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Label Design – The Key for Retail Success

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The key to retail success isn’t a mystery, but it is elusive, quite frankly. We’ve touched upon what you can do to make your product label less boring in previous articles, and we’ll go ahead and reinforce some of the more important points. As far as designing a label that will make the product fly off of the shelves, all we can suggest is that you use whatever design knowledge and common sense you have. A magic wand wouldn’t hurt, either.

Retail Label Design Readability

This one seems like a no-brainer, but as we’ve all seen, there are some product labels that simply cannot be read from the average distance between the customer and the shelf (approximately 3.5 feet). This is a great way to kill your chances of success, since no customer is going to pick up each and every product for the purpose of analyzing the contents down to the finest detail. If your product is new and unfamiliar to the public, you want your label to be noticed among the throng of nearly identical products, and elbow those other products in the ribs in a painful manner, if possible.

Now, you have to choose which product elements you want to highlight, since it isn’t possible to make every single line of text on a product label legible at a mere glance unless you’ve also designed the world’s biggest package. Clearly, the brand and product names deserve significant real estate, as well as the most potent selling points. The hierarchy is:

  1. Product name
  2. Brand name
  3. Product features
  4. All of the regulatory stuff; i.e., how to use the product without accidentally killing yourself


This hierarchy holds for unknown/less well-known products. Once you have achieved Apple-like recognition, you can get away with only the faintest, most cryptic symbols and watch as your customers gouge out each other’s eyes for the last item on the shelf on Black Friday.

Retail Label Design Relevance

This is something that can technically go under the umbrella of design appeal, but since there exists a cleaning solvent designed to resemble a delicious child’s fruit drink, we thought we’d mention it separately, for emphasis.

So, food labels should look like generally accepted food labels. Cleaning product labels should look like cleaning product labels, etc. We can appreciate the effectiveness of a clean and uncluttered label, but there should either be a graphic product identifier, or the use of product-appropriate typography. This not only avoids confusion, it also avoids unfortunate product association. Nothing spells retail death faster than having your hair styling product routinely mistaken for bug spray.

Retail Label Design Appeal

During the Second World War, Europeans were so desperate for fruit that a food product manufacturer could get away with distributing jam containers that looked like motor oil cans. Today, however, the savvy shopper insists upon the minimum allowable percentage of petrochemicals in his/her preserves, so labels must be designed to highlight this fact.

In order to achieve true retail label design appeal, the label has to talk to its target market. If it is a hair styling product for women, the label must convey the products immense prettification powers. If it is a styling product for men, it must insist that the product is intensely masculine by using the term “grooming” in a prominent fashion. (Notice how “grooming” is almost never used for products targeted towards women. “Hi honey, you look great! You’ve done some excellent grooming!”)

Retail Label Design Individuality

You want your product label to muscle all of its competitors right off of the shelf with its uniqueness. Because your product is very likely not unique (even though we’re sure it is excellent), you want your company culture and brand to dictate the sort of customer you want to attract. This customer is, probably, exactly like you.

Think about your home and your interests. What type of label structure and graphics would fit into your lifestyle effortlessly? Are you a leather-bound book type, an iPad type or someone for whom reading is a waste of time? (Instagram type.)

Whatever sort of people you and your customers are, your label design must be specific enough to draw them to your product, even if the only reason is that it would look great on their shelf. Ultimately, the best label designs not only succeed in selling the product from a retail outlet, but also on eBay long after the product has become irrelevant or been discontinued.