Saturday, April 23, 2011

Creating successful packaging

What makes a successful package design? How can a package be descriptive but clean? How can your design compete with the large number of packages already on the shelves? How can you stay consistent from product to product?

All those are legitimate questions when designing packaging, regardless of the industry, audience or numbers of packages being designed.

In this blog I will attempt to explain some of the main elements and considerations when putting together a new package or a new line.

Who is your audience? Understanding the wants and needs of your clientele is the very first step in designing an identity for your products. You customers expect to see fresh designs, that stand out and that stay consistent from product to products.

If you are catering to natural food consumers for example, your audience will expect a clean, natural feel that suggests Organic, safe, nutritious. A good example is Growing Naturals, who sell whole grain brown rice protein and milk powders. They cater to an audience that values Gluten-free, protein rich organic products. The look and feel was designed accordingly.

Another important factor to take into consideration is location. Customers in different states and in different countries expect to see different things. A good example is this Rice Pancake Mix that was made by a Japanese company. Their old design, though workable to the Japanese market, simply did not work for an American market and so this new design was created to be more attractive, and more competitive.

Brand Identity:
One of the common errors among package designers is to jump into package design without creating a brand identity first. Brand ID is kind of a master design, that cares not for the size of the packaging, or whether the final design will be in print or online. It is the general look that dictates all the elements that will follow. From packaging, to business cards and catalogs, from tradeshow displays to websites, it is the Brand ID that ensures a consistent look that customers will recognize, and that will carry easily between applications.

A good example of consistent Brand Identity is the application of design across Petco's® line of products. In this case, the styleguide was created first, dictating the look and feel, particular colors and fonts, logo placement and even placement of the fish, to maintain a consistently clean aquatic look, that would be unique but easily recognized.

Visual Hierarchy:
A package contains a lot of information and it is important to have a clear idea on what your customers should see first, and how to make that happen.

Using a combination of color contrast, images to draw attention and shapes or lines to lead the eye through the design, an effective design achieves the intended focus and hierarchy, moving from the most important elements on the package, to the lease important ones. 

An example of visual hierarchy is this Arnel's Originals packaging. Arnel's Originals makes a line of gluten-free bread mixes, pancake mixes and pie crust mixes and are sold online and at various stores including a growing number of Whole Foods® stores. Since the name and logo are already recognized by their loyal customers, they are the most important elements and are displayed prominently, center-top, and consistent from package to package.

Secondary to the name is the product being sold, the bread, pie crust or pancake mix. The large, colorful product photo is the second element the customer sees, followed by the product name, and on to less important elements such as net weight. Although the photo and bottom color changes from package to package, it is always displayed in the same manner and offers an expected consistency, that leads to increased sales.

Hope this was helpful to better understand the important factors in packaging design.

-- Chris A. Shemza

Chris A. Shemza is the president of CAS Production & Marketing, a Los Angeles based design and marketing firm for over 13 years. Specializing in complete marketing packages, CAS Production routinely designs custom packaging, beautiful websites, tradeshow displays, brochures and mobile applications, for their versatile client base. Visit CAS Production Here