Packaging and Good Design


Reaching consumers these days is difficult. No longer do traditional methods of advertising and marketing warrant the attention of consumers or their purchasing power. Business owners and advertisers alike, struggle to come up with creative ways to grab even the smallest bit of attention for their products. Creating an effective package design is one of the best most cost effective ways to do this but it requires originality, creativity, and the ability to emotionally connect with consumers. 

However in all circumstances, packaging must do its job well whatever the design and fulfil the functions of protecting and preserving as well as promoting the product.

Design is critical.  Some people would say the first “moment of truth” for a pack is its ability to attract the customer.  With the increasing global power of supermarkets and the almost split second decision-making time of the busy customer, the ability of a pack to “stand out” on the shelf is vital.

Design Qualities

The following will all give a pack good design qualities:

it can be difficult to get consumers to change their purchasing habits or experiment with new products. Why fix it, if it isn’t broken? When introducing a product to consumers ingenuity in pack design is critical. Consumers look for packaging that is visually pleasing, is something they can identify with and is representative of the actual product. The pack should demonstrate the brand’s ability to uniquely display the product for example through colour, size, shape or logo.

Just as with people, packages that are different tend to stand out, though again like people, they need to be different and stand out for the right reasons! Using unusual colours, containers, and catch phrases are examples of effective ways to catch consumers’ attention. There can be huge rewards by using packaging design to market the same product to multiple target groups. Product packaging can give new meaning to the same product for different consumers. It is important to note however, that creative packaging is no substitute for a great product.  

Connecting with consumers
Consumers will purchase products because of a perceived need for them. Therefore, pack design must demonstrate a fulfilment of a need of some sort, as well as the benefits of choosing a particular product. A pack should elicit emotion from the consumer, whether it is happiness, serenity, identification, or even hunger. If there isn’t a feeling of excitement or necessity, the pack is not doing its job properly and the product will remain on the shelf. Consumers like to feel that a company is in touch with their specific needs and offers them something special. You must connect with your target audience. Pack design is the product’s business card. Effective package design keeps the consumer’s needs at the forefront while still remaining effective in demonstrating the product and its benefits. For better or for worse packaging design will be a significant deciding factor in whether or not the product is purchased.

Sustainability continues to be a buzz word and has become a major factor affecting operations in packaging.  Customers and others are increasingly aware of this issue and there is a critical need for packs to be designed with this in mind.  The concept of packaging optimisation needs to be at the forefront of the design process.  Issues of sustainability and its relationship to packaging are explored further in the WPO Position Paper “Packaging – An Important Tool for a Sustainable Society”

The Packaging Design Process

Although all the above factors are critical in packaging design, the process itself has several key features which are important to both the designer and the person commissioning the new pack. 

There are different views about the process, but all sides need to consider the steps that should be taken to ensure that the final design has the best chance of success and perhaps of winning a WorldStar Award!

One author suggests the following stages:


Packaging is so often daubed the “silent salesperson” and good packaging design enables a product to stand out and differentiate itself from the opposition.  Nevertheless it does not matter how skilled the designed is, he or she needs to have an in depth  and broad knowledge of other aspects of packaging, for example the materials used, so that the pack not only promises the customer a great product but delivers that promise though functional performance when the product arrives at its final destination.

Although most of this paper focuses on packaging for the end user, issues such as creativity, ingenuity and sustainability in design are equally important if the role of the pack is to protect goods in transit before being displayed to a potential end customer.  In cases such as this, the design process also demands close attention.

Pierre Pienaar
Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP)
March 2014

B Stewart, Packaging Design and Development, in  Anne and Henry Emblem (eds) Packaging Technology: Fundamentals, materials and processes 2012 Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, UK