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4 Ways Physical Product Placement Affects Package Design

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When it comes to package design, we in the design profession can be guilty of thinking mainly of our desire to win awards, have our works featured in Taschen anthologies and have bio-films made about us and our deep and agonizing desire to create art when we shut even those we love most out of our emotional centers. Unfortunately, we also occasionally have to design stuff, like product packaging. If your package design can’t be seen from store shelves, we can just kiss all of our imagined glory goodbye.

Packaging is, obviously, your potential customers’ introduction to a product. However, if those customers can’t read or even see your product, then that is a problem. We’ve touched upon label placement importance in store shelving, but we didn’t get into the thorny territory of refrigerated stock.

Shelf Placement Infographic

Refrigerated products have to take not only shelf placement into account, but what type of refrigerator unit in which it will likely be stored. Will it be a closed unit, where the glass occasionally gets fogged, or in an exposed unit, where the shopper is distanced from the shelving by several inches? Will it be stacked in a cooler unit? Will it be sold out of the trunk of your car from a vat of liquid nitrogen? These all make a difference.

Closed Refrigerated Storage

Closed refrigerated storage units are typically found in convenience stores, liquor stores, drugstores, and the occasional crazed survivalist’s underground bunker. They are usually reserved for beverages and occasionally processed convenience foods (lunch meats, cheese, yogurt, etc.). Beverages, however, are the most common items to be stored in this manner, and their package design should factor this into the concept.

Depending upon the level of maintenance in the store, these glass-door storage units can become cloudy and frosty from repeated opening and closing. In order for your packaging to remain visible and appealing even when visibility is obscured, it is a good idea to make bold choices when it comes to font, size and color. Although it might be interesting or aesthetically pleasing to include graphics, make sure that those graphics don’t overwhelm the text, or interfere with the shopper’s ability to recognize your brand or product. Remember — unlike standard shelves, where customers routinely pick up products and examine them, customers are not as likely to open a refrigerated unit and pick up a product just to scrutinize it — they open the door when they find what they want to buy. It is critical that your poackaging clearly communicates all of the key features from behind the glass. Unless your customers are the types who hold the refrigerator doors open for 5 minutes at a time, just staring at the stock until everything has been warmed to above body temperature. To those customers we say: Go so to hell.

Open Refrigerated Storage

Open refrigerator units are usually for convenience foods (cheese; cold cuts; packaged salads; pickled vegetables; salad dressings; bottled smoothies), dairy products and meats. There are usually both standard shelving and cooler configurations where boxed and jarred products are stacked, lonely and neglected.

The structure of this type of refrigerator unit distances the customer from the shelved products by as much as two feet, so once again, it is important that the shopper is able to read as much as possible from a distance. Strong typography and colors that contrast from the color scheme of the nearby competing products can give your product an edge.

If your brand isn’t particularly well known, it is very likely that it will be relegated to the bottom shelves — the prime real estate goes to the proven sellers. In this type of storage unit, high packaging placement is essential. If your product is a jarred food, it could be a good idea to place part of the design on the top of the jar lid, so that shoppers can instantly read it when glancing down, and without having to pick it up.

Closed Freezer Storage

While glass door refrigerated storage units can fog up considerably, glass door freezer storage fogs up almost instantly. It is imperative that your packaging placement and concept are bold and readable in order to mitigate the lowered visibility. Clear and evocative graphics could be useful too. The shopper won’t even have to take the time to read text; he or she can just glance at your picture to know what’s inside. Kind of like online dating.

Open Freezer Storage

Cooler-type freezers are actually the most egalitarian of the freezer storage units — there isn’t any high or low placement, and the shopper’s eye tracks the products pretty equally. However, there is occasionally a bit of overhang from top shelving if it is a combination unit; make sure you lay out your product information in the center of the package in order to avoid the possibility that the information could be covered by a pesky cooler design flaw. Of course, you could also run to each store outlet that features this type of unit and correct this flaw with an ax, but this could lead to franchise owners being than enthusiastic about carrying your product.

When designing your product packaging, these few design tips could make your product even more attractive to the consumer, help your product stand out and possibly earn you a prestigious cash award from a storied design academy. Everybody wins!