Good packaging design is about more than good looks. It’s about finding the sweet spot between aesthetics, function, and strategy

We like to think that what makes a good design great goes beyond the aesthetics. Design should include strategic as well as creative thought. In other words, there should be purpose behind the artfulness.

Admit it: When you shop the wine aisle, do you search for the perfect varietal to pair with your dinner, or do you pick the bottle with the most eye-catching artwork? No judgment, here. That’s good design doing its job.

Not long ago, big brands like Tide and Dawn — both owned by parent company Procter & Gamble (P&G) — began offering eco- and shipping-friendly versions of their products, leading to a domino effect of benefits. For e-retailers like Amazon and Walmart, these flatter, less bulky variations free up shelf space and don’t require additional packaging. In turn, P&G saves money on packaging costs, and consumers can purchase products that are more ergonomic and convenient than their in-store counterparts. And of course, there’s less waste.

Tactical packaging has made strides recently in the beverage world, where winery 19 Crimes has outfitted their bottles with augmented reality (AR) activations, while Garçon Wines has introduced flat bottles designed to survive indelicate handling and be cost-efficient at the same time.

Our experiences working with beverage companies have been no different. For example, when working with Houston-area breweries to design new labels and packaging, we had to consider objectives, logistics, and budgets as part of the overall design process. When picking the perfect color palette, for example it’s important to weigh print costs, as one enticing tone may be more expensive for a long-term run. If you’re selling bold, distinct brews that some customers may not be familiar with, then perhaps the bottles themselves should provide educational insights into their contents.

Packaging design as experiential marketing

Packaging design as experiential marketing

Packaging isn’t limited to what you can buy off a shelf, of course, but that doesn’t mean the rules change, either. While the scope may vary, it’s critical that any packaging still aligns with its intended audience and context.

Sometimes that context can be very specific, as it was when creating demand generation kits for companies like HP. Not only do the kits need knockout design, they must embody the brand as well as the technology, form factor, and specifications of the product. If a device is thin and stylish, then the packaging should reflect that. In other words, the package needs to convince a consumer of the contents’ worth at first glance. It requires an engaging, layered customer experience that will produce the desired results.

In a way, what we’ve done for HP is similar to what 19 Crimes is trying to achieve with its AR activation — create a memorable experience that rewards desired behavior.

The future of packaging

The future of packaging

By approaching packaging design with a strategic mindset, long-term thinking becomes second-nature. From cutting costs to anticipating future demands, a sound strategy gets you closer to what matters — that all-important ROI.

P&G future-proofed their product, perhaps knowing that an estimated 70 percent of customers will shop for groceries and household products online by 2024. Even more, their new cost-cutting product packaging is an opportunity to make an already well-received product even more attractive to both distributors and end-consumers. The move is P&G’s way of saying, “We hear you, and we have your back.” A nuanced form of personalization that recognizes a demand for sustainable, low-impact products.

That’s the power of great packaging: building a meaningful relationship and brand loyalty that last well beyond the initial purchase.

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