As designers, we are always trying to create the most appealing designs that we can. Our first thoughts are typically shape, color, typography and possibly the desire to use the latest printing techniques that would really make the packaging stand out. But when it comes to packaging, we need to think a lot deeper than aesthetics. With today’s instant access to comparison shopping data via our smartphones and social media, 60% of purchasing decisions are still made at shelf. With this kind of purchasing influence, packaging should not be taken lightly. With this in mind, there are at least three basic roles packaging should play.

  1. Provide Protection. One of the most important roles of packaging is to protect the product inside during shipping. Products are shipped from overseas manufacturers, across the country and from the store to the consumer’s home. At all costs, the product needs to arrive at its destination in perfect condition. Once the product is on the shelf, it needs protection from theft. The package should deter someone from easily walking out the door with the product in their pocket.
  2. Branding and Identification National brands have always understood the value of a strong brand. Store brands have not only caught up, in some cases they are forcing the national brands to compete for attention. Regardless, if your product is a national brand or a store brand, your packaging needs a brand presence that will justify its price.
  3. Marketing Not all packaging should look like Apple’s packaging even though we might want it to. In the world of Big-Box retailers and superstores, brands are not only competing for shelf space, they are competing with several other products that are very similar, all in the same space. Have you seen the light bulb aisle at Home Depot? Most brands don’t have the marketing and advertising dollars to promote their product like Apple does. We don’t really need several bullets on the iPod packaging to understand how it works. Yes, this also has a lot to do with product design as well, but you get our point. Some brands and several that we work with don’t have a marketing budget outside of their packaging. The packaging is their marketing budget. The goal for designers is to know just how much information is needed to make the critical point of difference. That could be features, benefits, warranty, third party endorsement, etc. As designers and especially packaging designers, we need to provide information.

These are just a few keys that packaging designers should consider. Of course, there are several more that can be implemented. Please feel free to let us know what you think or send us any questions that you might have.

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