The Extreme Guide to Product Packaging Design for 2021

Packaging plays a major role in stirring up enough interest in the consumer for them to stop and examine the products. At times, even the excellent products are completely ignored as their packaging fails to grab the buyer's attention, and most of the time, mediocre products are purchased because their packaging has captured the customer's attention. Product packaging design is a vital aspect of your branding as packaging design plays an essential role in the decision-making process of a purchase. It allows you to present your brand story and create the first impactful impression on your customer when the product packaging design is done creatively and correctly.

Why is product packaging so important?

It's quite obvious that when you aren't there in person to sell your product, your product packaging acts as a sales force. In the same way, your product packaging design needs to draw them into its features and your brand identity, when you can't be there to convince customers of your product's virtues. Product packaging helps to identify the character of your novel product.

When designing your product packaging, you should think of -

  • Catching the customer's eye
  • Functionality and Innovation
  • Packaging that fits the product

We have created an inclusive guide to take you through each step of the product packaging and the packaging design process in the simplest way.

A) Preparing for your Packaging

An evaluation of your product packaging needs to decide what your options are, the shipping and production costs, and what would be the best packaging solution for your product. Before continuing with the process, there are four essential questions that you must answer.

1) The type of product?

The packaging type will vary depending on your product based on shape, size, and weight. You would need to consider a solution with more cushioning and structure if your product is fragile.

2) Number of units needed?

The number of units needed should be noted down as it'll directly affect your business requirements and costs.

3) Budget needed?

The budget will include the packaging cost and shipping. E.g., if packaging filters are needed, that should also be accounted for.

4) The marketing and business timeline needed?

The marketing and business timeline will depend on when you need the packaging. Your anticipated launch dates and present inventory levels are the things to be considered.

B) Measuring the Box

The dimensions of a box are an important aspect of any package as it will have an impact on the materials that are needed, the shipping cost, the production cost, etc. The length, width, and depth are the three primary dimensions by which boxes are measured. Taking the measurements of your box may look like an easy task, but the accuracy of this step determines the flow of your complete packaging journey.

It's advisable to minimize your dimension as much as possible. This would allow the product to fit comfortably to avoid transportation damages and most notably, help reduce your carbon footprint.

C) Type of Packaging

The type of product packaging that you'll go for and why -

  • Folding Carton - Compared to the other paper materials, this is one of the most lightest and flexible styles out, making it a super cost-effective option.
  • Corrugated - This is a highly durable option that's used mainly for heavy-duty products and shipping.
  • Rigid (Premium) - The rigid boxes are your best bet if you're looking for high-end premium product packaging with a lavish feel. Compared to folding cartons, they're much thicker in terms of material and are generally wrapped with offset printed paper.

A few other options where you can supplement your packaging boxes with:

  • Paper bags - A popular choice that's cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
  • Poly mailers - Cost-effective and an excellent option for e-commerce businesses with smaller products that don't need a lot of protection.
  • Plastic Packaging - Comes in various forms such as bottles, boxes, tubs, bags, and more!
  • Glass Packaging - In contrast to plastic packaging, it has a luxurious advantage and they are reusable.
  • Kraft - If you're looking for an eco-friendly and greener design, Kraft (brown) is a great option for corrugated packaging and folding carton. It's eco-friendly and durable and usually uses 100% recycled material making it an ideal choice for several brands that are continually pushing for a greener approach to their supply chain.

D) Protective Inserts

Businesses can consider inserts for your product packaging design for additional product protection and organization. A few popular choices you may be familiar with are -

  • Foam inserts - The fragile items are protected during the shipping process and also adds a comfortable touch. Besides, they also add value to the unboxing experience.
  • Plastic tray inserts/Blister inserts - They are lightweight and flexible options to protect your product during the shipping process.  
  • Cardboard inserts - These are a great effective option and can be printed on for added value compared to the above two inserts.
  • Molded pulp inserts - These are the most sustainable option. The untreated molded pulp is compostable, and will frequently be biodegradable.

E) Printing Options

You can decide what type of printing to go for after determining what type of product packaging suits your business. In product packaging, the below-mentioned ones are usually popular printing options.

  • Offset printing - This printing option uses ink instead of a toner, which results in a rich, clear, and more superior image quality. It ultimately gives the highest quality printing.
  • Digital printing - Presents quicker turnaround times and makes low-volume jobs reasonable without any setup fees. The only problem is that unlike offset printing, it can't match the material flexibility and color fidelity.
  • Flexography printing - This printing option is considered to be the modern-day letterpress and can hold up huge quantities of packaging products like offset printing. Though the print colors aren't as crisp and vibrant compared to the above two, this printing format is inexpensive. It can be produced at a very high speed and doesn't need a lot of attention to detail.

Colors in printing

The default and only color output for printing are CMYK, where C stands for Cyan, M for Magenta, Y for Yellow, and K for Key (Black). You can create unlimited artwork possibilities with this color and provide a more accurate color appearance when printing on paper. Another standardized matching color, known as PMS (Pantone Matching System) or spot color is an excellent choice for branding as it produces a uniform color code, printing a broad range of high consistency colors. But, it usually requires an extra cost for production.

F) Paper Coating

Broad diversity of special processes and coating can be added for design touch and extra protection.

  • Lamination (Matte & Gloss) - It helps achieve the ultimate matte and glossy finish. Unlike Matte, gloss lamination provides better protection against dust and moisture and gives a very impactful shine, whereas matte has no sheen.
  • Aqueous coating - It's a clear water-based coating that's capable of drying fast. It's environmentally-friendly and has a very faint gloss compared to UV coating and lamination.
  • UV coating - A similar look to lamination can be produced, but the difference is that UV can be applied directly to the material.
  • Vanish - Compared to other coating types, it's the most cost-effective and least efficient in durability. This kind of paper coating can also produce gloss, matte, and other coating effects. It's the least popular among the four options.

G) Special Finishing

Special processes can create a more eye-catching unboxing experience. Few of them are -

  • Foil Stamping - Create a diverse look for your packaging. Foil stamping is ideal if you're looking to add any matte gloss, metallic, holographic, or special effects features.
  • Spot UV - Similar to UV coating, but it's applied to a certain area of the packaging, rather than coating the whole surface.
  • Embossing - By utilizing embossing, you can add depth and dimension to your packaging.
  • Debossing - Creates a depressed imprint on card stock/paper surfaces.
  • Window Patching - If you have an eye-catching product that deserves to be on display, window patching would be suitable for your packaging.

H) Packaging Design

The packaging needs to be well designed to make your packaging draw attention and evoke a positive consumer response. It's advisable to work with a manufacturer who can provide packaging and structural design services as well if you're looking for a more smooth process to get your packaging done more efficiently.

I) Dieline and Artwork Preparation & Requirements

A dieline is usually done on a computer with a designing tool such as Artioscad/Adobe InDesign, or Adobe Illustrator. It's the blueprint to produce the final product. But, one has to be sure to be accurate with specifications and measurements to save money and time. In the artwork preparation when working with a design, it should be in a vectorized format, which is made of mathematically described lines. They can be scaled and edited without losing the quality of the image.

J) Prototyping

You can request a sample box or a 3D mockup if you want the extra assurance or need to finalize with your team before going into complete production. It's always recommended to request a prototype to confirm the structure and printing for final production if you have a very bulky order.

K) Production & Shipping

Once everything is finalized, your product packaging is ready to go into full production. Receiving your shipment depends on the size of the package, delivery method, requested timeline, etc. It's the responsibility of your account manager to keep you up-to-date with the shipping and production process, ensuring that you are always on track.

How can you make your product stand out on in-store shelves?

The below tips will surely make your product fly off the shelves!

  • Keep your design simple and professional
  • Make sure design is relevant
  • Target your market through your packaging
  • Select colors carefully
  • Re-examine the size of your packaging
  • Create a connection between packaging and flavor
  • Make an impact with images
  • Tell the consumer what they are getting with your product
  • Consider the environment
  • Tell your consumers how to use your product
  • Make your purpose clear
  • Give your merchandisers options
  • Tell your customers your story
  • Change your packaging with the seasons
  • Challenge to be different