Product Packaging Design: The Definitive Guide


Table of Contents

There is more to a product than what meets the eye. But what meets the eye is what gets a customer to pick up the package for the product inside. It is a major part of the identity of the product and thereby identity of the brand itself. It is the ultimate salesman of the product. When a well groomed salesman puts his best foot forward (i.e., best package both physically and aesthetically), a sale is generated. In generating that marginal sale via package aesthetics is where package engineers and visual designers come in.

We, at What a Story, have put together this guide to answer all your questions and concerns about Visual Packaging Design.

The What of Visual Packaging Design:

Visual packaging design is an integral part of packaging design which impacts directly on point-of-purchase decisions. It tells a customer what the product is, how it looks (via images, art etc), what is/are its major benefit/s, what is its nutritional information(if any), what is its barcode, what is its batch number, what is the date of manufacturing, what is the date of expiry etc. It is a process of prioritizing all the information to be displayed on the product label and designing the visual aesthetic of the package accordingly. Essentially, a good package appeals to the target customer group (in both trade and consumers) by conveying the right information in the most pleasing manner.

The Why of Visual Packaging Design:

In words:

Sure, you could print a list of things to be displayed on the product and might as well stick it to the product yourself. But that is not what generates a sale in most cases. What generates a sale is how your product is perceived by the customer aka Product Positioning and how different it is from its competition aka Product Differentiation. Visual Package Design is a proven tool to Product Positioning and Product Differentiation. 

In numbers:

  • 30% businesses report an increase in revenue when they improve the product packaging.
  • 63% consumers agree that the product packaging is as important as the brand itself.

In pictures:

Outdated design like this instantly throws customers off. It takes us back decades and not in a nostalgic way. Nobody would want to use this for grooming and personal care because of the fear that it was manufactured ages ago.

Confusing your customer unless unintentionally gets you the kind of negative attention this product is getting across the internet. Nobody would believe that it is not a drink but a cleaning product.

These biscuits look like a copy of one another. And it doesn’t matter who was the first player, which tastes better etc., a consumer is always confused between the two. What’s more, it hurts revenues of both the products.

No white space is a designer's worst nightmare. This fails to tell a customer where to focus. In today’s time crunched world this honey is bound to get dusty on the shelves. It is such a relief that honey doesn’t expire.


The When of Visual Packaging Design:

Once the basic engineering design of the package is ready, it can be given out for visual design. When giving it out to designers, it helps to answer a few questions (in detail)

1. Who is buying the product i.e., what is the target group of consumers and/or trade

This sure is a trivial question but writing an answer to it will improve your clarity and help you understand their purchase traits. Having a clearly written down personas not only help you to identify your target market but also helps you to understand their purchase journeys which would be a valuable input professional designers.

For example, when a relatively new product enters a market, the ideal consumer needs to be educated about the advantages of the product as well as the usage of it.

2. How are they buying it i.e., marketplace - whether they are buying it at a store, online, club store(wholesale) etc

A purchase depends on the visibility of the product. Visibility at a retail store is different from visibility online or from a wholesale store. A professional designer understands visibility directly influences positioning of the product in a customer’s mind and uses this to the advantage of the product.

For example, a product selling online needs to stand out from the never ending list of options. A professional visual designer understands that simple and clear packaging does better and might sometimes eliminate the endless hassle of zooming in to look for the right information.

Also defining the marketplace helps to identify what layer of packaging i.e., outer or inner or both should be prioritised.

3. What is the Unique Selling Proposition(USP) of the product or what is the one feature of the product that should be highlighted

Unique Selling Proposition is the key to product differentiation. It is what makes the product memorable. It is what makes a customer who compares purchase the product. USP of a product and the perceived value of the brand owning it go hand in hand. 

For example when a premium food brand releases a product, a customer expects to imagine the richness of consuming it as well as feel luxurious while looking at it. And visual packaging design plays a significant role in imparting that premium USP in the customer’s mind.

Nothing speeds up the visual design process than communicating a clear and in depth requirement to a designer. What a Story was able to design 13 cohesive product visual product packages for GoBhaarati in a record time as we have

  1. clearly identified that their consumers as Urban Indians
  2. observed that their marketplace spans both online and offline
  3. understood that their USP as sourcing from Rural India and purity of those villages

Also the following information has to be kept ready for designers:

  1. Brand requirements like logo, colours, fonts etc
  2. Permanent content that goes on the package - including ingredients, tagline etc (sometimes design firm may help write it)
  3. Template of temporary content i.e., barcode, packaged date, expiry date, batch number etc
  4. Legally mandatory requirements like any association marks, nutritional information etc
  5. Any active promotions for the product
  6. Templates from the engineer/nets from the printer (if the printer has already been decided)
  7. Product Images - sometimes the design firm may get the images taken
  8. Consumer research information if any
  9. Inspiration for visual design
  10. Budget

Keeping all this information is ready beforehand ensures that the visual design process is smooth and hassle-free.



The How of Visual Design:

The specific design process may vary from firm to firm but this is what we at What a Story follow:

Step 1:

Product owning company (client from hereon) describes the design project to the Design firm. 

Step 2:

Design firm prepares a proposal for the client. The Design firm checks with the client for the availability of dielines before giving a timeline for the design project.

Step 3(optional):

If the client does not have dielines ready, then the Design Firm connects the client to a printer available in India (We only have printer connections domestically).

Step 4:

Client communicates all the necessary information as mentioned in the previous section.

Step 4:

The Design Firm creates a logo,color theme and fonts for the product if required.

Step 5:

The Design Firm creates Visual Design for the product label, inner and/or outer packings. The Design firm delivers them in suitable formats as per die lines for printing.

The Who of Visual Design:

Just because someone you can use Photoshop, doesn’t mean he/she knows how to design a sales generating, legal package that appeals to consumers and/or trade. A professional package design increases the product value, attraction and passes on the right and relevant information. And to get that done a professional designer is a must.

If you are looking for a Visual Designer to help design your product package then we at What a Story are very eager to dive in. Your peer groups trusted us.

Vicasso started What a Story back in 2015 in a damp room with no lights. He is born with a third eye that can see what your business needs to hit the market with a bang.

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