Don't forget the basics when designing packages

Posted: December 13, 2011 by
Jenn David Connolly

There’s something about designing retail packaging that absolutely captivates me. Perhaps it’s the three-dimensional aspect of it, or maybe it’s the process of expressing the inner contents of a package externally, as if you’re giving the product a personality—creating a face for it and making it come to life.

But when it comes down to it, what I love most about package design is the ultimate challenge of establishing a personal connection with the consumer in a slim two to three second window at best, all while other products on the shelf compete for the same consumer’s attention. So how do you capture that consumer’s affection?

First, consider the store environment. Many stores can be overwhelming for the consumer. Marketing messages are bombarding shoppers constantly, with a plethora of brands and varieties for even the simplest of products, such as toothpaste. All the different brands, designs, information hierarchies, and price points can be extremely difficult for the consumer to compare and contrast on the fly.

Communicate clearly and quickly. Package designs that don’t clearly distinguish themselves from all the other product offerings can lead to confusion or, worse yet, a customer buying a product that doesn’t fully meet his values. Design the principal display panel to convey what the product is and differentiate it from other varieties in the same line and from competitors in seconds, not minutes.

Research competing designs and do something different. To do this, you have to research what your competitors are doing then take another direction. Have an energy about your design that lures shoppers toward it and draws them in.

This isn’t all about shouting—if competing package designs are screaming, you don’t necessarily need to be louder. Perhaps being a little more reserved and refined can differentiate your design and even make it a little hypnotic.

Close the deal. After your product makes the first cut and is in the consumer’s hand, it needs to sell, sell, sell! Usually this is where “romance copy” comes in—the package is literally romancing the customer to take it home and experience it.

Go for the repeat buy. When a packaged product enters the consumer’s home, its performance takes center stage. That doesn’t mean the package’s role is over, though. A package that’s pleasing to look at for this longer duration can encourage the consumer to buy the product again.

Jenn David Connolly is owner and founder of Jenn David Design (