In the product business, looks matter, big time. Your product is sitting on the shelf next to dozens of other similar products. If it doesn’t stand out, it’s not going to sell.
The packaging is the thing that will stop consumers, catch their eye, and ultimately make them decide whether to put a product back on the shelf or buy it.
That’s why creating a great packaging design is so important. But how do you do that?
Read on to find out our tips for a successful packaging design process, from the basics of packaging design to finding a professional to work with:
What is Packaging Design?
Before you can find a great designer, you need to know exactly what packaging design is. Packaging design is simply the design and creation of what holds a product.
Think about almost anything you buy. A carton of milk. A pair of shoes. A razor. It all comes inside a container. Anything that goes on the package, as well as the structure of the package itself, is all part of packaging design.
What Are the Functions of Packaging Design?
The primary purpose of packaging is, of course, to hold the product. Your packaging design has to be planned to keep your product secure. But packaging design does a lot more than that.
It also identifies what your product is, with brand names and labels displayed in a way that’s easy to read. The packaging tells the buyer more about the product as well.
Finally, it serves as a marketing tool. Good packaging serves as a mini-ad for your product, drawing in consumers, making them interested in the product, and convincing them to buy it.
How Long Does it Take to Design Packaging?
Packaging design is a complicated process that doesn’t happen overnight. You have to find the right designer or agency, brainstorm what your packaging will look like, create a detailed step-by-step plan, and then go through the actual design process.
The time will vary based on the complexity of your packaging and the designer’s expertise and availability, but you should expect the design process to take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.
What are The Best Books for Packaging Design?
There are several books available that can teach you more about packaging design, how to create a good design, and what to expect in the process. Here are some of the best ones:
Packaging Design: Successful Product Branding from Concept to Shelf is an overall look at the entire process of packaging design. It covers the history of design, marketing through packaging, and how to use color and imaging in the process.
Package Design Workbook: The Art and Science of Successful Packaging takes a look at the elements that make a design successful and walks through the step-by-step process.
Packaging Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Creating Packages offers a wide range of successful design ideas to look at and discusses why they work.
If you’re looking for great inspiration and a detailed look at the process of packaging design, all of these are must-reads!
How to Choose the Right Packaging
There are many different types and materials of packaging you can choose from, ranging from glass to plastic to food-grade cardboard.
You’ll have to consider the expense of your materials, as well as how difficult they are to transport. Glass, for example, is expensive and difficult to transport, but it looks nice and feels high-quality to a consumer.
Size is another important factor to consider. You want to make sure that you’re choosing packaging that will fit your products without excess waste. Even if your products are different sizes, you might be able to use similar sized packaging, saving you money.
How to Find a Fantastic Packaging Designer
Most people don’t decide to design their own packaging. Your packaging could easily make the difference between your product succeeding or failing. On top of that, it’s a complicated process with many factors to consider.
It makes sense to hire a professional, someone who knows the ins and outs, understands how to create a successful packaging design, and has experience doing so.
But how do you find someone who knows what they’re doing?
Design Agencies vs. Freelancers
The two main options for hiring a designer is to go to a design agency or hire a freelancer.
Hiring a freelancer is more affordable, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting. Some freelancers are great, and others are very inexperienced. Stick with a freelancing site, like Behance or Dribbble, where you can see portfolios and reviews before you hire someone.
If you have the budget, going with a professional design agency is the way to go. Agencies are able to staff high-quality designers, and they’re also well-connected, which means they can likely point you to printers, manufacturers, and copywriters.
Either way, always ask to see a portfolio before you hire someone. You want to know that they are experienced, but you also need to see that they can design the type and style of packaging you need.
How to Work with a Packaging Designer
Once you find a great designer to work with, you’re ready to start your project.
But the process of working with a designer can be intimidating, especially if your business is new. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to make the process go more smoothly.
Know What You Want
You don’t have to know exactly what you’re looking for. Designers offer creative input and help you figure out what you want.
But it’s important to have at least a vague idea. Do you have specific materials in mind? Do you have photographs in mind? Or logo ideas? Have you researched competitors for styles? You want to provide at least some guidance for what you would like.
If you want your packaging designer to take more of a creative lead, be upfront with that. And if you have a specific, detailed list of what you’re looking for, that’s great too—just know that it’s a packaging designer’s job to guide and be realistic with you. Some of what you want might not be possible!
Be Upfront with Your Expectations
You want to get clear with your packaging designer about your expectations, especially when it comes to timeline and budget.
Work with your designer to create a realistic timeline that works for both of you. You can’t expect a quality design in a day, but if you have specific deadlines, you need to present those upfront.
Likewise, you need to be forthcoming about your budget. Not only will that change what they can do for you in your design, but it also affects what materials you will use (which might change the design possibilities as well.)
Fill Out a Design Brief
Any designer worth their salt is going to require a design brief. But even before you get to that step, you should already have an idea of what you want and be thinking about the best ways to communicate that.
You don’t have to wait until you’re talking to a packaging designer to create a design brief. In fact, creating one before you even start your search will help you figure out who to look for and lead you to clarity on what you want.
Write out a description of who you are, what your product is, who your target buyer is, and the vision you have for your design. When you meet with a packaging designer, share the brief and make sure they can do what you’re asking for.
All designers or design agencies are different, and if you want specific things, it’s best to ask up front. Does your package designer or design agency write the packaging copy as well? Do they communicate with the printer or is that all on you? Will they help you choose materials?
If in doubt, always ask to clarify!
Packaging design is not something to be taken for granted. It’s the gateway to more buyers finding and choosing your products.
But you need to make sure you find a qualified package designer and that you know how to communicate with them. With proper communication and expectations, you can hire a designer who will create a great packaging design for you!