December 10, 2013

4 Funny Business Destroying Packaging Design Mistakes

4 Funny Business Destroying Packaging Design Mistakes

Luxury packaging design is certainly the most fun category of package design; who wouldn’t love to sit around and develop new ways to display bottles of bourbon whiskey, artisan chocolates or hand-held digital transmogrification devices?

Unfortunately, because there’s often a great deal of leeway given to luxury packaging design, we can also fall into some totally avoidable traps. We’d like to discuss some of the more common packaging mistakes in an enlightening and mildly humorous way. (Note: we’re liable only for mild humor, so if your stomach isn’t hurting from laughter, deal with it.)

Package design that highlights (or fails to disguise) the unattractiveness of the product

Certain industrial products and even foods don’t have great visual appeal on their own; their useful qualities have to be enhanced by the packaging. Take, for example, this package for Gerber Graduates L’il Entrees. We realize that toddlers aren’t terribly discerning about the attractiveness of packaging, but we think that the good people at Gerber could have gone a little farther in making the contents seem more like a pre-consumed meal rather than a post-consumed one.

Packages with overabundant materials

We’ve given many examples of packages that have waaaaaay too much material, but this won’t stop us from training the spotlight on our favorite example: The double-coated banana.

We’re making some progress, though. It’s no longer acceptable for a product to be unnecessarily braced in multiple layers of inflexible plastic, accompanied by a cardboard box, accompanied by a film of cellophane. We appreciate the need to keep delicate items protected, but are dried plums really in great danger during shipping?

Packages that are awkwardly shaped

Who doesn’t notice a package that swims against the stream? We love packaging that takes liberties with shape and structure. They stand out on the shelf and they’re visually interesting. However, many products are shaped a certain way for practical reasons.

This example of poor dish soap packaging may seem misguided — after all, it’s quite beautiful. However when the product is actually used; when a soapy-handed person grabs it and tries to extract more product, the bottle slips from the hand and launches itself across the room as though it was shot out of a potato gun.

This juice box package design concept is certainly interesting. The main problem is that the consumer would inevitably set it down the wrong way and spill pomegranate acai limeade all over the carpet. We find that it’s best to remove all ambiguity when it comes to beverage package design.

Packages that devalue the product

We’re not even necessarily talking about products that are packaged cheaply or flimsily, we really mean packages that lower the product’s glamour quotient (even the biggest and most respected products are guilty of this, as you can see in thisMicrosoft/Apple spoof).

For luxury package design, it’s important that the package (and the brand) emphasize the lifestyle as well as the merits of the product. Now, obviously Apple has completely transcended the normal limits of package design and branding – an Apple product doesn’t even have to disclose what exactly is in the package. But a degree of minimalism isn’t a bad idea for any product, regardless of brand identity or marketing strategy. A wise man once said, “Keep silent and have everyone think you’re a fool; speak and remove all doubt.” Keeping your package relatively clean and simple will entice more people than a package crammed with graphics, slogans, banners, and other such nonsense.

So, what have we learned today? We learned that food packaging, even if it’s only baby food, should feature pictures of food that doesn’t seem to have been already eaten before being served. We learned that packaging bananas was, is and will always be a stupid idea. Finally, we learned that — even though Microsoft hasn’t done too badly for itself — in terms of style, Apple still makes Microsoft look like Napoleon Dynamite – and not in an ironic way.


by Kevin Smith
Managing partner at SmashBrand. We're a group of experienced brand owners, thinkers and world-class designers united by an obsession for creating category disrupting brand experiences.

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