Any good packaging project starts with a creative brief that is well written and clearly lays out the objectives of the project. This document should give the designer precise information about the brand’s values and the brand’s promises to the consumer. It should establish the level of change desired by the client from their current packaging. (evolutionary vs revolutionary) General information about the target consumer’s demographic as well as any relevant lifestyle details should be included. It needs to establish the communication hierarchy and desired messaging as well as identify the characteristics of the product that make it special and unique in it’s market. Without having this information clearly stated at the onset of the design process, the project will most likely run into problems.
Good research is essential to developing great packaging, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the designer’s decision making process. It should serve as a tool in making your choices, but it should not dictate your design. This is due to the fact that research isn’t perfect, and it can be influenced by unforeseen factors. Sometimes a new, innovative idea may not test well with focus groups. You must encourage a client that a smart design that shakes up the competition may be exactly what their brand needs. Convince the client that as a designer you possess the correct insight and understanding of the target consumer better than a randomly selected focus group of non-designers.
Parity is the degree of similarity between two competitors’ packaging within a particular product genre. Avoid parity at all costs. It’s a proven fact that innovative and unique packaging can boost a product’s sales even if nothing about the actual product has changed. How are you going to help a company achieve greater sales if their product looks exactly the same as the product next to it on the shelf? In this way, parity is a death punch to profits. The point is to get a product to pop off the shelves, not to camouflage it.
The best packaging design is a design that looks beyond the current trends to what is next. A designer must help the client understand this concept. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different. Again, it’s clear and measurable that good packaging can improve a product’s sales. We must not wait for the competition to take the next step, we must beat them to the finish line. Be innovative!
Production is Key
Having a good relationship and good communication with the production artists that are working on the packaging is something that should never be overlooked. They should be involved in the process early and often. This can help a designer avoid serious mistakes due to printing and packaging limitations. Not only that, but the production artists often have great ideas that can take a packaging project from good to great. Find a person you are comfortable with and trust their expertise.