The Ultimate Guide to Product Packaging Design in 2021

by Christiaan
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Stylish packaging design gives your product that extra edge over others! Among many different factors that influence how consumers judge your brand, packaging is definitely among the top. Customers’ perception heavily depends on how you choose to package your product. The design you choose must be in line with your brand image. A rustic design will leave a different impression than a modern or minimalistic one.

A customer judges a product in about fraction of a second; therefore packaging must be both attractive and convey the right message. Be it ready to cook chicken or a bottle of beer, packaging definitely helps you get noticed.

What really is product packaging? The creation of the exterior of a product is referred to as product packaging and 2021 is the year when product packaging will reach a whole new level.  Though it may seem like a minor detail to many, packaging should not be left until the last moment. Packaging strategies must go hand- in-hand with other important marketing strategies. In fact, packaging could be the deciding factor between customer buying or not buying your product.

What you need to do before starting your packaging design?

What you need to do before you start your packaging design?

There are several important steps you need to take before you start your packaging design. These steps can be broadly classified under the two following groups:

1. The 4 crucial questions

1.1 What is the product?

This one is probably the easiest to answer; what is it that you are selling? What is it made of? Is it delicate? These are some of the questions that will help you determine how to go about packaging your product. If your product has odd dimensions, it will require different packaging than the ones with regular size and shape. If your product is delicate, it will require careful packaging. Understanding of your product will go a long way in packaging it.

1.2 Who is your audience?

There is a whole class of men who will not reach out for pink boxes, especially if it is something to do with men’s products. It is extremely important that you understand who your customer is. Your packaging designs must appeal to the customers you are making it for. Products for older people, for example, may require larger texts. If a product is for children, it may have loads of colors.

1.3 How will customers buy the product?

Will they buy the product online? Will your product be available in a supermarket? A boutique?

If you are considering selling your product online then you have to package your product differently than if you are considering it to sit on a shelf in a supermarket. Obviously, 2021 will see the next level of hygiene due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Packages that make customers feel safe will definitely emerge victorious.

1.4 What are your competitors doing?

It is indeed a good idea to have a look at what your competitors are doing. Understanding your competitors will help you come up with a design which will assist you in standing out. A thorough market research and a competitive analysis between you and your competitor will help you evaluate your current position and the areas of improvement.

 2. Information to collect

2.1 Brand essentials

Remember your product is your brand! It all comes down to your product and how you have packaged it. The packaging must reflect your brand image. The colors, the logo and the fonts should be in line with your brand image.

2.2 The Budget

(a) One-time costs: The things you only pay for once, which include the graphic design and the printing setup, among others, fall under this category.
(b) Per-unit costs: The things you only pay for once, which include the graphic design and the printing setup, among others, fall under this category.

You need to draw a rough estimate of how much you are willing to spend before you start with the design process. Remember, 2021 is all about making your customers feel comfortable with the packaging: the safer your packaging is, the higher will be your chances of standing out from the crowd.

The packaging design process in 6 steps

This is where the fun part begins! Once you have gathered all the required information and checked all the boxes, it is time for you to get down and start sewing all the information together with the below mentioned 6 steps. Combining the two will help you generate a story that will be in sync with your brand image.

The 6-step packaging design process will not only allow you to come up with a great packaging design but will give you the visibility required in 2021.

1. Packaging layers

The Ultimate Guide to Product Packaging Design in 2021

The three layers of packaging are: outer packaging, inner packaging and product packaging. Understanding the kind of packaging you require will help you in setting the budget and brand essentials. Depending on your product, you may need one or all three of the packaging layers.  Let’s take a look at each one.

1.1 Outer packaging

Outer product packaging is what the customers will first see. It is extremely important in 2021, especially if the product is being home delivered, to keep the packaging hygienic and ensure a contact free delivery. Customers are looking for safety and hygiene more than anything in 2021. The outer packaging is your golden opportunity to create a strong first impression with the customers. 

1.2 Inner packaging

Shredded papers, packing peanuts, pamphlets or instructional booklets, all form the inner packaging. The inner packaging allows the product to be nestled safely in the packaging. Inner packaging keeps the product safe inside. 

1.3 Product packaging

The bottle for the shampoo, the box for the jewelry or the candy wrapper is all examples of product packaging. Product packaging also includes tags and labels. It is what people think of when one talks about product packaging. 

Packaging layers allows your brand to look more professional and established, allowing you to have more control over customer satisfaction. Each layer of packaging allows you to tell a part of your brand story and connect with your customers.

2. Proper packaging

Proper packaging design

Proper packaging involves you choosing what is right for your product. It might sound easy, but it can sometimes be extremely difficult to choose the right type of packaging. Here are a few things you can keep in your mind before choosing the right type of packaging for your product:

2.1 The product

Take a good look at what you have made. Go ahead and take another hard look at it! You actually made a good product and people will love it! Well, you may think you have made a grand product but making the customers believe in the same requires a lot of creative thinking! If it is liquid, a bottle is your obvious choice. But, wait a while, think about fitting it in something else. Think of how Capri Sun created a juice-sachet. Getting creative with your product packaging can do wonders.

2.2  The budget

Well, money is what you need to think about before you choose that awesome looking design. You also need to think of your target customers. Once you have evaluated the two, you can go for the perfect packaging for your product. Remember, this is a recurring cost; therefore, you must choose wisely.

2.3 The market

This is a tricky one and needs careful planning. If your product is liquid based and other similar products in the market use cans for it, then you might have a difficult time if you choose some other form of packaging. Though you might set your product apart from the others, you have to wait and see if that translates into profits.

3. Printing

Packaging Printing

It is probably a good idea to think about printing before the design is complete. Connecting to a printer will allow you to gather useful information which will help designers to prepare files. You will also need to ask a few things about:

3.1 File requirements

Does it have to be a layered file? Should it include cut-lines? You will also require vector files so that it is easier to resize. Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or Adobe Photoshop (.psd) files are generally print-ready files. The designer will also give you JPG and PNG type files which can open almost anywhere. Understanding files types are crucial since it will help you in distributing it to the right people.

3.2 Dielines

Dieline templates can easily be shared with designers if you have selected standard-sized labels. Dielines ensures the correct layout for a printed product.

3.3 Digital or offset printing

You also have to consider what kind of printing to go for. Digital has its set of advantages and offset has its. Offset printing allows you to print large quantities cost effectively and digital printings are technologically superior. 

4. Information building

Packaging design information building

Information building is crucial since it allows you to pick that one important information which will stick in the customer’s mind. Let’s go back a bit, remember the 4 crucial questions? Answers to those will help you build an information bank. Your information bank must also include: great testimonials by customers, beautiful photos of your product, taglines, and video footage of customers showing how to use your product. Upon building the fantastic information bank, you need to pick that one information which you want the customers to remember and associate with your product. The information you pick will also become the centerpiece of your design.

5. Packaging design evaluation

Packaging design evaluation

This is the part where honesty will reap benefits. Here are a few questions you need to think about:

5.1 Does your package indicate what it contains?

You may have fantastic looking designs but does it talk about the product? Does it let the customers know what they are in for? Is your packaging confusing the potential buyers? Remember, customers will buy a product when they understand it. 

Do not confuse the buyers with information overload in the packaging; they already get the dose of information bombardment on their smartphones! Jokes aside, keep it neat and simple.

5.2 Is it an honest representation of your product?

Customers love honesty: it is the best ‘packaging design’ you can have! The photos and the texts must match the product inside. Do not cheat your buyers in any way. If your ‘ready to make mixed vegetable soup’ does not have carrots, do not show it in the photo: the customers will feel cheated.

5.3 How will it look in the stores?

Your fantastic new product has an equally great packaging design but think about the shelf-impact. Think about how it will appear when it sits on a shelf.

– You must ensure that the most important information is front and center.
– Think about how much of it will be visible when the products are next to each other.
– How will it look like when it sits with your competitors?
– Is the packaging reusable?

Thinking about all these aspects will allow you to generate a strong first impression with the buyers.

6. Feedback and Insights

Feedback and Insights

Stakeholders and people who have never seen the product can give you honest feedback about how the packaging designs look and feels. You can ask your friend from another city or your next door neighbor the following questions:

  • What is the kind of message you get when you look at the packaging?
  • What does this product do?
  • Who can buy the product?
  • Have you seen something like this before?

The answers will reveal if the packaging design is communicating exactly what you want it to. If it is not, go back to your designer and think about where you can improve.

We can safely conclude that packaging design is one of the most crucial factors in determining whether your product is going to make it. Remember, never kill your product by leaving the packaging design for the last moment; it could be the determining factor for the buyers.

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