September 24, 2014

Package Design for the Full Product Lifecycle

Package Design for the Full Product Lifecycle

We’ve complained about excessive packaging in the past (namely in the form of clamshells), but we do freely admit that certain circumstances require extra protective packaging. Sometimes it’s to shield the product from crushing; sometimes to discourage theft, and occasionally to disguise the nature of the product from neighbors and/or spouses (thank you, plain brown wrapper!).

Whatever the case may be, the lifecycle of most packaging generally comes to its end by the time the consumer brings the product home, or to wherever appropriate destination. While multi-use considerations are definitely popular and to be encouraged, it is the shipping, storage and display grunt work that most product manufacturers and package designers must take into primary account. Factors such as [ahem]: Volume, dimensions, weight per unit, temperature control, material durability and material cost must be carefully weighed before even deciding upon a package design. Food package designs require even more deliberation, since there is also the concern of spoilage and bacteria (yum!). If sitting around calculating the pallet layout for your packaging concept sounds like the epitome of glamour, you’ve come to the right place!

Alright, there is a fair amount of creativity and fun involved in package design, but like all fun things that are also careers, there is more than just a negligible amount of drudgery involved in the day-to-day operations of packaging design companies. We’d like to outline some of that packaging design company drudgery for you now (you’re welcome). Before getting swept away in the artistic splendor of food package design — or any type of package design, for that matter — here are a few things to consider in the early stages.


If the product is exceedingly heavy, your package will have to incorporate handling features that make it as easy as possible to lift and stack. Think about designs that keep the lifter’s hands comfortable while not adding excess size or bulk to the package itself. Collapsible handles are a great feature, and could also aid in raising the overall value of the product — well-designed packages that can be recycled for other uses are ever so hip now!

Conversely, if the product is very light, your packaging will have to anchor the product sufficiently in order to ensure that units aren’t lost or damaged in transit. While it may seem as though memory cards shouldn’t need the elaborate packaging concepts that are so often used, neither manufacturers nor retailers can risk the damage or loss from shipping and storing individual memory cards like Skittles.


Obviously, if the product is, say, Waterford Crystal, you’ll need layer upon layer of shipping and handling protection in order to ensure the product arrives intact. However, protection concerns certainly aren’t only for brittle, artisan, home décor items; anything that is inherently malleable has to be housed in a stackable container. For example, toothpaste might not seem as though it needs any packaging beyond what the ubiquitous tube provides, but trying to ship and display bulk units of something squishy is nowhere near as fun as it sounds.


Although it may seem as though every facet of our lives is conducted online — from work-related duties to attending funerals via Google Hangout — only a relatively small percentage of shopping is actually done vie e-commerce. Seeing as how most products that are currently being purchased will have been displayed attractively in some fashion on a brick-and-mortar shelf, package designer will still have to factor display options into their concepts. That is, until 3-D printing, teleporting or magic become viable.

Clearly, there are tons of options that packaging design companies can employ so that products can be well showcased — jars, bottles, flat-bottomed bags — but boxes are among the simplest and most efficient. While boxes might not seem like the most innovative packaging choice, they are stackable, and not often used for many categories of products. Take for example, Salad Power, a beverage packaged in a highly chic and yet incredibly practical manner. The bottles are light, durable and lend themselves to highly attractive displays, if we do say so ourselves.

Basically, it is all of the practical considerations that lead packaging design to be far less high-concept and futuristic than package designers would like. As disappointing as it is that we don’t have more hexagonally-shaped wine bottles or beer sold in feeding tubes, we can take comfort in the fact that all packaging, no matter how brilliant, will ultimately wind up in a recycling bin or a landfill, and that kind of puts our jobs into perspective, doesn’t it?


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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