The 6 Commandments Of Packaging Design

Branding, Design
June 27, 2016

Standout packaging design is a tough cookie to crack, especially when it comes to FMCG. With 42,214 items in an average supermarket, creating a product that catches consumers’ attention and keeps them coming back for more can be incredibly difficult. With smart packaging design however, you can create a product that does just that. It can be daunting trying to figure out where to start, we know. If you’re new to the packaging game, don’t sweat: read these “10 commandments” (okay, okay, we got a little bit carried away here so stopped at 6…) of packaging designs to create products that’ll run off the shelf.

1. Thou shall do their market research

It’s best to start researching who will actually see your designs; that is, the customer. Who are they? What do they like? What do they want out of a brand? If you have the budget to conduct market research with a consumer group, it would be ideal to do now. Knowing what your target audience wants out of your product will give you an idea how to design your packaging. For example, are you an eco-friendly brand? Your customers would probably want to design packaging that reflects this, as they probably take that attitude to their wider purchasing choices. For example, Seventh Generation make a detergent that is packaged in recycled cardboard to reflect their environmentally friendly stance:

seventh generation laundry detergent

2. Thou shall keep it simple

When you’re designing packaging, sometimes it’s just best to drill down to the basics:

  • What’s the product?
  • What’s the brand?
  • What does the customer want?

The average customer looks at your product for no more than four seconds. That’s not a lot of time. If the answer to the above questions isn’t obvious in that time, you probably have to re-think your packaging design.

We love the packaging by thankyou. It’s simple, in a font that’s easy to read and we know what we’re getting just by glancing at it.

thankyou branded hand wash

We’re not so fond of this:

bad packaging fabuloso washing liquid

Am I buying soft drink or laundry detergent here? The font is ridiculously hard to read from a distance, and the use of fruits isn’t helping.

3. Thou shall maximise shelf space

Maximise your product’s effect on the shelf. You really want it to “jump out” at the customer. This point is especially important for products with low brand awareness (i.e. if you’re new to the game). Colour choice is crucial here (but don’t use colour to confuse as with the example above – yikes). You’ll want to pick a colour that reflects your product, but also appeals to the customer from shelf distance. Vegemite do this really well – the dramatic contrast of the blackish spread and its bright yellow label makes the product really standout in the condiments aisle.

vegemite on a supermarket shelf

See what we mean? (Bad example – this supermarket looks full ‘Straya though, am I right?)

4. Thou shall not skimp on packaging quality 

Quality packaging is the difference between a customer using your product once and coming back for more. If you have packaging that falls apart when a customer picks it up or uses it the first time, they’re probably not going to come back for more. Choosing the right material is key, but going the extra mile with the material you select can add a layer of luxury or give your customer a more memorable experience. You can even go one step further and add special finishes or effects.

We love this packaging from T2. It’s apart of their “gift” range, which means they have added extra special effects on their packaging to reflect the “treat” aspect of this gift. They have chosen tough cardboard, a glossy, shiny metallic finish and an indented pattern on the side of the packet:

T2 baked biscuits little lady cranberry

5. Thou shall design with its user in mind

Much like commandment 1, it’s best to create packaging with its final use in mind. Are they drinking the product on the go? Are they taking the product to work, in the car? Do they need a grip when using it? All these things should be thought about, especially IF the product does not need to be unwrapped to use. This is big in the bottled water industry – Mount Franklin does a great job with their ergonomic bottle design:

5 bottles of mount franklin water in different sizes

Pump also has a handy pop-top for active people on the go:

750ml bottle of Pump Water

6. Thou shall go one step further

Creating a cutting edge product means literally thinking outside the box. How does you product differ from others on the market? Creating a standout product doesn’t mean the biggest or the brightest one on the shelf. It’s about creating buzz with your product. In the age of viral media, you want your product to be talked about online (in a good way, of course!).

Take this design from Apple. It’s headphone packaging turns to mush when submerged in water, making it instantly decomposable. Cool, huh?

Apple's degrading headphone packaging before and after being applied to water

And there you have it. Employ these packaging design best practices and your product will be flying off them shelves.

Got an interesting packaging design you’ve seen around? Show us in the comments!