1. Clarity and simplicity
Next time you go to a supermarket, pick a random shelf and browse through some products. Glance at each and ask yourself two very simple questions:
What’s this product for?
What’s the brand behind it?
You will be amazed how hard it is to find answers to some of these essential questions in less than 4 seconds, which is the maximum time average consumer will dedicate to any particular product on the shelf.
You’ll find products listing dozen of benefits with no clear brand name. You’ll find products that look great on the outside yet fail to explain what’s in the box. You might even find cleaning products in packaging more appropriate for kids juices.
Although some product categories allow for a bit of mystery (think perfumes and luxuries), failing to identify the product in terms of content, usage or brand identity is a horrible practice which usually results in a packaging design which doesn’t perform well in stores.
So remember rule number one: be clear about the product, be clear about the brand.
Beginners in packaging design, and I’m talking both clients and designers, often strive to depict the product in the most perfect way imaginable. They will show a cookie drenched in chocolate, when in fact you’re buying a simple chocolate flavored biscuit. They’ll show rich, fresh cherries on fruit yogurt with little fruit content.
By depicting a product ten times better than it actually is, you’re misleading and ultimately disappointing the consumer, which only leads to poor sales performance and very bad brand image.
This is where honesty comes in. Consumers have nothing against simple, inexpensive products, as long as they know what they’re buying! Of course they expect “face lifting” to some degree but not to a point where product appears to be something entirely different.
As a designer, your task is to represent the product in the best way possible but keep in mind that consumers – you included – deserve to be treated right.
Originality, character and memorability are at the heart of great brands and of course, great packaging designs.
It’s easy to understand why – there are hundreds of products out there, all competing for consumers’ attention. The only way to set your brand apart is to be different, to be authentic.
Because this is truly a matter of creativity and exploration, it’s impossible to give advice on how to “be authentic,”especially nowadays when people are faced with myriad of brands, looks and appeals.
If you’re stuck with a generic looking packaging design then apply an uncommon design style with strong “visual standards.”
For example, if everybody is going for product photography, use illustration or type-based design. If everybody is using a horizontal layout, reach for vertical. If most designs are rather contemporary, try introducing something retro with focus on quality appeal.
Be bold, be different and look into other product categories for unexpected sources of inspiration – spirit label designs can be a great way to brainstorm ideas for that new chocolate packaging project.