As a specialist discipline within print design, packaging design has been an integral part of how we interact with products for thousands of years. From simple day-to-day items to premium clothing, all modern packaging disciplines can trace their roots back to how early civilisations preserved, sold and distributed resources.
In ancient Egypt, examples of glass and ceramic ‘packaging’ containers date back more than 3,500 years. We believe these were used at markets to sell a huge range of materials such as precious oils and dyes right through to common grains. It is understood that coloured glass pots were used to differentiate between these foods, ingredients and materials — creating a practical visual system that undoubtedly helped people to understand the contents. At the same time, the glass pots also helped to preserve and protect the contents for long periods of time.
This system is essentially the basis on which packaging works — firstly to protect, secondly to advertise. While some basic packaging systems were in used throughout the world, it is only in the last century that product packaging became a fully developed discipline in its own right. Advances in literacy, availability of resources, manufacturing and product design have led to an explosion of packaging possibilities, each designed with the same goals of protecting and promoting the products they hold.
Recent examples of packaging design work include bespoke jewellery boxes for Heath Diamonds, on-shelf cartons for Georgina Day, shipping bags for The Feather Company and wax tin cases for Halley Stevensons re-waxing solutions.
The two fundamental principles of packaging design are protection and promotion. These components must work together for a piece of packaging to be deemed successful. For example, if a perfume box looks beautiful, but the glass bottle inside is damaged, it has failed in its basic role of safeguarding the product. Conversely, if a product is held within a poorly designed container, it is unnecessarily overpackaged or uses low-quality materials, it is unlikely a customer will pick it up in the first place. The second point is particularly important for products that will be stocked in a shop — shelves are an incredibly competitive environment with potentially thousands of similar products competing for attention.
Appropriately designed product packaging will always give a reasonable amount of protection. A packaging designer considers the full lifecycle of a product, taking into account its journey from manufacturing to warehouse or shop, the process of being displayed or picked, distribution across a range of delivery networks and finally how it will be stored and reused by the end-user. A designer will test and iterate on different concepts to make sure it performs to an acceptable degree before it is signed off. Many clients opt for formal testing of mass-produced packaging to make sure it withstands real-life handling.
There are a number of additional considerations that come into play when designing the packaging for premium products such as clothing, jewellery or electronics. These include:
When developing any pack design it is important to consider who the audience is, where it will be sold, what the key USPs of the product are, what brand image and materials are appropriate and many more. For in-store FMCG products it may be deemed essential for a design to be eye-catching. However, high-end products such as jewellery, fragrances or make-up can often benefit from the restrained use of design, instead focussing on confident use of high-quality materials.
When designing a product pack, we recommend weighing up the following elements:
We recommend that all packaging materials considered for a project are sustainably produced. We believe it is the job of a creative agency to specify and explain the most appropriate materials for a project. For example, we simply refuse to use plastics that are not easily or widely recycled in the UK — and there are many!
It is important to consider what level of accreditation a material has. For example, a paper may be certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) while textiles may be certified by an organisation like the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
If your business would benefit from bespoke packaging design or a fresh approach to print design and production, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all printed materials are unique, consistent and effective.