February 5, 2013

5 Tips for Packaging Design that Draws Attention

5 Tips for Packaging Design that Draws Attention

When you’re shopping for a new drain cleaner, what features are you looking for? Do you want something that’s quick and effective; a product that removes clogs and debris from your pipes without compromising the integrity of the drain? Do you want high value for cost? Or will you merely buy the bottle with the girl in a bikini holding a plunger on the label?

There might be a few people out there that will buy a bottle of drain cleaner (or cough syrup, or laundry detergent) based solely upon the size of the rack on the girl on the package (these are mainly college students with high blood-alcohol levels), but the vast majority of the consumer base will recognize this for the desperate, misguided and cynical marketing ploy it is. If you consistently use gimmicky concepts in your package design, you’re likely to lose your clientele, offend customers, and end your days pouring drinks for successful graphic designers who followed these few basic tips about attention-grabbing packaging concepts.

1. Honesty and Accuracy

We’ve all purchased a candy bar, box of cereal or canned food product that simply wasn’t what the package label promised. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Doesn’t it just make you want to go online and write nasty product reviews just so the world knows how angry you are with the blatant fraud you just witnessed?

Of course you do. So do thousands of other customers who have gone through the same thing. What do you think the company’s reaction is going to be? Yup, they’ll reconfigure the design. And guess who isn’t going to be the designer? Whoever was responsible for the original concept!

2. Product-Appropriate Package

It’s very avant-garde to design a package that inspires associations with another product that has great customer appeal. We’ve seen beauty products that come in bottles that resemble milk jugs, Chinese food take-out containers, boxes of chocolates and all sorts of things (consumers tend to like and trust food associations when it comes to beauty products). However, cleaning solvents should look like cleaning solvents. Boxes of cookies should look as though they contain cookies. Designing a package of athletic itch cream that looks like toothpaste will only confuse the consumer and possibly lead to lawsuits from all of the customers who developed severe mouth lesions as a result of that confusion.

Of course, please don’t feel limited by these constraints. Just because you want to convey the contents of the package accurately doesn’t mean you shouldn’t source ideas from other areas, which leads us to our next tip:

3. Originality

You shouldn’t really need us to tell you this, but try to “think outside the box” (we promise that is the last time you will see that hideous cliché in our articles). If you notice that other products tend to use highly contemporary concepts, perhaps think about using a nostalgic or old-timey design. If other brands use highly colorful, kaleidoscopic designs, maybe go for a simple and bold strategy, which can be just as eye-catching, particularly when it’s in proximity to dozens of extremely colorful (oftentimes seizure-inducing) packages. Speaking of shelf proximity…

4. Shelf Proximity

If your package blends seamlessly into other products on the retailers’ shelves, no one will notice it. Look through grocery store shelves and see which products stand out in the crowd. Now, look at your package design. Will customers notice it against the sea of other competing products, or will it look like an extension of another product display?

5. Usability

Have you ever used a product that you absolutely loved, but found it annoyingly difficult to remove it from the container because of its unique, yet impractical, shape? Shampoo bottles that are shaped like bottles of Perrier may be absolutely adorable and unique, but when you’re in the shower, do you really want to be messing with the screw-top?

Comfort in the hand, ease of extraction and the ability to remove the product without leaving a 1/3 of a cup at the bottom that has to be dug out with a drinking straw are all hallmarks of practical packaging.

There you have it: the basic rules for successful package design. So get creative! Go nuts! Impress us with your ability to conceptualize the next wave of 21st century packaging! But remember, if your package promises us a chocolate-covered granola bar and then delivers us something with one or two measly chocolate chips, we’re coming after you, pal.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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