers. 

In this article, we’ll look at what packaging design is, what makes for good packaging design, and considerations that need to be kept in mind throughout the process.

We’ll first look at what is packaging design, mainly focusing on custom packaging design and how that can help a business. 

example of creative packaging design
Source: Hongkiat

We’ll then go into packaging design considerations, the design process itself, and other tips and tricks along the way to ensure your custom packaging is an accurate reflection of your business.

Custom Packaging Design

When we talk about custom packaging, here are some of the critical elements that make up the actual design process:

  • Aesthetics/design
  • The shape and size
  • The volume of the product itself and how that might affect your product 
  • Structural engineering, which means optimizing your packaging design to serve your products effectively. 

As you move through the packaging design process, each of these elements needs attention in different ways. 

We’ll look at some of the necessary considerations for the design process before moving through the rest. 

Design Process Considerations

When we think about what packaging design is, we first need to think about who we’re designing for and why? 

What are the overall goals that need to be accomplished with box custom packaging or other types of custom packaging? 

Let’s look at some of the key things that go into the packaging design process:

Know your target market

First things first, who are you designing for? 

This is especially salient when thinking about what is good packaging design because the end-user is the priority – always. 

Your packaging solutions must align with customer expectations, particularly when thinking about sustainability. 

example of successful packaging design
Source: Awwwards

And of course, the custom packaging needs to be relevant for your product, brand, and customer needs.

Functionality

Customer expectations and design are also tied to functionality. 

How practical is the packaging you have in mind versus what customers need? 

Does your packaging work effectively to ensure the product arrives safely and is aligned with your brand and customers? 

So when thinking about what is good packaging design in the context of your product, you’ll need to think about how the packaging works. 

Will customers open it with ease? Will it ship safely? 

Your custom design may need to change based on how it is stored and displayed, so measurements and structural engineering will play a significant role here. 

Structural engineering will ensure your packaging is tailored not only to your products but to your brand and customers. 

Keep it clear and simple

Packaging design is only effective if it is easily identified and spotted on a shelf packed with many other products alike. 

A lot of this will come down to your branding and the kind of information you include. 

So think about making your message clear and concise so that customers can immediately know what the product is for and the brand behind it. 

Example of clear and concise packaging design
Source: Byrdie 

Customers value honesty, so maintaining transparency of information is crucial. 

This means making ingredients, warnings and instructions clear, concise and easy to read for your target market. 

Let’s say your target market is much older. The typography and font used to convey information may need to be larger and easier to read. 

Branding

Branding relates more to the aesthetic appeal of packaging design that we touched on earlier. 

The way you design packaging can help build a strong brand experience for your customers.

Branded packaging design ensures that you have the ability to build an authentic connection with your customers, making the product and your brand more meaningful. 

Through good packaging design, you can speak directly to your customers, create a memorable unboxing experience and align brand narratives through your packaging design. 

Each of these elements is crucial for both emerging and established brands. 

Packaging design helps tie it all together to create an amazing experience for customers from start to finish.

Know your competition

Before you set out with any big design plans, do a quick check on the competition. 

What are they doing? What seems to be working, and where do they still need improvements? 

You can use these findings to improve your own packaging experience and create a larger market share for yourself. 

How are competitor products displayed on the shelves, and what is your competitive edge to those products? 

Example of competitive packaging
Source: The Dieline

This will help you create successful packaging designs that keeps you ahead of the rest, while giving customers the best experience possible. 

Furthermore, understanding where your competitors stand in the market with regards to packaging specifically, allows you to make well rounded design decisions that will set you apart from your competitors. 

Prototyping and testing

After thinking about the design and the brand experience you want to communicate, the next thing to consider is testing the packaging to make sure it does everything you need it to do. 

To accomplish this, you must request a prototype to ensure your packaging is what you envisioned it. 

You can weed out a lot of issues early on with this step. 

Once you have a final design, user testing will help iron out any other minor or major issues. 

Send out packaging to some loyal customers for feedback, as they will likely spot things that you might have missed or point out elements that you may be overcompensating on.  

And most importantly, be extremely thorough in the testing process! 

 Example of packaging mock up
Source: Behance

Before mass production, do many quality checks to ensure that all design elements are as they should be, and check for spelling and grammar issues with regards to any typography. Also it’s important to check the quality of printing and finishing to ensure your customers get the best unboxing experience possible. 

Taking the time to prototype and test your packaging will also ensure that any re-orders of your packaging will remain at the same quality level throughout, offering an enhanced brand quality, narrative and customer experience. 

We’ll now look at the design process for packaging design and the different choices available each step of the way. 

Design Process

The design process is when you pick your materials, your structural design, and it’s when the product packaging begins to take actual shape. 

When we think about what packaging design is, we think a lot about the overall packaging, but there is a lot that goes into how the packaging is actually created. 

Material Choice 

Your material choices will depend on the design considerations we went through above, as well as other things. 

The materials you choose offer varying degrees of design opportunities, so this part is focused on what you want to accomplish through your packaging. 

Your material choices are heavily reliant on what purpose your packaging will serve. 

Corrugated packaging is a popular choice for shipping products because of it’s thick, fluted texture. 

The fluted material offers your products optimal protection and even the fluting can be customized depending on the degree of protection your products need.

Example of corrugated material
Source: Mount Dreams

Corrugated packaging is often recommended to e-commerce businesses for shipping purposes. However, corrugated packaging also comes into play for heavy and fragile items that may need to be on display at a brick and mortar store.

Furthermore, Folding Carton remains a popular choice in the packaging industry for it’s cost effectiveness and versatile printing and finishing capabilities. 

The cosmetics industry, for example, opts for folding carton because it opens up endless doors of opportunity with regards to artwork design, ease of structural engineering and versatile shapes and sizes. 

While folding carton isn’t particularly protective of your products, it does offer a very high end, sleek feel for a much lower cost in comparison to rigid packaging. 

Rigid packaging is also known as premium packaging, because it is costly but also offers a very luxury feel with nearly endless design opportunities. 

Rigid packaging is mostly used by luxury jewelry, cosmetics and electronics brands because it does add value to you products through it’s high end feel. 

Furthermore, rigid packaging often has a life beyond product packaging, as customers tend to keep them for storage purposes and can’t bare the thought of placing these boxes in the trash!

There are many different ways to do box packaging design, so it’s vital to work with a packaging expert that can give you the best recommendations based on your needs and budgets.

Structural Design

The next part of the design process is the structural design. This is when shape and size take on more importance. 

The key elements that make up a good packaging design include structural engineering for:

  • Durability and protection
  • Sustainability
  • Convenience (easy to open, can be resealed for returns, etc.)

Making decisions around this will entail looking at what your product is first. 

What is the competition doing, and what will be the most convenient option for customers?

Example of structural engineering
Source: Graphic Mama 

Depending on your market, such as e-commerce or retail, you may have different considerations. 

For example, with e-commerce, you won’t need to worry about displaying your products on shelf space. But you will need distinct packaging to create an unboxing experience that leaves a lasting impression. 

For retail-friendly products, you would need to look at how the product will be shipped to stores and how it will be displayed to create the best kind of packaging to accommodate your products from shipping, to displaying and ultimately into your customers’ bag. 

Once you have your design mapped out, it’s time to look at artwork and what that can look like! 

Artwork Design

The artwork for your packaging will need to include branding, various color choices, and factor in how these elements will be placed. 

The first thing you’ll need to think about is branding elements such as logos and catchphrases. 

Where will they be placed and how prominently do they need to be? Are your color choices distinctive enough for your logo and catchphrase to not need to take up as much space?

You can match your brand colors with Panton color matching to get the best shades for your packaging design. 

Think about printing capabilities for better color matching opportunities and what type of printing will get the most accurate match!

Example of successful artwork design
Source: York Avenue

We’ve touched on placement a bit in terms of catchphrases, but let’s delve a little deeper. 

Retail and e-commerce have different considersations for packaging design, which means the placement of elements will change depending on the purpose of your packaging. 

For example, with retail, the focus will be on aligning images of boxes on the shelf to give it a uniform look and make your product stand out on the shelf. 

However, with e-commerce, because the focus is on creating an impactful unboxing experience, you may want to opt for interior vs.exterior printing on the packaging to balance the costs as well as the impact of your packaging.

The final element of artwork for packaging design is typography

Its placement matters, so you’ll need to decide what works well for your brand. 

Aligned or not aligned? Where does it need to be placed? 

The other typography issue to consider is size, such as distinguishing the hierarchy of information to keep the information on the packaging concise and straightforward. 

Furthermore, choosing your typography based on your target market is important, make sure to keep the information clear and easy to read. 

Now that your artwork design is ready, we’ll look at the final step, printing, and finishing. 

Printing and finishing

Printing 

Once packaging is designed and the artwork has been finalized, it’s time to get it printed. 

There are two main types of printing available, offset vs. digital printing. Your choice will depend on the size of your designs and your budget, as there is a quality difference between the two. 

Because digital printing does not use plates, it’s better suited for smaller designs and limited quantities. 

If you’re looking for high-quality finishes for mass production, offset printing will give you better results. 

Example of high end packaging design
SourceThe Dieline

With regards to sustainability, you have various eco-friendly options in the printing process. 

You can opt for water-based inks and coatings for a more sustainable packaging design, which will look good while doing good as well. 

Make sure to communicate a message through your design by choosing environmentally-friendly and sustainable options as much as possible to reduce your carbon footprint throughout the packaging design process. 

The final step is finishing.

Finishing

So now your packaging design is finalized and being printed; it’s time for finishing options and get it ready for shipping. 

There are various options available for shipping, depending on your product and overall branding.

If you’re looking for a touch of luxury with your packaging design, opt for foil stamping. 

It gives off a premium look and can enhance your logo, thereby bringing attention to your brand name. 

It’s a great way to add an attention-grabbing element to the final product and give it a more high-quality look. 

Another option is spot UV printing, a coating technique that applies ultraviolet (UV) light to white card stock or color-printed paper to give it a more glossy look. 

Spot UV finishing is best for a more subtle touch. It can easily enhance artwork design, brand logos, and key features easily, without making it too flashy. 

Matte lamination is one of the best options for adding a high-end feel to your packaging design. 

It’s usually used on rigid packing, but it can be applied to folding carton too!

It’s soft and more natural and offers a more multisensory experience for customers.

Gloss varnish is another option for finishing, as it’s not only more high-end but can add to a more interactive customer experience by adding a sheen to your design.

Example of foil stamping
Source: The Dieline

When it comes to understanding what good packaging design is and what yours needs to look like, it’s about creating an experience for customers. 

Taking into account multiple elements, you can construct a packaging design that is functional, beautiful and that does not sacrifice sustainability either. 

Depending on what options you pick, you can create a unique packaging design that enhances your branding and makes you stand out from the rest. 

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