In packaging design you have 4 seconds to live or die

Packaging design, as any art form, contains some chunks that can be taught and some other chunks that can not. I would like to talk to you about the chunks that can be taught.

1. Be clear and simple

When you go to a supermarket, pick your favourite shelf and try to ask yourself two very simple questions:

a. What’s this product for?

b. What’s the brand behind it?

I am always amazed how hard it is to find a product that answers these two basic questions in less than 4 seconds. Why 4 seconds you wonder? Because this the maximum time an average consumer will dedicate to any particular product on the shelf.

Always keep in mind that your product will live or die in 4 seconds.

Another thing you’ll discover is that the majority of products will list dozen of benefits with no clear Brand Name and amazing looking products that fail to explain what’s inside the box. Remember rule number one of packaging design: Be clear and simple.

2. Be honest

Most of us, and i am talking about clients and designers, often fall in a common trap, a trap that we almost never consider. We strive to create an image of the product in the most perfect way imaginable.

By creating a packaging design that is ten times better than the actual product you are misleading and dissapointing the consumer. This will ultimately lead to poor sales performance and very bad brand image. Being honest helps because consumers have nothing against simple, inexpensive products, as long as they know what they are buying.

As designers, our task is to represent the product in the best way imaginable but we have to always keep in mind to treat the consumer with honesty.

3. Be bold

From the consumer’s point of view, your product is never seen alone and never in great detail. All he sees are patterns made by neverending rows and columns in which the products are arranged. It’s until a certain element of the pattern draws the attention that the consumer decides to take a closer look.

This appeal of the packaging when placed on an actual shelf is what retailers call “shelf impact” and it is the single most important element in driving sales.

This is something that is usually thoroughly tested by clients. You can also test this by surrounding your design with other products. The more different it is, the better it sells.

4. Think portfolio

A product packaging design concept should always allow for an easy introduction of a new line extension (product variation) or a sub-brand.

Imagine you are designing a packaging for a new brand of sauces. You and your client really like one option that looks great with tomatoes but really stink with olives or green peppers.

To avoid this trap you should always design product packaging with future in mind. This means that you have to create a visually simple and systematic design which allows for easy changes of product visual or any other information. In the end you will have to deliver a fine looking family of products.

5. Be practical

The most overlooked aspect of packaging design is practicality, that’s because clients often choose the less risky alternative, the tested route. This one is tough, it requires many industries to come together at the right time but if you get lucky and do get a chance to design the next bottle, always keep practicality in mind first. Make it easier to use or carry or store.

If your product is practical you already solved many of the packaging design challenges.

This is my first post on packaging design which is a large and demanding design field. Simplicity, honesty and other rules, described in my post above, play an important role in my process but are by no means written in stone about the subject, as you will discover in my next posts.

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