So what is product packaging? Product packaging design refers to the creation of the exterior of a product. That includes choices in material and form as well as graphics, colors and fonts that are used on wrapping, a box, a can, a bottle or any kind of container.
It’s a practical tool, yes. (I mean, how else are you going to effectively get beer into your mouth?) But it’s also more than that. Like any good design, packaging tells a story. It’s also a sensual experience, literally engaging us through sight, touch and sound (and possibly smell and taste, depending on the product/package). All of these details help us understand what the enclosed product is for, how it should be used, who should use it and, maybe most importantly, if we should buy a product or not.
Before you start your packaging design
3 crucial questions
There are three questions you must have the answer to before you start designing the packaging for a product:
- What is the product?
- Who’s buying the product?
- How are people buying the product?
Let’s look at these a little bit more in depth:
1. What is the product?
Not a trick question; this should be an easy one. What are you selling? How big is it? What materials is it made of? Is it delicate?
This question is going to help you determine if there are any logistical musts for your product packaging. For example, a delicate product will require more secure packaging. Something that is large or with odd dimensions, on the other hand, may require a custom packaging solution instead of an out-of-the-box box.
2. Who’s buying the product?
Is the product supposed to be used by men, women or both? Is it for children or adults? Is it geared towards people who are environmentally conscious? To those on a budget or with lots of disposable income?
A product’s packaging should appeal to its ideal consumer; it’s important to know who that consumer is before you start the design process. Products for older adults may need larger text. Alternatively, items geared towards an affluent customer will need to consider materials that create a feeling of luxury.
3. How are people buying the product?
Are they purchasing it in a supermarket? A small boutique? Online?
You’re going to want to think about packaging differently if the product is going to be sold online and shipped than if it’s going to need to stand out from the competition on a big-box store shelf. Items that will be sold online probably shouldn’t have a lot of extra space that could cause the product to rattle around, or the package to bend. And those that will be on a boutique shelf will need to catch the eye of a buyer surrounded by cutesy items in cutesy packages.
Got your answers? Good. These will guide you in making all of the other (many) decisions that you’ll have to make in the packaging design process.
Still pondering these questions? You’re probably not ready to start the packaging design process just yet. That’s okay! It’s better to take your time and get it right than jump in too soon.
Information you need to collect
Sometimes a product is stand alone, and in other cases it’s representing an established brand. If your packaging needs to represent a certain brand aesthetic, make sure you’ve gathered the following information before you start:
If you already have the CMYK values or Pantone Matching Values (PMS) colors include those as they’re specifically for printing. (If not, a hex code is fine, too.)
Make sure you have the proper fonts and any specific usage instructions (like kerning or weight).
If you need to put a logo on the package, make sure you have a vector file available.