Creation: Principles of Great Packaging Design In 2018 – Creation

09 Apr 2018
Packaging Design

Traditionally great packaging design has been all about delivering innovative graphics and materials, combined with the clear expression of the brand ethos, to ensure the product stands out on shelf.

Designing for the needs of an increasingly complex and automated supply chain has been a priority, along with responding to consumer purchasing trends.

As a result, consideration of the environment has quite often taken a back seat relative to mandatory cost and efficiency objectives for the designer and converter. However, today’s packaging market is highly volatile, relative to just a few years ago, potentially changing the packaging design game forever.

The rise of the IOT and e-tailing, brands calling for improved ‘consumer experience’ and ‘pack engagement’, increasing retailing competitive intensity and the need for speed, both in terms of new product development and consumer convenience, have all created a dynamic, innovation-rich packaging market environment.

Accordingly designers and converters have engaged around consumer and supply chain needs delivering innovative, stand out, convenience-led packaging integrating the operational efficiency requirements of the global supply chain.

Today however, the consumer has spoken. Whether driven by media stories that are fact or fiction, 2018 society has more environmental awareness than ever before and it’s demanding change… quickly.

So how does this play out for next generation packaging design? What are the new principles that will drive the packaging and print market? Creation Reprographics, a leading graphics management and flexographic plate producer, explores the principles of packaging design in 2018.

  1. Design for now AND tomorrow

The pace of change is accelerating but consumers are responding to the here and now. 2018 shoppers are bombarded with messages about their daily packaging choices. This means they are seeking their usual convenience solutions but now combined with a new ethical honesty; which makes them feel good, or at least better, about their product choices.

They are also talking about their packaging worries and concerns on digital media more openly and voraciously. This can provide valuable insight to brands about next generation product design requirements.

Packaging designers and converters must listen to these challenges and respond with either true pack redesign that meet the new needs or tell the story of why the pack is designed the way it is, to help consumer education.

The answer is to respond to now – design to all the contemporary trends – but raise the sustainability consideration far higher in the brief to secure success.

  1. Don’t fudge the sustainability story – be honest

All packaging is fundamentally ‘eco technology’ but the general population does not understand this. Packaging protects and preserves products enabling goods to reach their end point in perfect condition, minimising waste, cost and loss of carbon. Put that aside and every brand is being challenged to show its ‘green’ credentials through its packaging choices.

Every packaging substrate or material has an environmental story to tell – from glass to metal to plastic or paper. It just depends which design lens you choose to look through – carbon footprint, water footprint, compostable, biodegradable, renewable or recyclable content or recyclability. The consumer is never going to keep up, so tell the story, correctly and clearly, and design efficient packaging in the first place. That way you can look the consumer in the eye and state your position.

Too often, the sustainability story is fudged – recyclable packaging that can’t be recycled in certain locations or the bottle can but the lid and label can’t – the mixed messages are endless. Consumers are confused and frustrated. They also have the ability to tell the world about their concerns so make sure your designs are honest and credible.

  1. Break the rules…push the limits

Standing out on shelf in today’s crowded retail space, whether in store or online, requires bold thinking and a different approach to even 10 years ago. Breaking the rules and delivering game changing fresh thinking is key to securing the product’s true market share. The brand will never fulfill its true potential if the pack doesn’t work to grab the consumer’s attention.

You only have to take the infamous ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, mosaic Nutella jars or Marmite luxury pots to see the impact of being different, evocative and stand out.

Consumers generally shop at speed, whether in front of the screen or dashing through the aisles. Great design is about interruption, discombobulating the shopper to stop and have cognisant thought about the brand choice they’re making.

Consumers buy their same preferred brands routinely day-by-day, week-by-week. Great design is about driving the eye in a different direction and attracting selection for the right reasons. This isn’t about necessarily shouting out. It’s about more tactful, impactful graphics and pack structure that the consumer just can’t resist.

  1. Paper’s in vogue, but plastic’s still fantastic… as long as its sustainable

Back to the looming sustainability challenge, paper and board are absolutely in vogue with tremendous renewable and recyclable qualities. However, don’t discount the plastic; recycled PE, PET and PP all have great credentials.

There is plastic packaging on the market today utilising over 90% recycled content and is fully recyclable at the end of its service. This value proposition can be just as strong as any carton or board product on the market.

Plastic is lightweight but strong, has superb barrier properties to gas and moisture and is the ideal material for chilled and frozen categories, so don’t discount its value just yet.

  1. Design with the point of sale in mind

Great packaging design usually involves consideration of the point of sale scenario. The lighting and stocking scenario varies retailer by retailer and yet can often be missed by the designer.

It is crucial to observe where and how the product will be sold and how the retail situation can vary, in order to optimise the chance of sales success.  Only recently we observed slanted shelves in one major retailer with stand up packs unable to stack and key promotional messages on packs obscured by hang tags. Getting familiar with the true sales situation can make all the difference.

Complementary retail-ready or shelf-ready packaging (RRP / SRP) can really enhance shelf stand out, particularly to flexible packaging designs. This often requires collaboration between the corrugate and plastics sectors, which happens far too infrequently. Think about more than just the individual pack promotion and how whole categories or aisles can be enhanced with clever thinking.

Finally, all to often the need for pack stand out on screen is ignored. Online sales across all categories are climbing and the need to assess how to make your digital pack and brand shine is becoming ever more critical.

If ever the brand attention deficit disorder is in play, it completely comes to the fore with pre-determined shopping lists for consumers to click on. Clean, stand out graphics and unusual pack shapes may just make the difference.

  1. Tell your story and get smart!

Adults, like children, love a story and will remember your brand far more keenly if they buy in to its heritage, provenance or quirky tale. Packaging has the ability to complement story telling and make a brand come alive.

Use of natural or natural-feel materials, tactile inks and coatings, or unique combinations of substrates, can add to the story and enable the consumer to recall the tale through the sensory effects delivered on pack. Classic recent examples are the vintage, retro packs so popular in 2015 – 2017 now moving into 80’s pop with holographic effects and vibrant hues.

Brands are pushing for consumer engagement, relationships and loyalty. Smart packaging developments enabling these are being taken up liberally by the major brands – linking curious consumers to apps, websites and competitions from the pack.

Blippar is a great example of a successful engagement tool utilising augmented reality to transform packaging into a media channel. AR enabled packaging can enable the brand to tell its story and be completely transparent about the product – what is it, where its from and how its made – literally connecting the consumer to the farm to fork journey through the use of AR.

  1. Be clear on your position

Assume the shopper knows nothing. Too many brands think the shopper is willing to work hard to understand the product value proposition, particularly if it’s a new category or segment.

Tiering of products has been around for a long time but consumers are sometimes confused with the pace of product refreshes going on today. If your pack is premium, make sure the shopper sees it that way. The positioning in store, the materials used, the typeface and messaging all need to work in harmony.

The shopper decides the value it places on your brand by how it compares to others. The premium feel may therefore need to be elevated to make it stand out. In the case of a value brand, then the price needs to communicate the value and be geared relative to higher priced packs.

The consumer wants to make sense of the order – from high to low – premium to value. Make it easy for them and the sales will follow.

  1. Finally, know your audience

Today, shoppers buy based on what a brand reveals about them and their worldview, almost as much as how the actual product performs functionally.  As a result, brands have to express themselves with a personality and create a persona that feels real – honest, captivating, quirky, joyful, technical or completely transparent on shelf – to connect with the consumers’ motivations.

Knowing the shopper and what is motivating them is key to influencing them through great packaging design. Doing thorough research to know whether the target shopper is searching for health and nutritional benefits versus great price versus flavour versus variety versus portion control versus quality…. drives the ultimate design.

Consumer panels, focus groups, eye tracking devices and testing panels are all available to support the pack design process.

To find out more about how Creation can support your packaging development programme contact us today


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