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Packaging is more a Science than an Art

- 5 min read By Suchitra Sukumar

12 June, 2018

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Whenever product manufacturers and brands think of packaging, the question tends to focus on how it will ‘look’. But it is more complex than that. The role of good packaging is both functional and aesthetic.

In fact, one of the pre-eminent experts on design has this to say:

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”

― Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

 

Designing for logistics

Firstly, product packaging serves some very basic functions. It protects an item or good during shipping, allows it to be stocked in a warehouse or storage facility, and eventually makes its display possible on a retailer’s shelves or direct delivery to its end user.

We need to ask ourselves: will the packaging protect the product through its shelf life?

Packaging is much more than a dress-up for an item. The focus should be on strength, durability, and adherence to applicable government regulations for product preservation, toxicity and related environmental concerns. Reduced weight and costs are also important considerations, and great thought is put into the raw materials used in a product’s container or boxing.

This is especially important to food products and consumer durables that are fragile and need to be handled with care.

customer review
Designing according to category

Secondly, we need to look at how the competitors package their products. What materials do they use? What are the colour schemes and the kind of logo, symbols and typography?

The idea is to unify product and packaging so they work together harmoniously to brand, identify and sell an item, delivering both “promise and performance” to the consumer. In fact, to do it so well that the package becomes a seamless part of the product.

customer review
Designing for experience

And lastly, it is about the kind of aesthetic that will be appealing. Especially for ‘impulse’ products - like snacks and beverages.

 

A look at some of the iconic packaging designs of our day:

Pringles: cylindrical carton to stack the wafer-thin chips for easy picking without breakage.

customer review

Apple: showcasing the attention to detail at every step and portraying simplicity as premium-ness through the use of white and minimal text.

customer review

Tuborg: the incredibly easy to open cork with a hook, accompanied by the unforgettable ‘pop’ sound.

customer review

So the next time you look at your favourite product, look even closer at its packaging. How functional is the container? What shapes are used? What logos and labelling appear on the packaging? What are their colours and font styles? In short, how does the total package appeal to you, and what does it say about the product and its manufacturer? What promise and benefit does it make to you, the consumer?

And, in conclusion, we quote the expert again:

“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.”

― Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

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