October 17, 2014

Is your packaging design ready for space?

Is your packaging design ready for space?

The human preoccupation with space travel has led us, as patriotic Americans, to wonder: When will someone design a Doritos package that can survive reentry? Moreover, will the packaging appeal to the extra-terrestrial market?

The prospect of “food in a pill” or “freeze-dried nutrition packets” just doesn’t have the same appeal today as it did 50 years ago — we would feel warmer towards the space program if the International Space Station was equipped with an organic roof garden, or if the shelf-stable irradiated foods were gluten-free. Nevertheless, while the United States population is considerably less enamored of the space program today than it was in the 1960s, outer space still sparks the imagination. We loved us some Avatar.

Whether or not your product will ever be adopted into the NASA program has less to do with packaging suitability than it does with your ability to grease enough senatorial palms to win coveted bids. Chances are, your product won’t achieve the required NASA endorsement in order to be cleared for intergalactic travel, but the design of your package and label could still be enhanced by an outer-spacey motif. (It worked for David Bowie, who was never, technically, an astronaut, but managed to make space travel a major part of his brand.)

So, for the purpose of this exploration, we’ll be concentrating more on the advisability of covering your space packaging with little Martian icons, rather than slathering the food with ionizing radiation.

Retro-space — The Future through a 1940s Prism

You don’t necessarily have to package your products in Mylar or another equally future-y material; you can use completely degradable materials that still evoke the cherished Star Trek spirit. See, for some reason, we don’t seem to want to imagine the future of space travel as it might actually be — we are far more charmed by The Jetsons and the absurd campiness of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Just look at what the graphic art population thought space travel accoutrements would look like in the 1950s; they are far more stylish and optimistic than what is in actual use today. If you want whimsy and charm for your product/brand, a classic space aesthetic might be something you’d want to explore.

Planetary Design

Investigate the possibilities of celebrating individual planets within a single product line. “Mars” red ale; “Saturn” cider; “Venus” blue lager — if there is such a thing as blue lager. The point is, the planets within our solar system are a rich and fertile ground for marketing ideas, even if the non-Earth planets themselves are nothing more than gaseous, barren rocks.

Celestial Design

What is more beautiful and awe-inspiring than the infinite and incomprehensible galaxy? Furthermore, what could be more natural than exploiting that magisterial wonder for the purpose of corporate branding? Not only are the configurations of the stars and other firmamental phenomena absolutely beautiful, it could be argued that there are additional new-agey, spiritual elements that could also be appropriate for certain products, if your consumer base consists of numerologists.

Science Fiction: Who doesn’t love it?

We might not possess a strong affection for the actual requirements of space travel (ugh — so much math), but we do love the romance, danger and overall excitement of the prospect of living on some distant planet, far, far away. The atmosphere domes; the jet packs; living with eight-legged creatures and animate blob crime lords who encase us in carbonite when we get out of line are endlessly fascinating. If you are considering adopting the ever-popular concept of including a story line into your package and labeling concept, a nice sci-fi story line might give you the fuel you need to keep the creative juices flowing.

Packaging for space might be just the ticket if you want to individuate your brand. After all, the trend seems to be headed in the exact opposite direction, what with the overwhelming public love of paper, jars, jugs and general store typography. Make Major Tom proud and explore some good, old-fashioned space packaging.


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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